It's normal to feel tired from time to time, especially if you're busy working a job, managing a household or caring for your family. But feeling tired all the time is another matter entirely.
Before you reach for that second (or third) cup of coffee, you should know that there's a difference between being tired and being fatigued! Getting to the root of why you feel the way you do not only sets you on the path to feeling better, it actually helps you to avoid things that could exacerbate the problem.
Here's the know-how you need to tell whether you're tired or fatigued — and a few tips for getting your energy back.
Feeling tired or fatigued?
In your daily life, you may use the word "tired" to emphasize just how exhausted you are. And if you're really feeling beat, you might even say you're fatigued.
But the two terms mean different things!
Being tired is temporary. It happens when you haven't gotten enough sleep or after you perform strenuous physical or mental activity. You know that sensation you feel when you sit down and have the extreme desire to fall asleep? That's because of a chemical called adenosine, which gradually builds up in the body throughout the day and eventually tells your brain that it needs sleep. If you're tired, a good night's rest will usually do the trick.
Fatigue is its own concept. It does involve feeling tired, maybe even being tired all the time — but it also comes with mental fog, low energy and a lack of motivation. Anxiety and depression are common hallmarks of chronic fatigue. Fatigue typically lasts longer than 24 hours and doesn't improve with a good night's sleep. You may feel this sensation deep in the body, like a physical heaviness.
Not only does sleep not remedy feelings of fatigue, but those experiencing it may not be able to sleep even if they want to!
4 tips to feeling healthy and well rested
Now that you know how to tell whether you're tuckered out due to a lack of shuteye, here are four strategies for getting your energy back.
1. Know how to exercise
Exercise is always a good thing, right? Sure, it can boost energy levels when you're feeling tired — but certain types of exercise may cause exhaustion if you're facing chronic fatigue. It's important to move every day for your overall well-being, so try out some gentle movements (such as yoga or walking outdoors) for restorative fitness that won't wear you out.
2. Ditch the junk food
Research shows that a diet heavy in processed foods often causes weight gain and leads to fatigue. Since boosting your body's antioxidant levels helps induce sleep, try making antioxidant-rich whole foods, like oats and berries, a large part of your diet.
3. Skip the caffeine and alcohol
Alcohol may make you feel relaxed, but it's also a known sleep disruptor. When dealing with tiredness and fatigue, it's a good idea to reduce your intake or, better yet, skip the cocktail altogether! Same with coffee. You already know that overdoing the caffeine can keep you up at night, but it also increases anxiety and stress — something those with fatigue can definitely do without.
4. Settle your mind and get proper sleep
Sleep deprivation and fatigue can cause the mind to run wild and make it difficult to get through the day. If you're staying up too late and trying to compensate for it with a daily nap, you could be interfering with your nighttime rest! Try out a few relaxation techniques instead of taking a quick snooze. Meditation also calms the mind and reduces symptoms of fatigue.
If you really need a nap to avoid a total energy crash, try to keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes, and squeeze it in during the early afternoon. Then, at the end of the day, set your bedtime and do your best to stick to it! Eventually, your sleep schedule should stabilize and stop you from feeling tired all the time.
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