During these uncertain times, most of us have been confined to the four walls of our house. Our routine has become skewed, and we have either started working more or not at all, and this can really take a toll on your metabolism, energy levels and fitness levels.
Everyday tasks that were once very normal to us, such as taking the bus to work, going for an evening stroll or going to the gym first thing on a morning, have all stopped. When this is coupled with anxiety and a lack of desire to sleep, you can soon start to feel burned out and exhausted. Exhaustion can be felt physically or mentally, but if you’re sat home twiddling your thumbs, you may be wondering exactly how you can feel so exhausted doing absolutely nothing…
It is currently penned ‘isolation fatigue’ a type of exhaustion that comes from being confined and unable to do much physical activity. Yes, we can do home workouts and even sit in our gardens, but this is a very different way of living and doesn’t entirely burn those calories the way a regular daily routine would.
Perhaps you have realised that you’re sleeping more than ever, and you still don’t have the energy to do much more than lay on the sofa all day binge-watching TV and eating calorific foods.
There is a reason for it. You are not alone. And you can change it.
During these times, when we are sitting at home, in our pyjamas or comfies every single day, our bodies and minds have to process a new normal and a new routine. You are not seeing the same amount of people you usually would, your worry levels could be high, and you are not getting the same amount of sunlight and fresh air that you are used to
Quite simply, Stress, worry and anxiety wear us out.
They significantly impact our bodily hormones and nervous system to the point where it wants to shut down, and in essence, it has. The lights are off and your body just wants to hibernate. Not seeing friends and family is a significant factor, because the face to face communication and activities that we do with them is actually naturally wearing our bodies out, ready for sleep. Whereas, sitting watching Netflix only puts our bodies into a deeper slump, or curled up with a blanket, wanting to doze off every half an hour.
Have you noticed that yawning is something we do when we’re bored? When we are sat bored at home, there is nothing for our bodies to focus on other than resting, snoozing or sleeping. Mindfulness expert Judith Lissing from Mind Coaching Australia has some thoughts on the matter.
‘Boredom is the brain seeking stimulation. Stimulation gives us that dopamine hit that makes us feel good. But when each day is the same as the last, the brain can get restless and lose clarity. After a while, TV shows, walks around the block, doing things at home, etc. get to be “same old”. We no longer get that dopamine hit from novelty and we feel bored.
Mindfulness practice can be helpful. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental and curious approach to observing your moments. Instead of judging that this is good and this isn’t, Mindfulness teaches us to accept each experience as if it were the first time, what we call having “a beginner’s mind”. So when you have the same breakfast as you had yesterday, take the time to really taste each mouthful.
When you walk down the same street, notice the scent of your neighbor’s garden, the sound of the traffic, the feel of the sun on your skin. Doing this may not only give your brain a hit of novelty but may also build your positive emotions, and we know that this is good for both your physical and mental health. It can even keep your brain young by encouraging neuroplasticity.
You may have also noticed the quality of sleep you’re having during the night isn’t great either, which may result in feeling sluggish through the day. If you’re not burning off the energy, your body isn’t as ready to sleep as it would be during a typical 9-5 day.
If your tiredness seems to come at certain times of the day, but improves when you are cooking or showering for example, then you know that your body is actually craving more exercise. If you give your body a taste of something, then it will continue to take that path. Sitting around and not using energy, will not create any more energy, but only sap what is still existing within you.
So, what can we do about it? Plenty, thankfully.
It is believed, now more than ever, that getting enough rest 7-8 hours is going to boost the immune system. Anything under five hours will weaken it, leaving you predisposed to picking up germs; and during a pandemic that is something you want to avoid.
Consistent fatigue can lead to several health issues, but the chances are you are only going to have this for the short term. Tiredness can, however, cause some physical issues:
Headaches and migraines
Heightened anxiety and stress levels
Muscular weakness or sluggish muscles
Irritability or mood swings
Worsening of pre-existing conditions
General fatigue - may present in a feeling of overall unfitness
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may well be because you’re feeling exhausted. Depression isn’t caused by tiredness but the symptoms of depression can be heightened, and during a time such as this, it is vital that if you feel low-you must reach out. Whether that’s to a friend or family member or even online, there is always someone around to help you. Suffering in silence will only add to your exhaustion.
Yes, of course. Everyone is adapting to a new normal and trying to find what works for them and what doesn’t. When we cut routine, our bodies are stuck. They like to run on clockwork, which is often why we wake up at the same times every night and every morning. Our bodies love routine. So when that is out of whack, your body is struggling to catch up.
Giving your body time to understand this change will not improve it on its own but it will be the starting point. So here are some tips below that are easily adapted into your new daily routine.
Find a new sleep routine - as challenging as this sounds, it doesn’t have to be. Start being strict with yourself. Set a time to go to bed, don’t sit around until 2am and get up at noon. Set some realistic sleeping and waking times that you’re comfortable with and try to stick to it, this will be the first step. Once your body clock has a routine, you will start to notice less yawning throughout the day.
Start to hydrate more - when we are sitting at home, it is easy to forget to drink water. It is already something that many of us already struggle with. Be sure to ingest the recommended daily amount, 7 glasses a day, spread out throughout the day and start to see the improvement in your energy. Water naturally gives us a boost because our bodies are made up of 90% water. You will also notice fewer headaches and better appetite, which will help. If your bowel movements are suffering, drink a glass of water an hour before a meal which can aid digestion.
Get moving - you may not be able to go to a gym, but there are many ways to get the energy up at home. Climbfit has loads of online classes available for free, and you can also take some time to head out for a walk if you can. Exercising for at least an hour a day will give your body that natural exhaustion at the end of the day while giving you a good boost of energy right after you’ve done it.
Eat well - refined sugars are renowned for giving that quick sugar rush. It lasts an hour if that and perks you up momentarily, but instead try looking at slow energy-releasing foods such as fruit and vegetables that will help you maintain your energy. Foods such as bananas, fatty fish, apples and brown rice are all great. We’ve curated some great recipes here on the Crimp mag that will help you eat well and charge your body with the right fuel, instead of hoovering down frozen pizzas and take away...
Join a regular Mindfulness practice group. This provides you with the support of a community going through the same as you. Unlike listening to an app, a meditation group allows you to connect with an experienced teacher and ask questions about your practice. You can learn how to become independent in your practice using a variety of mindfulness tools depending on your needs on that day. If you are keen to find out more about Mindfulness, Mind Coaching Australia is currently running live online group sessions here.
There is no shame in taking this time to relax and have some downtime, it may be that you genuinely need it. Many of us work long hours and have stressful jobs that take time away from what we really want to do. That is why keeping distracted and occupied is going to assist you during this pandemic.
How about learning a new language or maybe mastering a new instrument?. The brain also needs exercise!
Try to stay positive and reach out to those who are also in the same position. Nobody is alone, it’s good to realise that. When you start to adopt some small changes in your life, you will begin to feel less exhausted and remember, this is all temporary. The silver lining in the clouds is already starting to peek through...
Article Credits - Judith Lissing, Founder and CEO, Mind Coaching Australia
Big thanks to Judith Lissing from Mind Coaching Australia for her expert advice and guidance. you can find our More about MCA and their Mindfulness courses here.
Judith Lissing is a Scientist, Mindfulness Trainer, Psychotherapist & Wellness Coach, She has a personal meditation practice that spans more than 3 decades as well as nearly 20 years experience in teaching stress management and meditation.