Coping with Low Energy
Dealing with fatigue is challenging. It is a common problem that I hear about from clients, and this week I got this message from one of my remote coaching clients in Texas:
“I have been struggling with energy levels… I’m wondering if it’s just work overload and hormone changes that come with 48? I’m getting plenty of sleep and drinking plenty of water.”
This was – in summary – my reply to her, and I hope maybe it helps someone else, too.
The “Stress Bucket”
I have heard a great image of the “stress bucket.”
In this analogy, we have one bucket for all of the stress that we experience in our mind-body, and it can get full from lots of different things – work, lack of sleep, over-exercise, emotional stress, etc.
Once the bucket gets full, regardless of the source of the stress, it not only gets heavy, but it starts overflowing. The result is that we start getting run down and fatigued. Life starts to feel more demanding and less exciting, everything can seem like an emergency requiring instant attention, and – of course – exercise becomes less appealing and food/alcohol can often seem like inviting self-soothers.
When you’re feeling that way, it’s smart to approach the stress bucket from two directions. Ask yourself:
- What sources of stress can you divert from the stress bucket to make room for the things that you cannot shift?
- What holes can you punch in the bottom of the bucket to help you manage stress better?
Making Room for the Non-Negotiable
Let’s be honest first of all that yes, hormones can add to the stress bucket. Whether this means normal, regular menstrual cycles or approaching menopause, hormones play a role in fatigue and stress.
So that’s the first non-negotiable. So now let’s talk about what’s on top of that.
For example, if work stress is non-negotiable, then you could see what other obligations you could play down (or find creative solutions for) so that other stressors are removed from the bucket. Is it possible to step down from a demanding volunteer role, for example?
Another example of immovable stress could be caring for an aging parent. Because this is a non-negotiable, you can make more room for it by managing other obligations more skillfully – empowering other people in your life to take more responsibility for themselves, for example.
The overall goal is to get as few sources pouring stress into the bucket as possible.
Punching Holes in the Bucket
The other way to approach the stress bucket is to let some of the water out by mitigating your stress levels through soothing activities.
If you’re feeling low energy, can you punch the following holes in your bucket to let some stress drain out?
- Sleep 7-9 hours per night, at roughly the same time every night.
- Stay off phones, laptops, and other personal devices in the last few hours before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes per week.
- Try exercising in the morning.
- On the flip side, don’t overdo it with exercise with constant, fatiguing, high-intensity routines.
- Spend time outside in nature, especially in morning sunlight.
- In fact, get plenty of light during the day, period.
- Stay hydrated, drinking your bodyweight in ounces of water every day.
- Eat nutritiously and regularly, taking care to fuel up before exercise.
- Switch to decaf.
Obviously no one does all of these things perfectly every day. However, by tackling these goals just one (or a few) at a time, you’ll make progress at addressing lifestyle factors of fatigue.
By both managing what’s going into the bucket and letting some stress drain out through consistent self-care, you can (over time) eliminate the possibility that it’s lifestyle factors causing persistent low energy.
But if you’re diligent and consistent with your approach and the fatigue doesn’t dissipate on its own (i.e. you’re experiencing it every day or most days regardless of your behaviors), then it’s worth investigating with your doctor. Especially if your’e approaching menopause, it’s worth asking your doctor about what hormonal replacement may make sense for you and well-being.
Interested in other articles about how to manage busy or stressful periods of life? Here are some old favorites from my blog: