In an ideal world, we would all get eight hours of sleep every night, and wake up with enough energy for that 6 a.m. spin class before work. But when you’re struggling to balance the responsibilities of everyday life, cutting back on sleep can seem like the only solution. Many of us rely on coffee or energy drinks to get us through the day, instead of making sleep a priority. Sadly, as delicious as it can be, caffeine is not the solution. Being tired not only zaps our energy levels, but also can make us grumpy, less productive, and less motivated.
The Fatigue Prescription: Four Steps to Renewing Your Energy, Health, and Life (Viva Editions) by Linda Hawes Clever, MD, is a practical guide that will help you discover your own remedy for fatigue and what works best for you. Here, from the book, are the four steps to bring energy and joy back into your life:
Awareness comes first because you have to understand what’s going on within you and around you before you can do anything to change it. Most of us are too busy to notice how fatigue really affects our bodies and minds.
Awareness often starts with prickles and inklings—or sometimes a sledgehammer—that beg for your attention […] What signs of trouble do you regularly display? Are they related to certain people or situations? The patterns of your signs of trouble can also give you clues about the negative effects of your fatigue.
In addition to recognizing who might be imposing their fatigue on you, it’s wise to start thinking about who is feeling the effects of your fatigue […] Sometimes awareness means examining comfortable patterns to see if they are serving you well. Often, for example, what you assume is a groove (a good thing) is actually a rut (a not-so-good thing) that is lulling you into complacency.
Reflecting on the choices you’ve made can provide clarity, which will help you figure out what needs to change. During this reflection, you will figure out what is truly important to you and eliminate the excess. You will be able to understand more about yourself and why you do the things you do. You may decide to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.
When you take some time to think, you will discover that if you try, you can stumble across a fair amount of good things that are happening in your life—even little things such as finding a nickel or seeing a rainbow. You can be glad for a compliment or a soothing conversation, or you can look back at near misses and bullets dodged. Believe me, something is going well for you. Put things into perspective, and then write down some good things. Be specific.
Thinking about the positive aspects of your life will help you discern whether your fatigue is the result of stress or sleep deprivation. This exercise will make you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to move forward.
Talking to others not only provides support, but also leads to new perspectives and feedback that can help you make a better, well-informed decision regarding treatment and what you need to heal.
Here are some basic rules for good conversation:
To start with, have an open mind and an open heart; you don’t even need to be like-minded. A good conversation needs to be held in confidence, so that people feel safe. Limit complaining. Nagging issues may need to be aired in order to relieve pressure—but if they dominate, gloom and anger win. Tell the truth. You do not need to tell everything, but you do need to be honest. This builds trust. Listen carefully because it shows respect.
The fourth step is about renewal—getting rid of what is bringing you down and starting fresh. It’s helpful to break the process down:
- You can gather allies.
- You build your reputation.
- You gain confidence.
- It is easier to make small adjustments than big ones.
- On occasion, the small steps alone can banish fatigue. For instance, you may not need to change your career but change emphasis.
If you feel hopelessly dragged down by fatigue, self-care may the best prescription. With charts, questions, quizzes, and plenty of room for writing in the margins, Dr. Clever’s new book gives us a set of tools for diagnosing stress and exhaustion, and a prescription for bringing zest back into our lives.