It's a sad irony: Just when you need it most, your energy goes missing.
That's because the demands of the season can zap your energy: running around trying to get everything prepared for the onslaught of company; buying gifts and fighting the crowds at the supermarket and department stores; eating and drinking too much at holiday gatherings; participating in too many late-night parties and getting too little sleep; dealing with end-of-year burnout or seasonal affective disorder (shorter days and less light, which can mess with your body's circadian rhythm).
Although fatigue can have underlying medical reasons—like chronic infections, anemia, hormonal disorders or cancer—it's usually a result of trying to do too much, stressing too much, or neglecting important and healthy habits and routines.
Read more about Stress Symptoms You Should Never Ignore.
Here are some things to look for:
- How are you sleeping? By some estimates, we're getting 20 percent less sleep than we did a century ago. Stress, insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, increasing pressure at work or busy social schedules make it more and more difficult to carve out precious time to take a step back and recharge and restore our bodies. Experts recommend getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
What to do: Make sleep a priority. Practice good sleep hygiene: Relax before bedtime, shut off electronics at least 30 minutes before turning in, keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet and limit alcohol and caffeine.
- Are you spending too much time on the couch? It's a catch-22: you're tired, so you take time out to rest. But that's not always the best solution. Studies show that light exercise—as little as 10 minutes each day—can help replenish energy levels and help beat the "blahs" more efficiently than resting can.
What to do: If you don't have time or don't feel like exercising, even a leisurely stroll or some stretching can help boost energy levels. Learn more about 6 Scary Side Effects of Sitting.
- Are you stressing out? Chronic stress can drain your energy, both physically and emotionally; that exhaustion can then lead to illness.
What to do: Address your stress. Practice mindful meditation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi or any other (healthy) activity that will help calm and center you.
Learn how to Simplify Stress in Your Life.
- Are you eating right? Many people neglect a healthful diet when they get busy, but now's the time to shore up your eating habits, because poor eating habits can contribute to fatigue.
What to do: Concentrate on foods for energy and health, like fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein. Cut down on foods that can sap energy, like sugar and refined carbohydrates. Also pay attention to your calories: Too few won't give your body enough fuel to run efficiently; too many can drag you down.
- Are you depressed? Although the holidays are associated with celebrations and cheer, depression around now is not unusual for many people, who may feel sad, lonely or anxious or have a difficult time juggling all their financial and social obligations. Being depressed can make the simplest task seem immense and difficult to handle. Studies show that fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of depression.
What to do: Set realistic expectations; don't take on more than you can handle. Reach out to supportive and caring friends and family for support. Practice self-care and make time for yourself. Avoid excess drinking, which can increase feelings of depression. Try something new and different that will reframe the way you celebrate the holidays and bring in the new year.