A new beginning can be exhaustingly exciting.
Although the beginning of a new academic year is exciting and brings with it promises for a fresh start, it also requires a lot of energy to both acclimate to and balance a new schedule. As we work to “get in to the groove”, our energy levels can suffer as a result of increased stress and decreased quality sleep. If left unmanaged, we will soon find ourselves not just experiencing transitory moments of low energy, but a chronic feeling of fatigue.
Fatigue. We are all familiar with it. We have all experienced it. We all try to avoid it. Fatigue – it’s the nasty little gremlin that taunts us frequently throughout the week. What might differ for each of us is the specific cause of fatigue. Whether it is a lack of sleep, boredom, stress, poor activity and nutrition, hormonal imbalances, or other health-related triggers, experiencing fatigue has a significant impact on daily life. Feeling tired impacts one’s ability to remain focused, productive, alert, and engaged. As a result, our capacity to learn new information and retain that information is severely diminished.
Fight Fatigue with the Facts
So, how do we keep the monster at bay? Luckily, there are several quick and easy tips you can implement at home, at school, and at work. These times will help you avoid making the typical fatigue fighting follies (increasing caffeine intake, relaxing with too much alcohol, reaching for comfort food that is calorie dense and nutrient sparse, etc.).
Hydrate: Typically, when we experience the sensation of sleepiness, we reach for a magic bullet – caffeine! It’s a stimulant, it comes in a variety of tasty beverages, and it’s a quick fix…or so we think. A primary cause of daily fatigue – especially afternoon fatigue – is dehydration. A lack of water can make us feel sluggish. If you find yourself sitting in class struggling to focus on the subject, reach for a glass of water – preferably 8 ounces or more of water. You might be surprised at how much more alert you will feel. Keep a water bottle with you to have in class.
Move: You can also ward off fatigue by taking a quick stretch/activity break. As the later afternoon sets in, make it a habit to schedule a 10 minute break for activity. This might include a short stretching routine, a quick walk around the block, building, or down the hallway, or get some fresh air outside. If you are scheduled for block classes, stand up every 45 minutes. The point is – get up, move around, and increase the blood flow.
Snack smart: Fatigue can also be caused by a lack of food and proper nutrients. Keep smart snacks handy. Examples could include an ounce of almonds, Greek yogurt and berries, a fruit smoothie, string cheese and whole grain crackers, carrots and hummus, or apple slices and natural peanut butter. It is important to be thoughtful in preparing snacks. It is easy to head right for the vending machine; however, vending machine snacks typically provide little more than refined sugars and other processed “foods”. Take some time to plan some thoughtful and beneficial brain food.
Evaluate the sleep-ability of your bedroom or dorm room:
- Limit the use of devices like TV’s, laptops, phones, etc. to prevent distraction before bed.
- Allowing pets and children to sleep in your bed with you can interrupt sleep. Limit the occurrence. (And I’m going to call myself out on this one – when Miss O is invites us to a party at her crib at 2a.m. – I will snuggle her in bed…all this to say, yes, even the “pros” falter :))
- Consider adding room-darkening curtains to limit the amount of light that enters the bedroom.
- Make sure the temperature in the room is right for you.
- Evaluate the noise level and make sure it is quiet enough for you to achieve restful sleep.
Seek medical advice: If you feel the fatigue you experience is chronic, check with your primary care physician to discuss other potential causes that may require medical intervention (low iron, hormonal imbalances, potential sleep disorders, etc.).
Feeling fatigue is natural and you can guarantee that it will pay you a visit every once in a while, so make it a priority to disinvite it from your life!
Best of luck as you all begin this fall season and remember, it’s All About That Balance.