In my late 20’s I was a teacher in New York City. I worked a full time job, hung out with friends every weekend, and went to a very intense yoga class 3 times a week. We walked everywhere, stayed up late, ate out too much – and somehow I did it all with boundless energy.
Fast forward a few years. I was taking better care of myself, eating healthier, actually getting enough sleep. But that same yoga class exhausted me. I would wander around Union Square after class and barely knew how to get home. In fact, even a leisurely half hour walk wiped me out. It took me a few years, but I’m finally feeling like my old self again.
Let’s find out why you’re so tired all the time, and figure out how to fix it.
There are 2 basic types of fatigue. In the first you’re just not getting enough sleep. This may be because of insomnia, or just because you can’t find the time or motivation to get to bed on time. Unfortunately, there is no magic energy bullet (that’s healthy anyways) for giving you energy when you’re not sleeping enough. In this case, you can refer to my post on insomnia.
However, if you are sleeping 8 hours a night and still can’t get through a normal day without exhausting yourself, this is a whole separate problem. There are 2 reasons for this.
1. You were sick or had surgery, either recently or in the past, and you’re body is still recuperating.
2. You pushed yourself too hard for too long, and now you’ve got adrenal fatigue.
You could have a combination of the two, or even a latent pathogen (like Lyme, Epstein-Barr, etc).
While each of these requires a slightly different approach, they all depend on this foundation. If you’re still having trouble after following these steps, it’s time to ask for help from your friendly neighborhood acupuncturist or holistic health care practitioner.
In order to kick fatigue to the curb, your sleep cycles and habits need to be solid. If you’re suffering from insomnia, find out how to fix that here. If not, get to bed early, and sleep a lot. You may have been able to get away with sleeping less time before, but with this exhaustion that you’re fighting, I recommend 9-10 hours a night. This isn’t forever, just until you’ve got your energy back. Then, maintaining it requires 8 hours a night. If you’re a night owl, you’re going to have to choose your priorities. Either stay up late cruising Facebook (and stay stuck being tired all the time), or go to bed early (and feel better).
Food is what gives you energy every day, so it’s important to fuel up with enough good quality food. You already know to eat whole, real food, and not stuff that comes in bags, boxes and cans at the store.
In addition, carbohydrates are our preferred energy source, so don’t cut down on those too much. Great sources include sweet potatoes, winter squashes, root vegetables, quinoa, grains and beans. Just minimize highly processed flour based products (think bread and pasta) and you’ll be good.
Finally, while stimulants like sugar and caffeine give you more energy in the short term, they burn through what we call your jing, or root source energy. This leads to long term adrenal fatigue. The only way out is to cut them from your diet for the time being. You may go through a period of withdrawal, and feel even more tired the first few days or weeks, but it’s the only way to build up your natural energy reserves. Once you’re feeling better, you can be mindful about how you reintroduce sweets and coffee/tea back into your diet, using them for enjoyment rather than an energy boost.
3. Qi Gong
When you’re exhausted, exercise is difficult, and ends up depleting you even more. But Qi gong is different. Qi gong is an ancient Chinese exercise that works directly on the energy flow and reserves in your body. The gentle movements get rid of stagnation and pain in your body. But my favorite part of qi gong for fatigue is the standing poses. These build up your energy stores like nothing else.
Many larger cities offer qi gong classes, but if you are unable to find one, there are a few online classes that are really great as well.
What if there was a substance that was completely natural, intelligent, and somehow could adapt to your unique body chemistry and give you exactly what you need? Enter: adaptogens: a class of herbs that replenish and restore your energy reserves while boosting your immunity, supporting digestion and blood sugar, and much more. My favorites include ashwaganda, rhodiola, reishi and eleuthro. Usually a combination of a few of these together works best.
Using a different type of diagnosis than Western medicine, acupuncture gets to the root cause of your exhaustion by treating you as a unique individual. We treat the whole person, and not just the “disease”. Many of my patients report better sleep and increased energy after treatment, even if they were coming in for something completely unrelated!
If you’re looking for a comprehensive treatment plan to increase your energy levels and fight fatigue, Chinese medicine is a great option. If you’re in the Greenville, SC area, I would love to assist you in your journey.
Elizabeth Allen is an acupuncturist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of AcuMed Spa, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online here.