Tiredness is thought to affect two out of three of us and is usually down to overwork, a bout of the winter blues, or a lack of energy. But you don't have to collapse in a heap. Spring is on its way and the good news is there are plenty of ways to refill your energy tank ready for lighter, brighter days.
Here’s how to rev up your get-up-and-go with our seven point action plan.
1: Organise and prioritise
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by work and finding you never have time to finish the job in hand, try the following:
- Avoid unnecessary journeys.
- Delegate some of the chores and tasks to others.
- Make lists of important ‘to do’ jobs and put them in order of priority. Finish one before starting the next and never set yourself unnecessary deadlines.
- Learn to say 'no '. We always want to please others if we can, but sometimes politely but assertively declining an invitation or request can prevent undue stress later.
- Put yourself first for a change and do what YOU want to do.
2: Improve your sleep quality
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a solid eight hours’ sleep every night. But you do need enough good quality sleep to recharge your mental and physical energy batteries for the following day.
Consider using two alarm clocks. You might think this is a weird idea, but the first is to wake you up in the morning and the other is your signal to switch off all that technology that could be stopping you getting to sleep in the first place. The TV, mobile phone, tablet and computer all go to sleep before you do and your bedroom becomes a tech-free zone. Block out all sound or light and ensure a steady cool temperature in the room. A comfortable mattress is also essential.
Finally, try to get to bed at the same time every night and resist the temptation to lie in, even if you feel exhausted. Getting up at the same time every morning reinforces your body's biorhythms, making you more likely to sleep soundly on subsequent nights.
3: Move that body
Start the day with a good old-fashioned stretch in bed. Arch your back, extend your limbs and reach out as far as you can. Then scrunch up into a tight ball and squeeze. Repeat the process a few times and then practise the James Bond treatment. That involves a hot shower quickly followed by a cold one. So invigorating! A favourite Nordic trick which really works.
By now you've already lubricated your joints, pumped those muscles, tingled your skin, boosted your heart and circulation and awoken that sleepy old brain.
Later in the day try to fit in some formal exercise. A terrific stress buster, it keeps your mind more alert, sharpens reflexes, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, normalises weight, speeds up metabolism and even helps you sleep better at night.
4: Don't worry, be happy
Happiness is under rated. 15 per cent of people in the UK experience the winter blues or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and most people report feeling generally more tired during the winter months. But it is beatable.
We can’t just hibernate like hedgehogs and neither do we need to. Get as much natural light as you can during the day. The reason? Light shining on the back of the eye reduces the levels of the hormone melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy. A brisk walk at lunchtime in the fresh air is usually all you need, although SAD sufferers may benefit from sitting in front of an artificial light box during the mornings and evenings as well.
5: Tweak your diet
It may be tempting to eat comforting stodgy food during winter. You might even believe you need it for extra energy. But it's counter-productive. The resulting blood sugar swings are exhausting and only promote unhealthy weight.
Eat little and often and choose more fresh fruit and vegetables. Go for raw varieties when you can, as these are particularly rich in the vitamins and minerals you need at this time of year. Boost vitamin D levels, the sunshine vitamin, which can be found in oily fish and eggs.
Lastly, eat earlier in the evening. Leaving it too near bedtime can hamper digestion, speed metabolism and make you feel uncomfortable and hot. The old adage still holds true. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.
6: Try acupressure
You may have heard of acupuncture which has been adopted by many NHS physiotherapy departments and uses needles. Acupressure, on the other hand, is a similar treatment which can be used for low energy levels that uses finger pressure. It is over 5000 years old and costs you nothing. The theory is that by applying gentle finger pressure to certain areas known as acupoints, you can fix any energy blockages and re-establish and rebalance healthy energy flow.
There are several acupoints you can use, but a common one is GV 26 also known as Shui Gou, a traditional first aid revival point, which is said to help boost mental alertness and physical energy. It is located between the upper lip and nose about one third of the way down from the bottom of the nose.
7: Be inspired
Just as our emotions can make us feel tearful, down or sad they can also stimulate, motivate, empower and energise us. So use them to jolt you into life again. Energy is always there within you. But sometimes it lies trapped and dormant like the water behind a hydroelectric dam or the chemical within a stick of dynamite. You just have to know how to open the floodgates or detonate it.
Think of the most inspiring, bitter sweet or moving film you have ever watched and revisit it. It could be Forrest Gump or Love Actually. Or you may prefer a comedy like Nothing to Lose, highlights of the London Olympics or simply an exercise app which you can exercise along with. The point is that many of these act as catalysts to trigger powerful emotions, which can energise you and give you plenty to talk about with friends and family.
Our favourite energy boosters
- Regular exercise
I do this even when I feel mentally weary and not in the mood. Within five minutes of starting I feel completely different and I know I will feel like a million dollars later on.
- Cutting down on carbs for two days a week
This keeps me feeling trim and active and avoids the lethargy that sometimes comes with too much starch.
- Taking supplements
I pick and choose from energy boosters such as guarana, vitamin B complex and coenzyme Q 10.
- Plenty of fresh air and light
I try to get out into the open air at some point in the day. If I can't manage it during the week I always do it at weekends.
- A spa massage
A vigorous sports massage or a relaxing gentle one to suit my requirements at the time works wonders.
- Inspiring films to get me going
The last one was a documentary type drama called The Beckoning Silence, a mountaineering film made by the famous climber Joe Simpson.
- Having a laugh
Fun and laughter are really important to me, as they recharge my batteries and defuse any mounting stress.