Why You Have Zero Energy (and What to Do About It)
July 26, 2021
By Laine Bergeson
With summer in full swing, all the get-togethers happening, and mask requirements largely lifted, it almost (almost) feels like things are back to normal. So why do you feel so tired? If you stop to think about it, there’s nothing unusual about being totally zapped right now. It’s pretty normal to feel exhausted from the constant state of anxiety we’ve all been living with. Add to that round the clock pressures at work, the stress of being connected 24/7, and environmental factors that make it difficult to get all the essential micronutrients we need for optimal energy through our food, and it’s no wonder you have no energy.
The real problem is that having low energy can be a vicious cycle: the less energy you have, the less energized you are to take steps to address it. The key to breaking that cycle? Don’t force yourself to try to be productive. Instead, try one of these tips for boosting your energy.
1. Focus on sleep quality.
A lot of sleep advice focuses on quantity. But the number of hours doesn’t matter when the quality of sleep is poor. If you wake up feeling as tired as you did when you went to bed, it’s a good sign that your sleep is not restorative.
Start by taking some simple steps to improve sleep: Lower the temperature in your bedroom. Block out excess light. Buffer ambient loud noises. And keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. If you don’t notice an improvement in your energy levels, consider getting tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, a top reason people get poor quality sleep, is both prevalent — and under-diagnosed.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins.
Feeling tired all the time can be a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency. This is especially true if you are a vegan or vegetarian, though there are a number of reasons a person can become deficient. Speak with your health care provider to discuss getting your levels tested. If you are deficient, take a high-quality supplement — and, since the whole B vitamin family helps support healthy energy levels, consider taking a high-quality B complex with multiple forms of vitamin B.
3. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.
Flagging energy can also be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. Low levels of vitamin D are also associated with getting sick more often than usual and low mood/depression, so it’s especially important to have sufficient levels of vitamin D right now.
The best natural source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight, which is best done earlier in the day. Early daytime exposure helps trigger melatonin production at the right time in the evening to promote sufficient high-quality sleep — a win-win! Since it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun for optimal health, consider taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement as well.
4. Minimize sugar in your diet.
A quick hit of sugar, say in the form of a cookie or a candy bar, sends your blood sugar and energy soaring. But what goes up must come back down. In this case, that crash happens somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes later, leaving you with low energy and jonesing for more sugar. Not only is this less than ideal for overall health, it causes an energy roller coaster.
In lieu of sugary snacks and beverages, stick to meals and snacks that have complex carbs, plenty of healthy fats, and healthy protein. For snacks, reach for things like nuts, seeds, and low-glycemic fruit like blueberries.
Our Best Healthy Snack Ideas: 5 (Energy-Boosting) Snacks Featuring Complex Carbs
5. Reduce caffeine.
Like sugar, caffeine gives you a quick jolt of energy. And, like sugar, caffeine’s energy-giving effects aren’t constant. You’ll ride a high until you don’t, and then you’ll crash, With that crash come cravings for more caffeine, trouble sleeping, and/or increased anxiety.
Caffeine tolerance is individual; some people can handle more than others. Find out how much your system can handle before you feel the crash and burn (or the impact on sleep) and stick to that amount — no matter how tempting another cup (or two or three) might be.
6. Choose organic whenever possible.
The pesticides and herbicides that travel into the body on food can add to total body burden, or the total amount of chemicals in a person’s body. One symptom of toxin overload? Fatigue. Every few years the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measure the levels of various environmental chemicals in the human body and data suggests links between accumulated chemicals and persistent symptoms.
Limit exposure by choosing organic food and beverages when possible. You can take other easy lifestyle steps to limit chemical exposure, like choosing green cleaning products for your home and eschewing pesticides and herbicides on your lawn.
Read more: The 8 Best Clean Eating Diets
7. Move your body.
This might feel like the last thing you want to do, but a bit of intentional movement — even short bursts of exercise — can boost energy levels overall. Do whatever works for you, whether that’s a quick walk around the block or a short high-intensity training session. Just a little bit of movement will go a long way toward giving you a boost.
8. Set boundaries.
We run out of energy quickly when we have trouble saying no and setting boundaries. When something is being asked of you, pause to ask yourself if the activity or event will help you feel restored and energized — or zapped and depleted. If the answer is the latter, politely say no.
For people pleasers, this is easier said than done. Start by saying no to small, low stakes requests and build up to saying no to bigger requests. Every time you say no to a small thing, it will get easier to say no to bigger things — and to reserve yes for the activities and events that truly energize you.
9. Carve out non-sleep rest time.
The world is stressful, especially right now, and constant stress is draining and depleting. Part of the process of coping with stress is to carve out non-sleep time to rest and restore. Set aside dedicated time for rest and relaxation. This could be meditation, journaling, or just binge-watching a feel-good Netflix show. Just remember to put your phone away (or on airplane mode).
10. Get your thyroid tested.
Feeling exhausted all the time? This can be a sign of an underfunctioning thyroid. If you’ve tried some other lifestyle strategies for easing fatigue and you don’t notice a difference, consider getting your thyroid checked. It’s a simple blood test. If you find your thyroid could use some extra support, working with a trusted healthcare practitioner to get your thyroid functioning optimally can make a world of difference in your energy levels.