Hacking my energy

Weaselporking HELL I’m tired!  (#2 won’t let me swear on the blog)

yawning baby

Now you want to yawn.

I posted before about hacking my work habits.  This is all very well and good, but one thing that’s slowing me down is that I can’t seem to properly tweak my mana.  I am exhausted all the time.  Mother of heck, I’m tired!  If I have free time I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and “accidentally” nap for 3 or 4 hours.  It’s not that I’m not sleeping at night, either, because I am: at least 7 hours on weeknights, 8 hours if I can get it.  (more and more these days I’m starting to go to bed early, even though I am naturally a night owl.)  On weekends I’ll sleep all day, and I’m not depressed.  This doesn’t vary with season, only with time in the semester.  It’s true in both semesters, every year without fail.  It has been for a long time.

This level of exhaustion is totally normal for me during the semester, but grinding.  Every few years I think, “This can’t be right,” and go to the doctor and pay them a bunch of money.  They run a bunch of tests, check for anemia and thyroid problems, etc.  Two weeks later I get a note back from the doctor that says all my labs were normal and I should try to reduce my stress.  Thanks a lot, genius.  I already *knew* that part.

People who say “exercise gives you energy!”?  Those people LIE.  They are lying liars who lie.  Even moderate walks outside make me want to lie down.  Crushing exhaustion is one reason I have to leave my house to work: otherwise, it’s much too likely that I’ll fall asleep.   I’ve tried meditation but it makes me fall asleep.

Does anyone have suggestions for how to improve my energy levels, feel more alert and more able to think, and less tired?  Caffeine only goes so far and I can only ingest so much of it.  Help!  I’m not depressed and my internal chemistry seems fine.  Is my system just set much lower than everyone else’s?  Will I ever experience the middle of the bell curve on individual differences?  I’m not sick, just tired.  Very, very tired.


23 Responses to “Hacking my energy”

  1. Valerie Says:

    should i not mention this appears to have been posted at 3 am?

    It seems your energy and exhaustion are immune to most small things (and I have gone through similarly exhausted period), but in case they help, my small energy boosters include:
    – paying some attention to junk food. I definitely notice that I drag more when I’m eating lots of sugar and junk, and I drag less if I’m getting more veggies and things. This is more of a neutral (not dragging) than a positive (feeling MORE energy).
    – yoga. Meditation makes me fall asleep, but yoga has some of the meditative elements while keeping your body moving. Also is exercise without being exhausting. Some people hate yoga and others are indifferent, so this likely won’t work for everyone.
    – afternoon outings. My exhaustion peaks in the afternoons, when I want to die at my keyboard. Something about afternoons, even if I’m at the office and have caffeine and a snack. I strategically schedule errands, meetings, or late lunches so that I don’t fall asleep or completely waste away this time.
    – water. Some old friends of mine swear by water, and not caffeine, for staying awake. This is hotly debated amongst our friends who have exhausting jobs (i.e. junior attorneys, medical residents) all of whom have now tried it. Some claim it only keeps you awake because you have to constantly get up to pee. Believers say it actually just gives you more energy via hydration. I suppose you can try it and be your own judge.

    On another note, doctors can be seriously annoying. I have a problem that I’m always VERY cold. Every few years I think it just can’t be right and go to the doctor, and they run a bunch of tests, and two weeks later tell me everything is fine and I should wear more sweaters. Um… thanks.

  2. Sandy L Says:

    From the person who’s slept in classes in high school and college, I can tell you that some people just need more sleep than others. I now realize how incredibly rude that was.

    It particularly drove my high school math teacher nuts because I’d always ace his tests.

    Physical activity does help me. Manual labor and/or exercise exhausts me but it’s a different kind of tired. Plus, when you’re first starting out, you haven’t built up any stamina yet, so the first few walks may indeed make you more tired before you start seeing the benefits.

    I’m in a sloth phase myself right now and I don’t like the way it makes me feel.

    Diet also seems to help. If I go a few meals without ingesting a single veggie or fruit, I am more tired too. I think it has to do with sugars. (I love carbs)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 here: My energy (unexpectedly) went way up when I cut out refined carbs, but I have insulin resistance. A friend of mine found out she was gluten intolerant (there’s no test for this other than to cut out gluten) and she got more energy switching from wheat-based carbs to rice-based carbs. I’m fairly sure that #1 would rather go into a coma than try either of those dietary changes, even for a week. Personally I *like* whole wheat pasta, but #2 thinks I’m crazy.

  3. everydaytipsandthoughts Says:

    What a bummer of a problem. Usually if I nap during the day, I am awake all night long. The only time I was sleepy day and night was when I had Lyme’s disease.

    However, this seems to be a recurring pattern for you. What happens if you do not give in and stay awake instead of napping? I know when I was on bedrest, the most I slept, the more I wanted to sleep. I was in a pattern of lethargy. What if you did go sit outside or go for a little stroll instead of lying down? Get some fresh air and some natural light to get the system going? What about having a banana and some chocolate milk or something to energize the system?

    So, my advice is to try and fight the urge to nap if you can and try to create a new pattern. Good luck!!!

  4. Suba @ Wealth Informatics Says:

    Did you check your progesterone levels? I have the same “problem” (and the insulin resistance and the horrible things that go along with it). I am just damn tired. I can’t even exercise for more than 10 mins, I want to go right back to bed. Now I am taking some things from my nutritionist to help with energy levels, not drugs, stuff like hemp hearts… It is very easy for people to say lose weight your energy level will go up or exercise you will be fine… No! I hope you are able to sleep at night, I will be very tired but just stay awake in bed :(

    I don’t think I offered any help here… All I can say is hang in there, it will be better! (saying that to myself too)

  5. Molly On Money Says:

    I have energy ‘issues’…they suck. Mine is caused by a chemical inbalance that I have tried to remedy with herbs and minerals with no positive effect. I won’t go on medication, yet.
    I believe I’ve been this way my entire life and this is what has helped me:
    1. When I feel it coming on I make sure I’m sleeping at least 9hrs/night, falling asleep the same time every night.
    2. Rather then take my run I walk or go on a short hike
    3. I don’t stress out about it. I use to feel guilty, now I’m like, ‘hi, old friend, how ya doing. Are ya sure you want to come on? Have you thought about finding a new home? Not yet? OK. (sigh).’
    And to make matters worse, most of my family members have tons of energy!

  6. Molly On Money Says:

    I forgot to mention,
    I too am trying not to swear and so some of my alternate phrases are:
    Holy Shipmates!
    Shut yer piehole
    That’s all I can remember right now, but you’re more then welcome to use any of them so #2 doesn’t get peevish with you.

  7. undine Says:

    A big amen to this: People who say “exercise gives you energy!”? Those people LIE. They are lying liars who lie. Even moderate walks outside make me want to lie down.

    I still love to walk, but I have to face the fact that at some point during the day I’m either going to do a faceplant on my desk for 5 minutes (and I will dream, instantly, so it’s not just dozing) or look like Miss Blankenship at her desk on Mad Men.

  8. Meg Says:

    Have you tried to do a raw food fast and smoothies 2/3 meals? When I did, I not only lost a bit of weight, I felt great! http://www.raw-food-diet-inspiration.com/

    Oh, and it weened me off of caffiene (sp?)! Day one, I was a bit hungry because I didnt bring enough almonds and snacks to work, but I had so much energy! And you dont need to sleep nearly as much when you are going raw.

    I may try it again for another week.
    I love my food…so it’s hard for me to stay on it for an extended period of time.

    Let us know how if you try it and how it goes! :-)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 sez: Personally I think she should try something like a (gluten-free, low carb) high fruit/veggie/protein etc. diet for a week, sometime in the summer when she’s not teaching, as an experiment to see if standard dietary problems can be eliminated as a cause (a week of crustless quiches?). These diet things are so physiology specific and spaghetti is so good that it is difficult to make that change even temporarily.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I went on a no-sugar diet for a week, and that was just long enough to give me a long sugar-withdrawal headache (starting day 3). I was hoping I’d feel better, but no.

        Next time I’ll try two weeks–one crappy week, followed by one official experimental week. But as a person who drinks chocolate milk for breakfast daily and feels deprived if no dessert follows workday lunch and works in an office with frequent parties with delicious treats at them, this is something that has to be planned for and psyched for and is unlikely to happen for me any time soon.

  9. Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

    Bright lights, bright colors. Try a light therapy box as desk lamp, and paint your office orange.

  10. Linda Says:

    There could be many causes of extreme fatigue and you don’t say exactly what tests the docs run. I dealt with fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, and join pain for about 2 years. I went to an acupunturist (which did help a bit), an allergist, and then I finally found a good internal medicine doc who would work with me based on more than just labs.

    By the time I got to that doc, though, I was unable to do more than 30 minutes of mild exercise at a time without sinking into utter exhaustion. I yawned hugely the whole time I exercised, as well. I limped as I walked because the joints in my feet hurt so badly. I spent a lot of time in bed and I felt stupid all the time. Three days after starting thyroid hormone replacement I could think clearly again. A few weeks later I was back to normal energy levels and could exercise again. And I was testing in the “normal” range for the most common test of thyroid function (TSH) the whole time I was suffering symptoms.

    It also helps me to take large does of Vitamin D3 (5,000 units a day) and I self-inject B-12 every week since I can’t seem to keep my lB-12 levels up via food intake or oral/sub-lingual supplements. If any of these things gets out of whack then I start dragging again. If I keep it all up, then I’m a normal, energetic 40-something woman.

    My point: probe a bit more with the doc on what could be behind your fatigue.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2: Anything that can be tested with a blood test she’s done– so thyroid, blood sugar, anemia, etc., all negative. She doesn’t have PCOS. She does have some non-food allergies, but doesn’t have celiac. She’s been this way since I’ve known her, which is teens and early 20s. (But we were all sleepy back then…)

      She hasn’t done an eating diary, she hasn’t done multiple cortisone tests throughout the day, hasn’t had anything truly invasive.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #1 here. Indeed, #2 speaks truth. And also, to all you people who suggest I give up carbs (or cooked food): you can pry my pasta from my cold dead hands! I live in a godforsaken place without my partner. No weaselporking way I’m giving up the delight of eating whatever the blat I want to!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #2 notes: She gets a little testy when people suggest she give up pasta (or switch to whole grain). I’ll keep working on it… you know, as an experiment, for a week, in the summer, so she can tell people she tried it but it also doesn’t work.

  11. Vicissitudes of my job | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] to work at appropriate times.  It’s not so much that I am bad at time management but that I am bad at energy management. When I have some nice hours to devote to research and writing work, I get all sleepy and cranky. […]

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