Are you overwhelmed with fatigue these days? I know I am. It’s mind-blowingly frustrating and yes, exhausting. During perimenopause and menopause, you may experience the relentless feeling of tiredness, weakness, fatigue, and a general apathy for life. For no reason, you just wake up feeling like you have nothing in the tank to make it through the day and it makes no sense. Yesterday you were playing tennis and felt on top of the world. So, what is happening here? Unsurprisingly, your hormones are in a state of flux and these changes at a cellular level directly impact both your mental and physical energy. In addition to your foul moods, waning libido, insomnia, and unprovoked violent outbursts you are now utterly exhausted. All the time.
We can’t make this go away—it’s part of our right of passage into the twilight zone of no more periods and the chance to regain your life again. So in the meantime, it’s worth knowing a few hacks that will help you cope during this phase and maybe ease the burden you are feeling.
5 Simple Energy Boosters: 1. Move Daily
Did you notice I didn’t say exercise daily? Ideally, I would prescribe a minimum of three strength workouts per week, but I also know that when you’re feeling symptoms the last thing your body wants is to stress itself even more with weight training. Instead, while you have low energy, try something that is a little more low-key. You will still get a drive of endorphins and will begin to feel more energized. Consider walking, yoga, swimming, or some simple mobility work.
Video credit: DVRT
5 Simple Energy Boosters: 2. Eat Well
Try to cut out the crap food. I know it is difficult because when you don’t feel great you just want to grab starch, sweet, and salty foods. This is completely understandable, but it will leave you feeling worse than before. Keep your diet simple, and stick to whole foods whenever possible.
Include lots of fiber and protein. These will keep you feeling full longer and stabilize your blood sugars. When your blood sugar dips you may start feeling irritable, thirsty, dizzy, and yes, fatigued. We underestimate how much influence food can have on our mood and energy levels, so by avoiding processed foods and stimulants, like coffee and alcohol, you are giving your body a chance to feel better.
5 Simple Energy Boosters: 3. Glug, Glug, Glug
Are you getting all your water in? The elixir of life. Did you know that your body is made up of 60% water? Water is essential for a variety of physiological functions like transportation of nutrients, maintaining proper body temperature, and bowel function. Your overall health, performance, and body composition will suffer if you don’t adequately hydrate.
It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon and you start to feel really sleepy. You might assume you need more sleep or caffeine (and remember let’s not over do the coffee right now), however, there’s a good chance you actually are dehydrated. When you are dehydrated your cognitive performance suffers dramatically. Dehydration as little as 1% of your body weight is enough to reduce both endurance and strength performance.
5 Simple Energy Boosters: 4. Get Some Sleep
Sleep is an integral part of coping with the menopause and overall health. You aren’t wasting time during sleep; the body uses these hours to repair and rejuvenate. In fact, sleep is actually crucial to our overall health. Chronically low sleep will increase your likelihood of chronic illness, elevate your sympathetic nervous system response, decrease growth hormone (GH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), and increase cortisol. Basically, it screws with your body in many ways beyond just being tired.
When thinking about your overall health and wellness during menopause, you need to make sure that your plan includes exercise and nutrition and sleep in equal parts.
5 Simple Energy Boosters: 5. Identify Your Stress
We experience stress in many forms: including mental, emotional, and physical challenges. Whether you realize it or not, good and bad stress both have a profound effect on your body. A certain pattern of stress we can think of a “good stress” helps to keep us alert, serves as a positive influence and motivates us to give our all. On the other hand, living with “bad stress” can be very detrimental to health. Producing high levels of our stress hormone cortisol can affect both our quality of sleep and increase body fat gain. For optimal well-being, balancing our allostatic load is desirable. Allostatic load is the accumulative total of physical, mental and emotional stress—basically the “wear and tear” on your body.
An easy way to identify the difference between the good and bad types of stress:
- Good stress = short lived/infrequent
- Bad stress = lasts a long time/chronic
Ideas to help you relax:
- Take a relaxing walk (especially outside)
- Spend time in nature
- Get moderate sunshine
- Listening to relaxing music
- Mindfulness practice and meditation
- Deep breathing
- Snuggling a loved one or pet
- Gentle mobility, and/or slow stretching exercises
- Gentle swimming or water immersion (such as a hot tub)
- Relaxing in a sauna
- Having sex (seriously)
Finally, have a level of acceptance over how you are feeling. Don’t beat yourself up if today you are not feeling optimal. You know this too shall pass, and you also know that many other women are feeling your pain.
Coach Amanda Thebe is Breaking Muscle’s Expert Coach in Residence. If you are a woman who is over 40 years old and want Coach Thebe to cover a topic you are interested in or would like her to address a specific issue you may have, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Put Coach Thebe in the subject line, and let us know what you need in your training.