The days are exhausting, aren’t they?
For those of us attempting to work from the sofa, tiredness is taking over – and it’s not like we can even blame the commute!
Psychotherapist Lucy Beresford says it’s not surprising people are feeling more drained than usual, because “psychologically, we are hard-wired for growth and stimulation”.
“If we don’t provide structure or interest or even self-love to our day, time stretches painfully and we feel defeated, lethargic or even depressed,” she tells HuffPost UK. “And the less we do, the more defeated we become.”
Chronic stress, even at a low level, can also be very emotionally draining and therefore tiring, adds Dr Roger Henderson, GP and UK medical director of Liva Healthcare. The ongoing Covid-19 situation is undoubtably a stressful one.
“The raised levels of anxiety-linked hormones such as adrenaline in the body can – although potentially helpful in acute short-lived stress – impact on the body to lower energy levels and cause both physical and mental fatigue,” he says.
The physical impacts of leading a largely sedentary lifestyle can also make us feel drowsy, Dr Henderson adds.
“It may seem counterintuitive but the less we exercise, the more tired we may feel,” he says. “Prolonged inactivity, even in fit people, can make us tired and unmotivated, and change our muscle functioning and bulk, as well as our tolerance to activity. The term ‘use it or lose it’ easily applies here.”
Exercise “positively alters our biochemical and hormonal balance”, Dr Henderson explains, effectively “burning off” some of our anxiety-inducing hormones. It’s because of this that we feel more stressed – and more drained – without it.
Despite having more time to lie in bed morning and evening, the Covid-19 pandemic might also be impacting your sleep, leaving you more tired during the day. Stress impacts on “both the amount of sleep we achieve and its quality”, according to sleep specialist Dr Michelle Miller, from Warwick University.
“Lack of sufficient sleep affects emotional regulation, inhibition, control and judgement,” Dr Miler previously told HuffPost UK. “It is associated with low mood, irritability and the inability to concentrate on performing tasks.”
So, how can you feel more energised? Getting the basics of good sleep right is the place to start. These include detoxing from the news cycle and social media before bed, creating a relaxing sleep environment and trying to stick to a regular bedtime and wake time.
Dr Mark Perara, a GP at Babylon, recommends using the ‘PIES’ model during your day – which means planning activities to stimulate you physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially. He gave us these ideas:
Physical – doing brief exercise, even if it’s just indoor jogging on the spot.
Intellectual – learning a new language on an app, for example.
Emotional – communicating remotely and showing your loved ones appreciation for being alive and well.
Social – having regular phone or video contact with wider social circles, which will serve to hold communities together, as well as individuals.
Beresford adds that your new routine should include a balance of ‘work’, play and fun. “So it could be clean the bathroom/listen to podcast/have long bath, or write that presentation/do yoga/experiment with recipes,” she says.
Helping other people is also a surefire way to shake off general fatigue. “Reach out either to friends and family, or sign up to NHS Volunteer and become a phone buddy for an isolated or lonely person,” Beresford says.
“Doing something kind for others is a great way to feel energised.”