Tiredness rules my life

I’ve finally got around to writing my first post in a month. I’ve been away on holiday but that was only for a week and, truth be told, I just haven’t had the energy or motivation to do much of note lately.

The holiday was much needed and another great time was had in Nefyn – the same Welsh coastal town we visited last year. If you read my post on this from 12 months ago ( link here ), you’ll be pleased to hear that Cathy is still going strong, still has her beach hut, and still goes for her daily swim in the cold waters. She admitted this year that she casts envious glances toward those of us who fling ourselves off the pier end at high tide and wishes she could have a go. She is, however, mindful of the fact that this would probably be too much for poor Terry’s heart (her 90-year-old husband) so she has stayed away. Though something tells me that Cathy may well just sneak over to the end of that pier at some point in the near future! Again, it was a pleasure catching up with such a truly inspirational lady.

But back to the topic of energy, motivation and the title of this post. Seems a little OTT doesn’t it? A bit dramatic? I thought about the title for a while as I wanted to find something a little less sensationalist, but this fits the bill purely because it is true. I’ve finally realised that tiredness and my energy levels really do rule my life and pretty much dictate which version of me I’ll be on any given day. This affects my productivity to a huge degree and dictates whether I’ll do anything worthwhile or sit on my backside and procrastinate all day. It affects my performance at work. It affects my mood and it absolutely affects my state of mind. If I’ve had a productive day, I’ll go to bed content and happy. If I’ve had an unproductive day, I’ll always go to bed feeling angry, frustrated, and unfulfilled.

So, what to do about it? The following are all key factors which I need to address:

Sleep

I used to be able to get by on a maximum of 7hrs sleep per night and I could handle 2-3 nights per week of getting 6hrs sleep. I also used to sleep like a log, without waking. Perhaps a sign of aging but I can’t remember the last time I slept straight through the night without waking. These days, I need a minimum of 7hrs sleep, ideally 8hrs. If I don’t achieve that magical 7hrs, I can feel it the following day. I get mild muzzy headaches, I am invariably tired the whole day, and I am therefore usually in a pretty poor mood. Sleep is critical for me and, over the past 12 months or so, I’ve started going to bed earlier than I used to in a bid to improve this.

Better diet

I’ve written about this many times but I’ve recently realised that it is more important in terms of energy levels than I ever realised. Back in May, I wrote ( link here ) about my aim to go the entire month without eating any chocolate, biscuits, cakes or ice-cream, primarily to understand if this would help improve my tiredness and lethargy. I did achieve this and felt the most energetic and alive that I’ve felt in a long time. I’ve slipped a little since then and really do need to minimise my intake of sugary treats as much as possible. In fact, eating less junk food in general is key. We tend to eat a lot of healthy home-cooked meals anyway but I do have a liking for a takeaway (don’t we all?). Again, we don’t eat excessive amounts but I could still do myself a huge favour and cut down on them. As much as I love them, I always eat too much and feel bloated and lethargic immediately after. I’ve also recognised that portion control is a factor which I do need to improve.

Something else I’ve reduced over the past 6-8 months is my caffeine intake. At home, I only drink decaf tea and coffee and I genuinely haven’t noticed much difference in taste. I still have the odd ‘proper’ coffee when I’m out and about (McDonalds coffee still ticks all my boxes) but they are a rare treat. I’d like to think this has helped but the truth is I really can’t tell. I will continue with these options though as they surely can’t do any harm?

Finally, back to my good old archenemy – alcohol. Although I still drink much less these days (since May 2020), I’ve had a little more than usual over the past month or so. I had a few drinks on holiday (nothing excessive – I certainly didn’t get drunk) and I did enjoy them. A couple of weeks ago though, we had a family meal for my father-in-law’s 70th birthday and I had quite a few drinks – it was actually the first time I’ve been drunk in around 18 months. The result of this was excessive tiredness and I genuinely felt lethargic for 3 days afterward. This convinced me that my days of drinking to excess are absolutely over. If I do drink, it will be 2 or 3 at the most, though I’m aware that the alcohol-free drinks are the best option for me these days and need to be my drink of choice for the vast majority of the time. I simply cannot wipe out days at a time due to having had ‘a session’.

Exercise

Get more exercise! That’s what the so-called experts say and it works for me. I’ve started walking more this year and whilst there is still room for improvement (10,000 steps per day is a challenging target but something I could feasibly work toward for the remainder of the year), this has proved to be beneficial. Over the past 4 months I’ve been doing home workouts 6 days per week and these are also working well for me, though I now need to really step up the cardiovascular activity and aim to shift the excess fat I’m still carrying. I have a rowing machine and step machine at home and I know I need to get out more on my bike. I’ve ran a little in the past though it’s not a form of exercise I enjoy so I’m trying to avoid that, unless it becomes a last resort option in my bid to finally get rid of the blubber. I always feel better after a walk so I’m really pinning my hopes on the cardio exercise also increasing my energy levels.

Less screen time

So easy to type yet so difficult to do! My phone provides weekly updates on my usage and the figure a couple of weeks ago was an average of around 5hrs per day. This horrified me. 5hrs per day staring at a phone screen? I didn’t believe it but then I stopped to think. There’s the checking of the phone when I first wake. There’s the checking of e-mails throughout the day (and, to a lesser extent, social media). There’s the downloading and reordering of podcasts, the setting up of music playlists, the sporadic checking of favourite websites throughout the day and especially during the evening. It soon added up and that figure suddenly didn’t seem to be a mistake. 5hrs per day though – that figure still haunts me and it has to reduce, especially in the hour or so before going to bed. Add to that the time I spend on my work and personal laptops each day and I won’t be far off spending every waking hour glued to a device screen. An utterly ludicrous scenario and one that must change.

So, to summarise, something must be done as this situation has been getting worse rather than better. Tiredness is having a monumental impact on so many areas of my life and I must change that and lead a better life. I must build on the small improvements I’ve made in certain areas over the past 12-18 months and make them, and any new habits, a way of life – the norm, rather than notable exceptions which I address every now and again. There is so much to do in such a relatively short space of time and I won’t get anywhere near to completing that lifelong to-do list if I continue neglecting my sleep, neglecting exercise, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and eating an unhealthy diet.  

I’m keen to understand to what extent tiredness affects others. Is it just me to the scale I’ve described here or do others feel the same?

As always, thanks for reading, stay safe and be kind to yourself and others.

Best wishes.

Mick

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