You may think it’s a long stretch between feeling tired and getting addicted to an amphetamine. Or a sleep medication. Or an afternoon cocktail. Yet those addictions can start with something as simple (and as damaging) as feeling chronically tired.
Consider this: the use of amphetamines by young women has risen seven hundred percent in the last eight years, according to a new report from the Center for Disease Control. While speed pills are used medically to treat ADHD, one reason women seek them out is to have enough energy, to get through the day.
At the same time, alcohol use and dependence by women has increased by 83.7 percent over a ten-year period, according to a 2017 study in JAMA Psychiatry,.
Addiction among both men and women has been declared a national epidemic—and is associated with a rising death rate in America. In fact, a new report by BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal,) tells an alarming story: after rising steadily for half a century, life expectancy in the US has fallen for the second year in a row, due to drug addiction, suicide, and alcohol abuse.
Why Women Reach for Stimulants
Fatigue and general exhaustion is one of five top medical complaints among women today. And even after the medical causes of fatigue, are ruled out, vast numbers of American women are just plain pooped. And no wonder—between raising a family, paying the bills in a stagnant-wage economy, and keeping up with career demands, many women today are in dire need of rest and restoration.
What happens when the brain is too tired? First to be affected is the pre-frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that helps us make decisions. When chronically stressed or tired, it goes “offline.” And when the “CEO of the brain” shuts down or becomes impaired, we start making bad decisions.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re tired, you start munching on foods that you know are bad for you? You reach for the vending machine candy bar instead of the apple, even though you know, only too well, that the candy bar’s initial burst of energy is going to be followed by a sugar crash and brain fog. Not to mention the extra pounds you don’t need. Or want.
The other problem is that it’s hard to enjoy anything when you’re chronically tired, overwhelmed or sleep-deprived. While hanging out with the family at night used to feel restorative, many women are so exhausted after working all day that they need something more stimulating in order to get dinner on the table, help the kids with their homework and somehow create pleasure hormones in their own brains. So they reach for a drink. Or a pill.
At first, that quick fix causes dopamine—a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, emotion, motivation and feelings of pleasure—to flood the brain. But that dopamine rush disturbs and distorts normal communication between the brain’s neurons. Soon that stimulant isn’t enough. As the brain adapts to the increase in stimulation, it pares down the number of dopamine receptors—and as the amount of receptors decrease, the more alcohol or speed it takes to create a pleasure “buzz.” Pretty soon the only time she can feel pleasure is when she’s just had a drink or a pill to produce euphoria. Then she can’t stop—she’s addicted.
Whatever the reasons leading to addiction, the end results are standard: depression, mental stress, impulsive behavior, anger, disorganized thinking, poor coping skills, suicidal thoughts, and poor decision-making. And more fatigue—a vicious cycle.
Looking to Your Own Self for Energy
So what’s a woman to do? In our stretched economy, not many women can cut back on their work or quit their jobs. And they certainly don’t want to quit their families. If it’s a bad idea to reach for a drink or a drug for the extra energy, where is the extra energy going to come from?
The answer is as profound as it is simple: the energy you need is inside yourself.
Some of the busiest women in America are turning to the Transcendental Meditation, technique to restore energy and normal sleep patterns. For many multi-tasking women, the idea that you can sit down for twenty minutes after a long day of work, close your eyes, and sink into a soothing state of relaxation and restoration is extremely attractive.
TV host and journalist Soledad O’Brian has four children and describes herself as always on the go. Yet the former CNN and NBC news anchor said, “I have a crazy schedule, so with the idea of calming my mind—I thought, “not possible!” But I was able to learn, I was able to do it, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing, and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and be a mother. And as a journalist I feel healthier and have fewer stressful days and more energy and more clarity of mind.”
Amy Ruff, RN, BSN, WOCN, said that she learned TM, just six months into her nursing career, and credits its twice-daily energy boost as the reason she was able to enjoy 40 years in nursing, a profession associated with high turnover and burnout. “Did I sometimes get tired?” she asks. “Yes. But fatigue has never been debilitating, and the tiredness from a long shift was cleared away in my next meditation.”
Nurse Amy also recommends, other natural ways to improve energy and lift brain fog, including daily exercise, eating whole foods, and getting eight hours of sleep.
Of course, she says, it’s essential that any woman experiencing extreme fatigue schedule a medical check-up to rule out causes such as anemia, thyroid imbalance, insomnia, nutrient deficiency, or diabetes.
A Natural Way to Treat Both Fatigue and Addiction
Research backs up, experiences like Soledad’s and Amy’s. On the one hand, it shows that TM has a profound effect on the body by providing deep rest and relieving the burden of stress. In multiple studies, TM has been found to be the most effective way to reduce stress,, even in severe cases such as PTSD,. Once stress levels become more balanced, many other aspects of heath also become balanced. In fact, the research by the NIH and leading universities is so solid that the American Heart Association has recommended the use of TM, by doctors in clinical practice.
Along with the deep state of physical and mental rest, research has also shown that the TM technique is an especially powerful way to enhance brain functioning,, especially the pre-frontal cortex, which produces increased alpha1 waves during practice.
Dr. Fred Travis,, a neuroscientist who has published dozens research studies in peer-reviewed journals, says, “Within a few months of practice of the TM technique we see high levels of integration of frontal brain connectivity,. And interestingly, that integration does not disappear after meditation. Increasingly and over time, this orderly brain functioning is found in daily activity.”
What that means is that after meditating, you are able to focus more easily, make better choices and accomplish your goals. With greater balance in both mind and body, it’s no wonder that researchers have found that TM stabilizes sleep, lifts anxiety, and depression,, and increases energy and happiness,.
In other words, by developing your inner reserves through TM, the need for stimulants and other addictive substances, is no longer there. Instead of reaching for a quick fix to change your reality, you many find that you already have all the happiness and energy you need inside. It only takes closing your eyes and transcending to access it.
Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.