As a nurse, I’ve had many women present concerns that were deeply troubling and caused by severe health imbalance. More commonly, women have told me they are worried about something that sounds simple but is disabling nonetheless: chronic fatigue. Women ask, “Why am I so tired all the time?”
Chronic fatigue might be linked to any of a number of medical conditions, such as anemia, deficiency of potassium or other nutrients, thyroid imbalance, diabetes, depression, insomnia, some forms of arthritis, and heart disease. But the source of a woman’s energy—or lack of it—might simply be in her lifestyle choices; for example:
What you drink and eat
Trying to re-charge with sugar or caffeine can backfire, causing blood sugar levels to fluctuate wildly and leaving you more tired as a result. Instead, drink a lot of water and other fluids and favor a nutritious balanced diet of fresh food, which most people claim makes them less tired. Eating in a healthful way also means you’ll be likely to carry less weight—obesity is a big contributor to fatigue.
Give the sandman his due
If you’re not sleeping enough to get sufficient rest, plan ahead for the hours of sleep you really need daily—even if it means cutting back a little on work and entertainment. Be sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours just before bedtime. Turn off the computer, smartphone and TV as much as possible before bedtime as the activity and quality of light from the monitors can affect your blood chemistry and shift your body function away from the sleep state. A settled atmosphere in the bedroom can also help. In addition, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a national spokesperson for Go Red for Women, says that seven hours of sleep nightly reduces the chance of heart disease.
A body in motion
Most physicians recommend exercise for most people for many aspects of good health. It is also a contributor to a good quality of sleep. Plan your exercise time ahead so that you can finish at least three hours before going to bed. Exercise, according to the majority of research studies, doesn’t increase fatigue—it breeds energy. Sedentary people who begin an exercise routine experience reduced fatigue compared to those who stay idle.
Regular twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique
When a woman sits down and does the TM technique, she settles to a comforting and relieving state of deep rest. Research studies over the decades have pinpointed some of the specific reasons in the physiology for a TM practitioner’s subsequent increase of energy and reduction of fatigue. Here are some findings:
•The scientifically verified physical effects during TM practice include decreased respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and anxiety.
•Experts estimate that 66% of the population suffers from some form of adrenal fatigue which causes a general sense of tiredness and lack of wellbeing. A study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found that the TM technique reduces baseline cortisol levels so that the adrenal glands are not being overtaxed during times we’re not under extreme stress.
•During stress the adrenal glands secrete three major stress hormones: cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. If these stress hormones remain at chronically elevated levels, they increase the risk of insomnia, acid reflux, migraines, depression, chronic fatigue, exhaustion, immune system failure, and aging. Studies published in the Journal of Neural Transmission, Physiology & Behavior, and the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that individuals practicing the TM technique had 30-40% lower levels of all three major stress hormones than non-meditators in the studies had and that there is a long-term effect of normalizing the hormones levels throughout the day and night.
As a nurse and as a woman, I don’t recommend anything to others that I haven’t researched and tried myself and found to be effective. I learned the Transcendental Meditation technique 6 months into my first job as a nurse. The many benefits produced by my twice daily practice allowed me to continue and enjoy a rewarding nursing career for almost 40 years. Did I sometimes get tired? Yes. But fatigue has never been debilitating, and the tiredness from a long shift was cleared away in my next meditation.
Life itself is not exhausting, but if our job, family, and other circumstances have become so overwhelming that they are dangerous to our health, it is important that we take steps now to avert collateral damage.
Amy Ruff BSN, RN, WOCN, is the Director of TM for Nurses in the U.S.