Exhaustion is a common complaint for many caregivers. In fact, the Mayo Clinic lists feeling tired often and sleep disturbances as two of the symptoms associated with caregiver stress. Fatigue caused by packed schedules, full to-do lists, and chronic stress can leave caregivers searching for quick ways to restore their energy. While it might be tempting to have another cup of coffee or an energy drink to perk up, there are ways to boost your energy naturally – without the jitters or crash afterwards.
Nutritious meals are often the first thing busy caregivers sacrifice. Skipping meals – particularly breakfast – can have unwanted side effects, including low blood sugar and a tendency to overeat when you finally are able to have a meal. Take-out is convenient; however, most meals are lacking in nutrients, but have an abundance of fat, sodium, and calories. Poor nutrition can lead to unwanted weight gain, as well as lower levels of energy.
It isn’t uncommon for our bodies to crave simple carbohydrates when we are exhausted. Indulging in sugary treats like pastries or donuts deliver a quick hit of energy, but often leave us feeling worse once the sugar has worn off. If you are fatigued from lack of sleep, try snacking on a handful nuts or a piece of fruit to boost your energy naturally.
Numerous studies have shown that a well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system, which is essential for caregivers. For a steady supply of energy that lasts throughout the day, nutritionists recommend eating smaller meals that include a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
Water plays a significant role in many bodily functions, including regulating your temperature, removing waste, and helping your brain function. Fatigue is one of the symptoms of mild dehydration, so if you are feeling tired, pay close attention to your water intake.
While drinking when you are thirsty is a good rule to follow, keep in mind that your sense of thirst diminishes with age, so set a reminder if you need to. In addition to drinking small amounts of water throughout the day, you can snack on fruits and vegetables with high water content (strawberries, cantaloupe, celery, squash, etc.), to stay hydrated.
Avoid sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice as they can cause your blood sugar to spike. Try to limit your caffeine later in the day, as too much might interfere with your sleep. If plain water is unappealing, try adding lemon or lime slices – just limit how much and how often, as the acid can erode the enamel in your teeth.
Regular exercise offers numerous health benefits, including improved energy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week – which translates to 30 minutes per day. Those 30 minutes can be broken up into smaller chunks, which is good news for busy caregivers.
For higher levels of energy and alertness, as well as improved focus throughout the day, exercise in the morning. If a visit to the gym won’t fit into your schedule, there are plenty of exercises you can do from home. A smart device, or laptop, paired with a fitness app allows you to workout anywhere at any time. A brisk walk is also a great exercise, and a wonderful way to practice self-care.
More sleep seems like the obvious solution when we are tired – but that is easier said than done, especially for caregivers. On average most adults need between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Chronic stress – a challenge many caregivers face – is just one of the many risk factors for sleep disturbances. Certain medications, hormones, as well as your age can also impact your ability to sleep well.
Experts recommend maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, as well as limiting screen usage before bed to improve your sleep quality. If you are able, recharge your batteries with a nap – keep it brief so you don’t have trouble falling asleep.
Next Read: Simple Self-Care Ideas
Taking time for yourself is key to your mental and physical health. And it doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive, or time-consuming. Read our next story to get easy self-care ideas you can do right at home.