Sleepy boy

Sleep. Is that what you think? When you’re tired because you are behind on your sleep, that may be the very best thing to do.

But not so fast. Sometimes sleep may work against you.

When women come to see me as a doctor, fatigue is often their Number One complaint. They are often hoping for a medical solution. There are certainly medical problems that can lead to being tired, such as anemia, thyroid dysfunction, kidney or liver disease, sleep apnea, or hormonal problems. And when one of those problems is present, of course it’s appropriate to treat it medically.

But so often it’s not a medical problem that’s causing fatigue. There are many lifestyle factors in our modern world that just wear you out! An unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, stressful work, relationship problems, digital overload, worry and anxiety, a soul that’s distressed -all of these and more can leave you weary and miserable.

An overdose of caffeine may help you stay awake longer, but it will only wear your body and mind out more. There IS a better way!

So what can you do when you’re tired?

  1. Sleep. Sometimes that really is the answer. It’s easy to justify not getting enough sleep: there are always a list of vitally important things you should be doing. But your body, mind, and soul will function much better after some honest sleep.
  2. Take a walk. Or a run. Especially when your tiredness is due to mental work or stress, some aerobic exercise will clear your mind and get the oxygen flowing to your brain. You may be much more efficient after a run, and also sleep better at night.
  3. Eat healthy. Processed foods can make you feel groggy and sluggish. They can literally slow down the function of vital organs, and impact oxygen delivery to your brain. Healthy protein, natural fruits and vegetables, and perhaps some whole grains – that should be your primary diet.
  4. Unplug. Go on a digital vacation. Even if it’s for an hour or two before bed, you will sleep better. Turn off the TV, your cellphone, and any other device for a time. The world won’t end! Focus on nature, your family, or prayer.
  5. Leave work at work. Make a conscious choice about how many hours you work. And it’s not only the hours: it’s how much you do or don’t enjoy your work that determines how tired it makes you. Need help to find the work you love? Check out 48 Days.
  6. Don’t try to change people. It doesn’t work, and it’s terribly exhausting. Accept other people for who they are, and then make a conscious choice about who you spend time with. Limit your time around people who wear you out.
  7. Get away. Whether it’s for an hour, an afternoon, a weekend, or 10 days, we desperately need times of refreshment. Be thoughtful about taking time off: some time in nature, a weekly “Sabbath” rest, or a relaxing weekend with your spouse or a good friend.
  8. Turn stress over to God. Worry and anxiety is work wasted: it wears you out and doesn’t accomplish anything. If you need extra help in dealing with anxiety, get it. God is big enough to handle all your worries. Do your best, and leave the rest to Him.

And when you have trouble sleeping, here are two beautiful Scriptures to think about:

  • Psalm 4:8 “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
  • Psalm 127:2 “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives his beloved sleep.”

Now, what do YOU need to do to feel less tired and refreshed?

Your turn: What is the biggest source of your tiredness? What have you found helpful in dealing with fatigue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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