Why You Always Feel Tired, Even If You’re Moving Less Than Ever – HuffPost

Posted: May 16, 2020 at 3:51 am

Thanks to hours spent working from your couch, back-to-back Zoom happy hours or just staying idle while binging a new TV show, you may find yourself moving your body less than ever during the coronavirus pandemic. Since youre not exactly overexerting yourself these days, what gives?

The short answer is this: While you may be doing less physical activity, your brain has kicked into overdrive. In other words, the exhaustion you feel is not all in your head (or technically, in this case, it actually is.)

Although you may not be commuting to work, taking your weekly spin classes or spending weekends running errands, our drastically new coronavirus lifestyles can have a bigger impact on mental health and energy levels than we might think.

Ive probably been the most unproductive Ive ever been, said Madonna Matta, a 24-year-old graduate student from Austin, Texas. Im just tired all the time. I dont know if it may be the food Im eating more carbs, less veggies or the lack of structure, but I just feel melancholy.

Generally, exercising would make me feel more energetic and lively and now the opposite has made me sluggish, Matta continued. Sometimes, it feels easier to just sleep and pretend everything were living through is fake.

For Cathrine Nelson, a 27-year-old content creator in Providence, Rhode Island, the way she feels depends on the day.

I woke up at 8 a.m. the other day and had a full day, Nelson said. Another day, I slept in until 11 a.m., listened to some podcasts and went to bed early. Ive had productive days and almost completely inactive days. I feel like I am on a slow-motion roller coaster. I dont know when I am going to hit my next peak or my next drop.

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Why stress leads to so much fatigue

While certain stressors can be helpful for focusing and problem-solving like when you need to make a deadline or when youre driving and someone swerves in front of you they are meant to be temporary. The long-term stress we may feel as a result of COVID-19 and the constant flow of news about it is not to be underestimated, and it can exact wear and tear on the body.

People face challenges that really activate the sympathetic nervous system, so its kind of classic fight or flight response, said Craig N. Sawchuk, a psychologist at the Mayo Clinic. You get the hormone release to help keep us going like adrenaline and cortisol those are good. Its really adaptive that our body can flip that switch. But its not meant to be a constant burn, either. And thats where we run into these physical problems.

According to Sawchuk, when your brain is constantly trying to adapt to uncertainty, fear and challenges like it has during this entire pandemic it takes a toll over time. Your body physically gets tired from managing all the emotional stress.

And thats where you start to see some of the energy problems starting to happen where were fatigued, Sawchuk said. We may be actually resting a lot more, sometimes unintentionally so, but its not a restorative type of rest.

Energy expenditure extends beyond just physical activity. We burn up energy processing emotion, regulating our feelings, thinking, worrying and adapting to new challenges.

We think of physical, emotional and mental energy all drawing from that same pot, so we can think of multiple systems in our lives are constantly on and in turn, are constantly draining and wearing away at us, Sawchuk said.

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How to boost your energy, even just a little

There are ways you can boost your energy at home and control stress levels. Johna Hansen, a licensed clinical social worker in New York City, recommended trying these steps:

Its uncertain how long COVID-19 will keep us in this state of lowered physical activity and heightened stress, but Sawchuk said resilience is key as we navigate the pandemic and the aftermath.

All of us as humans are resilient we really, really are, Sawchuk said. Resilience has this almost rubberized quality to it like bouncing back. But we will bounce back. It may not necessarily be to where we were at pre-COVID-19 because experience changes us; it changes the brain.

To Sawchuk, part of building resilience is learning to accept and adapt, which looks different for everyone. In other words, no one should be beating themselves up because they failed to make a sourdough starter or join an online yoga class that day.

We have to watch out when were making unfair comparisons to people that we think are just doing great, Sawchuk said. Our goal isnt to be perfect. Our goal is to be good enough. Being good enough is being kind to ourselves. There may objectively look like theres more time available, but thats not necessarily a good thing nor does it mean that were going to be more motivated or efficient. Its about adaptation.

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