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8 Habits You’re Unaware of that Speed up Aging

8 Habits You’re Unaware of that Speed up Aging

We’re all probably aware that things like smoking and obesity shorten our lifespan, but we may not be aware of the many other seemingly harmless habits that are secretly aging us every day. Here are eight to watch out for:

1. Wearing a ‘Worrywart’ Badge

We can’t escape stress, but we can try to rein in our tendency to worry. Worrying not only make us unhappy, anxious, and mentally exhausted, (not to mention the extra ice cream and comfort foods it entices us to ingest), but it actually ages the body. The constant release of cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline literally wear us out by lowering the immune system, raising blood pressure, and interfering with sleep, memory and mood.

What you can do: Try to put worries in perspective by looking at the big picture. Take a few deep breaths when anxiety rears its ugly head. Do something physical; take a walk or do a few yoga poses. Meditation really does help, as does setting aside a regular ‘worry time.’ The key is not to let worry be a constant companion.

2. Being a Sunscreen Slacker

Sure, you remember to put on sunscreen when heading to the beach, but what about driving to work, walking the dog, or doing errands. Repeated daily exposure to the sun can actually cause significant premature aging. Researchers in Australia recently found in a study of 900 participants that those who consistently applied sunscreen daily had smoother, more resilient and younger-looking skin. So not only does skipping the daily sunscreen raise the risk of skin cancer, it also weakens skin cells and can surprisingly make us more prone to bruising and skin injury.

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What you can do: Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 15, preferably 30. Use a nickel-size dollop for the face and an amount equivalent to a shot glass to cover all exposed areas of the body every day. Once it becomes a habit, it will only take a few minutes and can save you years of prematurely leathery skin.

3. Having a Sweet Spot’ for Sugar

We know sugar can pack on the pounds, but health experts now believe that sugar is secretly aging us. Sugar damages our skin by drying out the collagen and elastin that are naturally present, resulting in dull, dry, sagging and wrinkle-prone skin. This process, known as glycation, also causes dark circles and puffiness, both of which are not only unattractive, but make us look and feel older. These effects begin at about age 35 and rapidly increase after that, according to a study published in the “British Journal of Dermatology.”

What you can do: Let’s face it, sugar is tough to eliminate completely, but trying to minimize consumption will pay off in a big way. Aim for no more than 10% of daily calories derived from sugar and watch out for those hidden sugars! Read labels and try to limit sweet treats to a few times per week.

4. You Think Exercise is Only for Weight Loss

Whether you need to lose weight or not, exercise literally helps turn back our body clock. Regular and consistent exercise—even something as simple as a daily 30-minute walk—can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve memory and concentration, increase muscle tone, and best of all, significantly reduce chronic stress. As a bonus, regular exercise will help the pounds stay off and protect our muscle mass and bone density.

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What you can do: Go for a daily walk with a friend or Fido, take up a physical hobby or join a group sport or class. Get an exercise buddy or find an event to compete in. Anything that will motivate and make exercise more fun will help keep you active.

5. You Hold a Grudge

Holding on to a grudge or anger is not only damaging to your mental health, but can age you physically as well. If you can let things go, you may be adding years to your life. Studies have shown a link between forgiveness and physical health. A study published in the “Journal of Behavioral Medicine” showed that a lack of forgiveness lowered sleep quality, increased stress-causing hormones, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar, resulting in weight gain and an increased likelihood of needing medication. In short, learn how to let go, and you may live longer.

What you can do: Recognize that holding on to anger and resentment hurt you more than the other person. Forgiveness does not mean that you need to be a victim or give trust where it’s not warranted. Learn to let things go and you may indeed live longer … not to mention happier. And that’s the best revenge anyway!

6. You’re Too Busy for Your Friends

When you were younger, your friends probably figured prominently in your calendar, but as we acquire more responsibility, demanding jobs, partners, parenting and household duties the time for friends slips away. But making time for friends isn’t a luxury. Studies have shown that sustaining friendships are better predictors of longevity than even family. Strong friendships can help alleviate depression and deal with mental stress, as well as reduce our risk of many chronic conditions, all of which age us prematurely.

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What can you do: Carve regular friend time in your schedule, even if it’s just once a week. Do it digitally if you have to. While in-person is best, communicating via email or Facebook counts too. Reach out to old and new friends and put effort into cultivating long-term relationships that nurture and support.

7. You Love the Remote

A “British Journal of Sports Medicine” study of 11,000 adults discovered that every hour in front of the TV shortens your life expectancy by 22 minutes, even more for the remote addicts among us, those who average more than six hours a day live on average five years less than non-TV watchers. It’s not so much about the TV watching, as it is the inactivity. And while you might not be able to change a sedentary job, you can control how much couch time you get.

What you can do: The simplest strategy is simply to watch less TV! But there are some tricks you might want to try. Watch TV while walking on the treadmill or exercising, buy one of those portable stepper machines and work off those chips while you’re at it. Or try getting up to walk around during every commercial break.

8. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Had Sex!

Yes, sex feels good, but it’s also fantastically healthy. Research shows that an active sex life can help strengthen your immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, relieve depression and the “Journal of the American Medical Association” now reports sex may even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. During sex, the body releases chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and other immune and mood-boosting substances that not only make you healthier and happier, but can actually make you look years younger.

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What you can do: Things like getting more sleep and exercising can increase sex drive and energy. Also, you might try reading erotic or romantic material, getting a quick massage or dressing the part to get in the mood. For the practical minded…schedule it. Swap out that favorite TV show for some extra ‘love time.’ Your body…and your partner will thank you.

Featured photo credit: delta creme donuts – lucianvenutian via flickr.com

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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