Advertising
Advertising

Living Scared

Living Scared

Sometimes the answers to our problems are not nearly as complex or elusive as many of us seem to believe they are. Or as difficult as some of us make them. Sometimes our problems only exist in our head. Sometimes the journey from where we are to where we’d like to be is not nearly as terrifying as we imagine it is. In fact, it’s often kind of exhilarating and liberating.

Living Scared

Prison

That’s right; some of us make life hard. Our inability to make certain decisions or do certain things keeps us trapped in a reality that we don’t enjoy. Hate, in fact. And standing at the door of our self-created prison is a gate-keeper who only exists in our mind; fear. While other people can walk in and out of our prison (reality) at will, fear has kept some of us from freedom for far too long – telling us what to do, and what not to do, for as long as we can remember. Influencing, if not controlling virtually every area of our lives. For years we’ve been fearful of getting hurt in some way, fearful of getting fat, or being unloved, unwanted, poor, humiliated, of upsetting people or being discovered for the fraud we believe we are. And we’re petrified of being alone. We’ve lived so much of our life negatively, simply doing our best to avoid the ‘bad stuff’ and to survive, that somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost, or maybe never even really found, us; the us we still want to be, the us we could be and the us we’ve dreamed about since we were five.

It’s okay, you’re still in there.

Sometimes the seemingly insurmountable gap between our current reality and our own version of amazing (prison and freedom) is much smaller than we think. Much, much smaller. A mere step away in fact. With the only challenge being that sometimes the step we need to take is a doozy; the ‘no safety net’ step. And we love safety nets – that’s a big part of the problem.

Fear is a jealous gate-keeper and he wants you staying put in your make-believe prison. That’s how he operates. He doesn’t want you to see what’s out there, what’s possible for you. He can’t keep you in there but only he knows that. He’s been holding a pair of threes while you’ve had four aces in your hand for years, but he’s bluffed you every time. Stared you down, made you believe something that wasn’t true – that what you have in your hand isn’t good enough. Well listen up…

Advertising

It is good enough. You are good enough.

Hide

This is not feel-good, positive thinking mumbo jumbo, its reality. But you need to make it YOUR reality. Fear doesn’t want you making decisions, taking chances or exploring your potential because that’s where he loses his power. He doesn’t want you hanging out with those ‘positive thinking’ types and he certainly doesn’t want you paying too much attention to articles like this one.

Healthy and unhealthy fear

Of course there’s a time to fear. If someone is pointing a gun at you and you are fearful, then that makes you normal, not gutless. We would call that healthy fear. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today we’re talking about the unhealthy, destructive and often irrational fear that controls and ruins lives.

Fearful creatures

People often ask me what I believe stops so many of us from fulfilling our potential and from creating our best life. In truth, there are many things on the list of likely obstacles: procrastination, laziness, ignorance, indifference, ego and a bunch of other stuff, but without doubt, at the top of most lists, is fear.

It’s true; we humans are fearful creatures. On some level we all operate on fear from time to time, and to a point, that’s understandable. Wise even. But beyond a point, it’s stupid. Destructive even. It’s about knowing where that line in the sand should be and staying on the right side. A little fear – good. A life controlled by fear – bad. Painful.

Advertising

Far too many of our significant ‘life decisions’ come out of our fearful mindset, and as a consequence, many of us live a life of compromise, under-achievement and imprisonment. And repetition. And repetition. It’s like some of us are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. And repetition. All of our days are just like the ones before. And sadly for some, tomorrow will be the same too. Because that’s what we do; the same – even though we desperately want different. The journey between where we are and where we want to be scares the crap out of us so we stay put. In Samesville. A.K.A. prison.

“I don’t really like my life right now, but at least there’s a level of familiarity and predictability about it. I know what’s coming each day and in a way, I’m comfortable with that. It doesn’t particularly fulfill me but it doesn’t terrify me either. So if it’s okay with you, I’ll stay here in a holding pattern for forty or fifty years and then I’ll die, just like dear old Dad did. There won’t be a whole lot of joy or fun, but at least I know what to expect each day.”

Tug War

We love certainty (a dangerous thing to love in a uncertain world), we’re addicted to safety, we seek familiarity and we want risk-free (good luck with that). Ironically certainty, safety, familiarity and risk-free… is not where we grow, learn, adapt, change or improve. Or find our best life. In fact, quite often the things that we gravitate towards are our biggest handicap.

I have spent a lifetime watching people complicate the simple, avoid the obvious and not do the very things they should or could have done, long ago. Some people have been almost creating their best life for far too long. Some people have been standing at the threshold of greatness for years, twiddling their thumbs, wasting their time and talent and hoping in vain that success might somehow find it’s way to them. An interesting, if not totally unrealistic notion.

Advertising

Some people have been in situations or circumstances that they really don’t want to be in, for years. Decades even. This is because they associate more discomfort / pain with getting out of their current reality, than staying in it. So they stay. Miserable and scared.

Some Personal Development Junkies are masters of this. Just one more workshop, one more conversation, one more mentoring session, one more self-help book and just one more day and then I’ll do it. Okay, maybe two more days. Sadly, they don’t understand that what they really need is not more time, books, workshops or more motivational fluff, what they really need is some balls. Excuse my honesty but some people are highly educated, very capable, extremely talented and gutless. I’ve met many of them. Give me someone with less talent, less opportunities, more adversity and some genuine courage, and I’ll show you how to get some real results.

I know this is not a message that’s often taught in personal development circles but I believe that’s a big mistake. I believe it should be shouted from the roof tops. We like to gravitate towards the feel-good (but mostly useless and disempowering) psycho-babble crap. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy for ten minutes but results in no long term positive change. Of course I believe there is a time for listening, for handing holding, for back rubbing, for hugging and for loving support and encouragement. The problem is, some people have had all of that for years and they’re STILL in the same place and still doing the same destructive things. Sometimes more therapy ain’t the answer. I know that’s not a popular thing to say but it’s true. There’s a time when some people need to suck it up, to stop looking for pity, to stop being a victim and start taking control of their own life. Simple.

Courage

Prison Door

So often we are taught that creating our best life is about talent, opportunities, planning, goal setting, vision, passion, discipline and a bunch of other stuff. And to an extent it is; it’s about all of those things. But there’s one non-negotiable ingredient that doesn’t get the attention it should; courage. Our ability to do what we need to do, despite the fear. If we have all of the ingredients but no courage, we’ll never get there. Wherever there is for us.

Advertising

Fear and all it’s implications in the lives of us mere mortals is something which has fascinated me for years. I have watched it ruin many friendships, careers, businesses, marriages and lives. I have seen it destroy individuals. Like most emotions, on some level, we create it. It’s very personal and individual. It’s a personal response to, or interpretation of, an event, situation or circumstance.

I’ve also watched many people stare-down and overcome their fears and enjoy a life of happiness, joy and exhilaration that only comes with true freedom. I’ve seen brave people turn their lives around after years of frustration and sadness. And I’ve seen ordinary people do incredible things because they chose to walk out of that prison cell. Once and for all.

Remember…

On the other side of fear is freedom.

Enjoy your liberty my friend.
You deserve it and you’re worth it.

More by this author

Craig Harper

Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

Do You Make These 10 Common Mistakes Before Weighing Yourself? If your Childhood Sucked – It’s Time to Stop Blaming Your Parents! Exploring Relationships with the Single Weirdo Education Should be More than Academic Basics How to Stop Being an Over-Thinker

Trending in Lifestyle

1 Reasons of Insomnia and How to Combat It (The Complete Guide) 2 Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It) 3 16 Simple Rules to Live by for a Successful And Fulfilling Life 4 20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity 5 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

Advertising

Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

Advertising

I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

Advertising

Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

Advertising

Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

Read Next