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A year of lockdown has left us all with 'chronic WFH lethargy', so here's how to fight the fatigue



You don’t need us to tell you how challenging the past year has been. We’ve felt the effects of living through a global pandemic in all areas of our lives, and being plunged in and out of lockdown whilst navigating the ‘new normal’ of working from home has undoubtedly tested our mental health.

One way this has manifested for a lot of us is in our energy levels. Despite not commuting every day or heading to that early morning spin class, we’re feeling more tired and drained than ever before.

In fact, new research from energy company Revvies has found that 37% of British adults – that’s close to 18 million of us – are struggling with chronic lethargy and extreme tiredness, whilst 20% have resorted to coffee and energy drinks in an attempt to stave off lockdown fatigue.

Plus, over half (52%) of 18-34 year-olds report that they cannot reduce their sugar intake without experiencing a crash in energy.

So, why are we all experiencing such chronic WFH lethargy, and what can we do about it?

“Lockdown has put a lot of strain on our mental health and created anxiety due to financial and health concerns, as well as adapting to a new way of life with increased virtual at-home meetings, home-schooling and less socialising,” says nutritional therapist Victoria Hamilton.

“Psychological stressors can be even more tiring than physical stressors and send your body into a heightened state of alertness known as ‘flight or fight’ mode. Initially, you may feel more energised and focused in this state, but if you stay in this condition for long periods, it results in tiredness and fatigue.”

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As well as general overwhelm and stress, current chronic lethargy could be caused by vitamin D deficiency from staying at home and lack of exercise thanks to gym closures, adds GP Dr Houda Ounnas.

Here are their expert tips for fighting the fatigue…

  1. Factor in time for exercise, such as going for a walk outside 30 minutes after getting up. Studies show that adults who walk outside for 20 minutes a day have increased energy levels.
  2. Do micro workouts throughout your day, rather than sitting for long periods which can cause dysregulation in your body, leading to energy problems. Set your alarm every hour throughout your day, and do 5 – 10 minutes of movement every hour – squats, running on the spot, and stretching are all great ways to keep your day active!
  3. Eat nutrient-dense food that gives you sustainable energy, such as dark leafy greens, berries, wild-caught fish and healthy fats, including avocados and olives (think Mediterranean). Your body needs extra nutrients to support the stress response process through stressful times, so if you feel worn out, make sure your diet is giving you everything you need.
  4. Opt for carbs that release calories slowly, which are much better than sugar which gives you a rush of energy that fades very quickly. Try pulses, quinoa, brown whole grain pasta or bread instead.
  5. If you want to reduce your sugar intake without the energy crash, start slowly by adding protein or healthy fats with every sugary meal, then remove the amount of sugar in your diet every day and replace it with a food that has a low glycemic load. The glycaemic load gives you an indication of how much a food will spike your blood sugar, so go for foods in the green category. Eating these foods will mean you are less likely to experience a crash after eating.
  6. Eat in a relaxed environment away from screens and work distractions to help absorb all the nutrients from the food you eat and aid proper digestion. Your body needs to be in a ‘rest and digest’ state when eating. Make an event of every meal, and eat mindfully.
  7. Plan an eating window and stick to it. If you graze all day long, you will give your body no time to recover. Eat within a 12 – 8 hour eating window every day so that your body has time to rest and rejuvenate, as eating is also a stressor to your body and contributes to tiredness.
  8. Get a good sleep including not only the hours, but also a routine of sleeping and waking up at regular times. No blue light at least an hour before bed. Schedule downtime pre-bed for journaling, relaxing in the bath, and definitely stop working or occupying your mind with thought provoking processed before bed time. It needs to switch off.
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Victoria also points out that if you’re looking to cut down your coffee consumption, try substituting your cup of joe with a green tea instead, then from green tea to caffeine-free herbal tea.

“Otherwise, you can continue to drink coffee, but each day dilute it down further and further,” she advises. “After doing this for several weeks, your cup will be more hot water than coffee, and you will feel better for it.”

So generally, says Dr Ounnas, to help beat chronic lethargy, look to key five areas in your life:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise or lack of
  • Sleep
  • Relaxation and recharge time
  • Any potential condition or deficiency (consult your GP).

Tackle these with the above tips, and you should start to feel reenergised in no time.

If the fatigue continues over 6 weeks, speak with your GP. Also consult your GP regarding which supplements are best for you.



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