Feeling exhausted? You’re not alone.
A whopping seven out of 10 Americans report feeling tired at work on a regular basis. And those double-shot lattes aren’t always cutting it. Tiredness can strike anyone, at any time, anywhere — including the wellness experts we profiled for this piece. The good news? A variety of strategies can help you fight back against exhaustion every day of the week. Here’s how to make it happen.
12 Expert Tips to Fight Exhaustion, Starting Now
1. Get nourished.
Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining the energy you need to get through the day, says Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram, founder of Fully Raw. “I always make sure I am properly nourished,” she says. “And by ‘nourished,’ I mean making sure my diet is rich in raw fruits and veggies. Water in the morning, smoothie for breakfast, fruit bowl for lunch, and giant salads for dinner. When my body is nourished well, it can function properly and I feel light on my feet and motivated to conquer anything.”
2. Power up with plants.
Karen Urbanek, founder of Karen’s Holistic Health, makes no bones about where she gets her energy. “I eat it! Minerals — the sparks of life — all come from plants. Vitamins, phytonutrients and bio-photons come from plants,” she says. “And all proteins (amino acids) come from plants! Yes, you heard that right: Animals eat plants or plant-eating animals to get them! So of course if I want energy, I eat plants!”
3. Black out your coffee — and your curtains.
Health experts will repeat it until they’re blue in the face: Sustained energy doesn’t happen without quality sleep. “Sleep is incredibly important to me so that I wake up feeling refreshed,” says Dave Asprey, Founder and CEO of Bulletproof Coffee, who also starts his day with the signature brew to boost energy and brain function. Asprey suggests investing in blackout curtains to keep out all light, and putting black tape over small lights on electronics. “Melatonin is produced at night, in the dark, to regulate our sleep. Artificial light can disrupt melatonin production. If you’re on a budget, you can cover your windows with foil paper to eliminate light,” he says. “In my room, everything that blinks or glows is covered with black tape or TrueDark filtering dots. I also turn my phone on airplane mode and leave it on airplane mode until I’m ready to start my work day.”
4. Nap if you need to.
If your weren’t able to get a good night’s sleep in spite of your best intentions, then you can help make up for the deficit (and enjoy an energy boost) with a quick power nap, says Wendy Bazilian, Dr.PH, RD, author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean: The Diet, and owner of Bazilian’s Health in San Diego. “These brief interludes allow the brain and [body] chemistry to reset and become reinvigorated,” she says. The trick is to keep the nap to about 20 minutes — longer than that, and you might actually increase your grogginess whenever you get up. For more pro napping tips, head here.
5. Stock grab-and-go greens.
“One of the main reasons most people’s energy will drop, especially in the afternoon, is low blood sugar, says Brett Hoebel, author of The 20-Minute Body and a personal trainer perhaps best known for his work on The Biggest Loser. “Instead of reaching for coffee, which actually drops your blood sugar even more, I always have a powdered greens drink on hand,” Hoebel says. “It delivers a ton of nutrition in one serving and balances my blood sugar immediately. It’s quick, convenient [and] effective, and I don’t get slowed down from eating solid food.”
6. Bag 200-calorie snacks.
Still feeling famished? Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, health and nutrition expert for NBC’s TODAY show, author of From Junk Food to Joy Food and founder of Nourish Snacks, says, “toting one to two strategic snacks in my bag is key. My criteria? Snacks must be no more than 200 calories and comprised of wholesome ingredients. Also, they have to be super-delicious to satisfy cravings and make me feel happy! I’m a big fan of almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, Greek yogurt with fruit, hummus with veggie sticks, nut butter and crackers, [and] light popcorn. And of course, I never leave home without a few packages of my Nourish Snacks — shameless plug but the truth!”
7. Hydrate like you mean it.
“When I’m tired, I revaluate how much water I’ve had to drink during the day,” says Maxine Yeung, MS, RD, CPT, CWC, and founder of The Wellness Whisk. “Even just a one-to-three-percent loss of body fluid can start making you feel tired and less able to concentrate.” Can’t stand the thought of drinking another glass of plain water? Yeung recommends shaking things up with a cup of mint tea. “Mint’s aromatic flavor is bold and pops with each sip, while the menthol adds a cooling effect to help perk you up when you’re feeling sleepy,” she says. “Some studies suggest that peppermint may also help with alertness and concentration.”
8. Just add fizz.
You can also opt for something bubbly if that makes you more inclined to drink up, says Keri Gans, RDN, Nutritionist, Certified Yoga Teacher, and author of The Small Change Diet. Sadly, she’s not talking about champagne. For a work-appropriate beverage, Gans recommends mixing seltzer with a small splash of orange juice.
9. Get a move on.
“I am a new mom, so #teamnosleep is a real thing. Being exhausted has taken on a whole new meaning,” says Katie Kendall, CPT, CES, and Trainer at BRICK New York. One of Kendall’s go-to strategies for staying alert is to get moving. “When I’m feeling tired, I work out earlier in the day to get those endorphins pumping first thing,” she says.
Can’t squeeze in a whole workout? No problem. “Twenty to 60 seconds of jumping jacks or jump rope is all it takes to invigorate the entire body,” says Bazilian. “The quick exercise helps stretch the torso, increase blood flow… and bring instant energy to the body.”
10. Try this “one weird trick.” (Actually, there are two.)
Founder of Going Zero Waste Kathryn Kellogg is no stranger to exhaustion. “I have a regular job, I blog, and I’m also an actor,” she says. “Being a performer is all about energy. You’ve got to have it, and relying on caffeine is not an option, at least not for me.” So how does Kellogg pump up her energy levels fast? With this funky exercise:
- Hold your hands near your face and squeeze them into a fist.
- Scrunch up your face while squeezing your hands tight. The goal is to make your fists and face small and tight.
- Hold this scrunched position for about five seconds.
- After five seconds, let your face and your fists explode as large as possible while saying “Pah!” on the breath.
- Repeat this process three times for an instant jolt of energy.
While we’re on the topic of unusual energizing tricks, Bazilian has another good one. Keep spoons in the freezer and retrieve them if you’re feeling fatigued. “I apply them to my eyes, wrapping [them] with a soft tissue before applying to the eyelids. [This is] to both reduce puffiness and also bring a quick ‘awake’ look and feeling,” she says. “You can also place them at the base of the neck [or] skull to wake you up and reduce any bit of naggy headache from neck or eye strain. This is a lifesaver, and it really gives me a quick ‘jolt’ of energy.”
11. Take a page from the biohacking playbook.
Biohacking is all about strategically providing your body with different inputs so as to optimize its functioning. If that sounds complicated, it’s actually not — just take notes from Michelle Pellizzon, a health and wellness coach and founder of Better By Michelle. “I always start my day with Bulletproof Coffee, which gives me solid energy until lunch,” she says. “If I’m really dragging later in the day, whipping up a little adaptogenic almond milk helps. I add ½ teaspoon of rhodiola, ½ teaspoon of cordyceps, and a pinch of cinnamon to eight ounces of almond milk and sip!”
12. Give yourself some space.
Rather than beating yourself up for feeling exhausted, be gentle. “Make time to rest and restore from all the work that you do during the day,” says Urbanek. You might try a formal meditation or simply give yourself the time to enjoy 10 deep breaths.
Don’t feel guilty if you need more of these breaks than usual on the days you’re feeling fatigued. “There is so much more strength in pacing and having intermittent sessions of energy expended and [then] energy replenished,” says Bazilian. “Think about holding up a glass of water with your arm. That glass may not be very heavy, but if you held it without even a single break, your arm muscles would fatigue to the point where you couldn’t hold it any longer. Alternately, if you hold it up for a bit, take a little break, and then lift it again, it’s likely that you could continue that for as long as you cared to… perhaps indefinitely.”