How can I make myself feel energized?
March 5, 2007 12:07 PM   Subscribe

How can I get myself to feel refreshed & energized after feeling run-down for awhile? I constantly feel overwhelmed with life and thus stressed out and burnt out.

I'm looking for advice on how to feel energetic again. I feel sleepy, somewhat sick, and run-down most of the time. I have trouble concentrating a lot, and can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. On the weekends when I don't have an alarm to wake me, I can sleep 14 hours no problem.

I'm in my mid-twenties, working full-time, married, living with my husband & two cats. I have been dealing with depression/anxiety (currently being treated with Wellbutrin and Celexa) and am also working to lose a lot of weight. I feel like I'm too young to feel so stressed and tired.

My diet has been pretty darn good as of late, as I've been losing about 1 lb per week - I've cut out almost all sugar that isn't naturally occurring in fruit and have been getting plenty of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, lean protein, and "good" fats (olive oil, etc). I've been exercising about 4 times a week for about 30 minutes and breaking a sweat.

I thought these things would "fix" me, but I still feel like crap almost all of the time. I still have a lot of weight left to lose, but I don't feel like extra weight alone should make me feel so BAD.

This has gone on for more than a year. I have been working with my doctors who basically have no answer except "depression", but honestly since being on the meds, I don't feel depressed anymore. I feel motivated, and there are so many things I want to do, but I just don't have the physical energy.

My doctor has done tons of blood tests and follow up blood tests. She has tested for lyme, lupus, and a gazillion other things. The only thing that is abnormal is my C-Reactive Protein and another inflammation marker are elevated, but they cannot figure out the cause of that.

I don't know what to do to feel better, but I'm looking for advice as to things I myself can do. I know exercise is important and has in the past made me feel better, but lately it just makes me feel even more run-down.

I was thinking I could take a week off in the spring to try & get my energy back, but I don't know how. Most likely if I took a vacation or a long weekend, I would take naps & read, which is all I ever seem to feel like doing.

posted by tastybrains to Health & Fitness (65 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe all you need to do IS nap and read for that week. Just taking a day off to do that recently for myself was great - I had a ton of stuff to get done, but I ended up sitting around a lot. Thing is, it was enough for me to not have to go into work or anything else to help get more energy. Your body is trying to tell you something.
posted by bibbit at 12:23 PM on March 5, 2007

Do you have anything in your life that you're passionate about? You don't mention any hobbies/interests/passions as components of your current lifestyle.

If not, and I'm suggesting this in all seriousness, learn to surf. Surfing cures psychic ills like nothing else. On your upcoming vacation, instead of laying around the house, get on a plane to somewhere cheap and warm and learn the true meaning of passion.
posted by saladin at 12:26 PM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: Bibbit - I spent President's Day weekend doing nothing but napping & reading, and while it was great, there were no long-term effects.

Saladin - I'm passionate about writing & reading. Can fat people surf? I've never seen a fat person surf. I tend to avoid water sports at all costs due to the whole fat thing, at this point. Plus I live near Boston and it's snowing right now.
posted by tastybrains at 12:30 PM on March 5, 2007

Do you enjoy your exercise? Being active by doing something you are excited about could make a huge difference in whether the exercise leaves you feeling energized or exhausted. You don't mention whether you get enough sleep during weekdays (even if you're getting eight hours, maybe your body needs more). In terms of feeling overwhelmed, have you thought of what specifically is overwhelming you and stressing you out, and whether you need to tackle those things directly rather than focus on diet/exercise? Constant worry or dread regarding a job, finances, or any other kind of personal issue can definitely make you feel physically tired.
posted by nevers at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2007

If you are being treated for depression, doctors have ruled out disease and you say you're eating well, the only things that come up for me are that maybe you're still low on some vitamin, that maybe you need to get more sun (long winter affecting you?) or maybe you need to work out some sort of sleeping schedule that leaves you more energized.

I'd definetly recommend a week or a weekend of vacation meant just for relaxation, naps, outdoors activities, etc. Something that sort of "reboots" your system.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:37 PM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: I do enjoy exercise, just not when I have to drag myself to do it...dragging myself because I'm tired, not because I don't want to do it.

The things that overwhelm me are just normal things that most people seem able to deal with:

- Keeping my apartment neat (I am kind of messy)
- Cooking healthy meals (Don't really like cooking)
- Doing enough at work (The poor concentration comes in here)
- Dealing with my friends & family (am a maid of honor in 2 weddings right now & my family wears me out)

I don't know why it's so hard...I can barely get out of bed in the morning and am always running late. By the time I get home from work it seems like there is barely enough time to make something quick for dinner, clean up a little, exercise, do my meal plan for the next day, and get ready for bed. I feel like time just gets away from me so fast and that I do get to bed later than I would like. I'd like to give myself 10 hours to sleep to make sure I get enough, but it just seems so hard to get to sleep in time.
posted by tastybrains at 12:50 PM on March 5, 2007

I totally relate to your situation, and will watch this thread with interest for further suggestions. The only things that help me:

-- Taking a daily multivitamin

-- Forcing myself to go to bed early and get at least 8 hours of sleep at night during the week.

It's mentioned on AskMe all the time, but if you haven't checked out before she offers a lot of good ideas to help overworked and overstressed folks like us
posted by junkbox at 12:56 PM on March 5, 2007

First off, huzzah for not coming to AskMe before pursuing the issue with your doctor, and for doing so much right already by getting treatment for the depression/anxiety, eating right, exercising, etc.

You mention tests for a gazillion things, but has your doctor considered sleep apnea and environmental allergies? What you describe sounds a lot like folks I've known who have been diagnosed with apnea or with mold or pet-dander allergies.

If those avenues have been checked out, I'd consider stopping the weight-loss plan for a couple of weeks unless it's medically necessary for you to be losing weight. Your body may just not react well to starvation right now, or you may be low on some nutrient.
posted by backupjesus at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2007

Have you spoken to a therapist about how to effectively deal with anxiety? From your last comment, it sounds like your worries are taking over your life, and I'm a firm believer that when the mind is run-down, the body can become run-down as well. I also know from experience that this can quickly turn into a vicious cycle - "I'm stressed about my house being dirty, but that's such a dumb thing to be stressed about, why can't I just clean it?! Now it's too bad to even start on, and I'm anxious again," and so on and so on. Try talking to a therapist specifically about those issues, and see if she/he can offer you some coping mechanisms to get the stress under control, or at least channel it into activities that will help you feel energized.

I'm about to set off on the same journey - I hope you're able to get it all worked out.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2007

How does your exercise make you feel? You say you have to drag yourself there but how do you feel afterwards? Refreshed or more drained?
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:03 PM on March 5, 2007

I'd say you're sleeping too much. If you slept less. like around the 8 hours that normal people sleep, you would not only have more hours in the day but you would feel considerably better. I'm guessing that you wouldn't have to search very hard to find sources that support this.

I'm actually at home sick on medication that is making me sleep around 14 hours a day and let me tell you that it makes me feel miserable, even though its all I seem to do. It makes me feel trapped and disgusted with myself.

Try sleeping 7 hours a night for a week. Just to see if you can. I'd bet you would feel better if I thought that you would do it. You could probably find something fun to do in those new hours.
posted by dobie at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2007

IANAD. You sound like you have chronic fatigue syndrome. I'd like to offer the following suggestions separately from my off-the-cuff totally without basis diagnosis.

Are you drinking plenty of water? Have you tried yoga or meditation? How long have you been on the antidepressants? If you've been on them for quite a while you may want to discuss changing them or going off them with your doctor. Have you tried a multivitamin supplement? Taking some time off definitely wouldn't be a bad idea. Get plenty of sunlight. Or buy a lightbox. Or both. Have you considered that you might have sleep apnea? Do you snore? Sufferers of sleep apnea (that I know) have reported similar symptoms and after treatment with a CPAP the difference was night and day. Have you tried sleeping less, or maybe taking a brief nap in the middle of the day? I assume your diet changes reflect increasing the amount of proteins and decreasing the amount of carbs (during lunch in specific?) Fat people can surf (i'm 280) and it is very therapeutic. I know your available free time is limited, but have you tried to increase your social interaction? Maybe go out for coffee once or twice a week, hang out with some new folks?
posted by arimathea at 1:10 PM on March 5, 2007

You are definitely not alone - things like cleaning, cooking, and paying bills overwhelm me all the time. We can try to deal with each thing a little at a time to make things better. But something I've heard very busy but successful people say is that sometimes you just have to get used to being behind, and be okay with it. Most of us will never really be on top of everything, and always feel like we're treading water no matter how much we try to get done. So maybe part of it is just going easier on yourself while you're trying to fix things, and realizing that it doesn't mean that you're a failure as a human being because, well, that stuff is hard! And annoying and stressful! It's normal for most of us not to want to deal with it. Beating up on yourself might be making things worse.

Another thing you might try is working with your psychiatrist to find a better medication for you. Celexa has a successor, Lexapro, and there are dozens of other antidepressants that might suit you better. Also, have you been checked for thyroid problems? Sometimes the symptoms mimic depression but won't respond to antideppressants. Ask your dr.

Other than that, I recommend yoga and salsa dancing, for two of the best stress relievers/exercise methods ever. Now if only I could take my own advice....
posted by walla at 1:11 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another thought - what kind of things interest you? I agree with everybody who suggested finding something you are passionate about - or simply doing things you don't normally do!

When I get really rundown I make myself go and do something I wouldn't normally do like go to an art exhibition - that refreshes my mind enormously as it makes me think about things other than work and daily chores - and I am by no stretch of the imagination an arty kind of person.

The temptation to sit at home and do nothing is great when you are exhausted. But it is not going to make you feel better. Much better to go outside and go for a walk, experience the world with all senses!

Anything that will stimulate your mind and body in a way it is not currently stimulated.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:20 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you tried yoga? I used to feel remarkably more energetic after yoga (and I'm usually pretty tired). My theory was that I was put lots of energy into being tense, and that after yoga I was more relaxed and that energy was freed up (just my personal BS idea about it).
posted by dilettante at 1:23 PM on March 5, 2007

I don't know why it's so hard...I can barely get out of bed in the morning and am always running late. By the time I get home from work it seems like there is barely enough time to make something quick for dinner, clean up a little, exercise, do my meal plan for the next day, and get ready for bed. I feel like time just gets away from me so fast and that I do get to bed later than I would like. I'd like to give myself 10 hours to sleep to make sure I get enough, but it just seems so hard to get to sleep in time.

If you can push yourself to exercise in the morning, that will help a lot - it will be tiring at first but you will get used to it and feel much better. Personally I hate exercising in the afternoon; it always makes me feel tired. If you move your exercise to the morning from after work, then you will have more time after work to relax.

Have you tried yoga? I take it in the morning a few times a week and it is just great - it really energizes me in a much different way than plain cardio does.

Plan out your meals on Sundays so you don't have to make that decision every day. And you'll also have a good schedule to know when to take out meat to be defrosted or something like that. We have to do this sometimes because otherwise every evening it's, "What do you want for dinner?" "I dunno, what do you want?" By the time we decide it's 8pm.

Also, in a very weird way, I find the more busy I am, the more I'm able to relax when I'm at home. I'm usually out until 9 or 10 pm a few nights a week doing school-related stuff, and I really treasure my time at home because I'm not there. When I wasn't in school and was just working, I'd come home every day at 5:30 and watch TV until midnight and I'd be exhausted.

You seem to be in a bit of a rut - if you can take time off from work, treat yourself to some spa stuff, or travel to see friends or family (if you can afford it). Or maybe there is some kind of Outward Bound type of thing for adults - something that you can do for a week that gets you outside.

Spring will be here soon - it's always harder for me in the winter. Being able to walk around outside without freezing your ass off makes such a difference.
posted by sutel at 1:25 PM on March 5, 2007

I have some similar stuff going on. For me, it's not about depression or anxiety; it's just tiredness. For example, I don't have Friday classes this semester, so I go to bed Thursday night and get up Saturday morning -- and it still doesn't seem to help. Like you, I'm eating well and have been losing weight, but that doesn't seem to have any effect either.

Stuff I got checked for that you don't mention:
-mono (Epstein-Barr)
-other, weirder sleep disorders, especially if sleep doesn't refresh you
-vitamin B deficiency
-hormone/thyroid stuff

Also, you've probably discussed this with your doctor, but Lyme tests aren't always accurate; you can get false negatives. Mine was technically negative overall, but with some positive signs, and I had to get a spinal tap so they could do a different test.

You might want to do a sleep study to find out whether it's something about your sleep that isn't doing what it should to restore you.

The scary possibility at the bottom of all this is chronic fatigue syndrome. It's a diagnosis of exclusion -- there's no test for it; you can only eliminate all the other possibilities.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:29 PM on March 5, 2007

Best answer: I went from fat and awful feeling to AWESOME and healthy last year and now I'm halfway back to fat and awful. I need to take my own advice, here, even though real stressors like a car accident and grad school apps prompted the relapse... My advice echoes some here: Take a multivitamin and a B Vitamin complex besides. Monitor your alcohol intake closely, if you drink. I can have lethargy and malaise from drinking even if it isn't that recent or that much. The B Vitamins help with that specifically, and your body's stress management generally. Get a set number of hours of sleep and do not vary it. If being outdoors isn't an option, try a full-spectrum light.

I actually have a daily checklist I use: 8 hours sleep, Multivitamins, Floss, Water, 60 Min. Exercise, 30 Min. Reading, 15 min. Housecleaning. When I adhere to this, everything else falls well into place. Finally, be forgiving of yourself. I get very upset sometimes that the biggest obstacle in my life is getting myself to take action or regaining my grip on sanity. If you feel like I do: that there's such a mire of concerns and complications in your head for you to whole-heartedly or sufficiently deal with the basic things like cleaning and cooking, you may also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:30 PM on March 5, 2007 [18 favorites]

It sounds to me like you are still struggling with depression. Perhaps a combination of the meds and some type of therapy would be helpful. I had similar problems and found while the chemical portion of the depression could be treated, the "habit" I had of being depressed lingered a lot longer.
posted by hilby at 1:34 PM on March 5, 2007

Hell yeah fat people can surf! Anybody can surf. All it takes is the desire to have an awesome time and the willingness to bust your ass from time to time in the pursuit of perfection, two things that can be found in people of any body type.

I understand there is a certain self-consciousness involved in outdoor activities for people who aren't exactly thrilled with their bodies, but again, surfing virtually solves that ill, as it all but requires conservative beach attire (i.e. wetsuits, boardshorts, rashguards, etc.)

And living in Boston is the best reason to learn to surf, because then you'll have a sweet excuse to leave Boston from time to time.

I know I sound like some mad proselyte, and this sounds like a hare-brained scheme, but I'm really serious; I think learning to surf would be a really great thing for you, and for a lot of people. The feeling of catching your first wave, of having the ocean lift you up and send you hurtling towards the shore, of sticking your fingertips into the glassy face of the wave and tracing patterns in it, of sitting out past the breakers watching set waves roll in, of finishing a day exhausted and sunburnt and salty and utterly at ease... it's just wonderful. I hope that you'll get the chance to experience it someday!
posted by saladin at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

It seems like you have a lot going on right now -- maid of honor in two weddings, plus work, plus losing weight, and I'm guessing there's other stuff going on. (Cleaning, family management, etc.)

Can you cut back on some of the stuff that's stressing you out? It sounds like you may be expecting a lot from yourself -- I'd be stressed and tired if I were running around all day doing things I didn't really feel like doing, too.
posted by occhiblu at 1:45 PM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, there are a lot of good answers here.

To respond to some questions, I have been tested for thyroid and see an endocrinologist yearly to monitor my thyroid. I have an enlarged thyroid but all tests come back normal. The bloodwork by my primary care doc covered a lot more than I mentioned. I haven't done a sleep study, but I will ask my doctor about it. I do snore sometimes, but not always, and my doctor thinks sleep apnea is unlikely in my case.

As far as antidepressants go...I've been doing a lot of trial & error with my psych dr. This is the most "balanced" I've felt in a long time, as scary as that is. I had been seeing a therapist, but I am about to fire her because she's crazier than I am. I'm looking for a new one, but that always takes forever.

I have done yoga in the past and enjoyed it. I will try & incorporate that into my exercise routine.

I hope things get better in the spring, but I have felt like this for over a year now, since before I went on any medication. Some days are better than others but barely a day goes by where the majority of my thoughts are along the lines of "Zzzz...."
posted by tastybrains at 1:50 PM on March 5, 2007

Best answer: You're me! Or I'm you. Either way, I'll be watching this thread with interest. After all my blood tests came back fine, my doctor confessed that he sees a steady stream of patients, almost always female, in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties with exactly the same symptoms and that getting to the bottom of the problem is pretty hit-and-miss. He says that the one thing all these patients have in common is that they tend to be worriers and perfectionists whose brains are go-go-go all the time but whose bodies have had enough. He warned me against seeing getting better as yet another project on my plate because I could end up making things worse.

In terms of exercise, my doc advised walking. Not powerwalking or walking to burn calories or walking to see how far I can go. (Which, I'll admit, is what I thought of as soon as he said walking.) He suggested a Sunday stroll kind of walk, at whatever pace felt comfortable, every day for 30 to 45 minutes. He said that it might not get me to my goal weight quickly but it would get me moving without taxing my already depleted reserves and it would give me a change of scenery. After I build up some stamina and don't feel so tired all the time, then I can move on to something more intense.
posted by atropos at 1:52 PM on March 5, 2007 [4 favorites]

Most people I know are consistently sleep deprived and dehydrated, both things that sap your energy. Try to regularize your sleep patterns, 14 hour weekends may be a sign you are shorting yourself during the week. Try to get to bed at a regular hour every night and get at least 7.5 hours, more if you've exercised heavily. Drink enough liquid that your urine is light straw colored. I like the Emergen-C vitamin drink supplement and always feel a lift after consuming, probably at least partly due to the water you drink with it.

Surfing is a great sport but one of the more challenging, both physically and in difficulty in learning. Strong swimming skills and familiarity with the ocean are essential prerequisites.
posted by Manjusri at 2:16 PM on March 5, 2007

This happens to me sometimes, especially if there's too much stress or I do some exercise more than usual for a while. Then usually supplements help. Iron, siberian tiger ginseng, chromium. Fresh raw garlic and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast in a small glass of orange juice. A few days or a week of that brings me back (usually the next day) and then I lay off until I get dragged down again, usually months later. I can't be bothered to take supplements every day
posted by Listener at 2:17 PM on March 5, 2007

Given all your lifestyle changes, and the fact that you are being treated for anxiety I guess you've probably given up caffeine as well. But if you haven't, it's something to think about doing.

I have some similar problems. My current thing is to eat a really substantial amount of green veg every day - about 5 servings worth of peas, spinach or broccoli. Given that I generally eat some other fruit and veg as well, I'm typically up to about 9-10 servings a day overall. So far (only about a week) this seems to be doing a lot for my energy levels, skin, and libido, and I don't feel as impulsive as normal.

If you read around on the internet you will find a lot of information relating depression and anxiety to low mineral levels and trying to get the right effect with supplements proved to be very tricky and just felt wrong to me, whereas the veg solution seems a lot more natural. And the flatulence gets a lot better after the first couple of days.
posted by teleskiving at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: I'm not dehydrated, I drink a lot of's pretty much the only thing I drink.

But I probably am sleep deprived, my sleep schedule is irregular and I know I have to fix it.

I probably should take vitamins too...I had been taking a B-complex & multi but they made my stomach very upset, even if I took them with a full meal. I got a recommendation for a vitamin that should be easier on the stomach, so I will try that.
posted by tastybrains at 2:20 PM on March 5, 2007

Are you sure you're on the lowest effective dose of your antidepressants? When I was on an antidepressant, I had exactly the symptoms you described-- extreme exhaustion, lack of motivation, slugishness-- and they were all alleviated by lowering my dose and eliminated by switching medications entirely.
posted by chickletworks at 2:26 PM on March 5, 2007

A common but often unrecognized reason for feeling run down/ tired is gingivitis or periodontitis, it's basically a long term low level of infection in your gums. If you haven't been to a dentist in a while it might be a good idea to find out your gum health, if you can't afford it right now you can help reduce it by flossing daily and getting a good electric tooth brush and using it at least twice a day and save up some bucks for a dental visit in the meantime. A below the gum cleaning and regular maintenance made a big difference in my gums and I thought I did a pretty good job before but flossing really is important.
posted by estronaut at 2:36 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I got a recommendation for a vitamin that should be easier on the stomach, so I will try that.

I take children's vitamins (the gummy kind from whole foods), and the under your tongue B-complex from Trader Joe's. I found both of those to be easier on my stomach than regular multi-vitamins (plus, they taste better!). Vitamins definitely helped me with my energy level when I was feeling very depressed and lethargic (very similar to what you described). I really enjoyed yoga as a stress reliever as well, and should probably go back to it sometime soon. I was going to recommend Wellbutrin because it's a stimulant and has given me SO much more energy than before, but I see that you're already taking it. Have you tried increasing dose? Going up to 450 from 300 helped me a lot, too. Anyway, good luck, I know how horrible this can feel.
posted by echo0720 at 2:37 PM on March 5, 2007

Tastybrains, we have a lot in common. If you want to use a multivitamin, you might check into a prenatal one. They have to be prescribed but they have pretty much everything but calcium which I get from cheese, ice cream, or those little calcium chews.

I've found that when I get overwhelmed, I do better when I get into a routine. I have x,y,z to do and after that my time is my own. I feel better when I do that rather than trying to micromanage my schedule down to the minute because at that point, if I miss one step, it all falls off the rails.

If you're having trouble cooking, try to make fast, easy dinners. I get fresh vegetables almost every day by having a green salad with dinner: some greens from a bag, baby carrots, and a chopped up bell pepper, then add maybe 1/2 oz of cheese and some croutons or dressing or what have you. Before I start the salad (or let's be honest, have my husband make the salad) I can throw some chicken breasts in the oven with spice on for twenty or twenty five minutes and dinner is done. You can finish it with whole grain bread from the store. This is just an example, but really, planning ahead so you can have dinner ready within an hour of getting home has kept me from eating out too often. Also, give yourself a break. Not every dinner has to be the kind of stuff our mothers put on the table or that you see in a spread in Cooking Light. Easier is better and often tastes good, too.

Also, if you want to try yoga, I borrowed a yoga for fat chicks (heh) dvd from the library called Yoga Just My Size with Megan Garcia. I liked it very much, especially as a starter course. Yoga looks easy but it can be very difficult. She has a book, too, called MegaYoga.

Hopefully this has helped you. I'm very aware that it's all a balancing act. I have been off my depression/anxiety meds for almost a year now and I thought it would never be possible. If you want to chat, let me know.
posted by sugarfish at 2:46 PM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: I never really thought I had CFS, mainly because I assumed that it went with more flu-like symptoms (sore throat, aches & pains, etc) than just feeling tired.

I just feel like this is a fog I should be able to snap out of, but I can't snap out of it. Like when you wake up in the morning and splash your face with cold water, how that sort of wakes you up? I need something like that, but for my brain.
posted by tastybrains at 2:47 PM on March 5, 2007

I'll be watching this thread with interest, too- I feel the same, except I can't stay asleep once I get to sleep. I'm trying acupuncture next- I'll let you know how it goes, if you're interested.

saladin, speaking as a large woman, there are few things more depressing than trying to find a surfing wetsuit that fits. They make plenty for largish guys, complete with room for a gut, but except for some bulky SCUBA farmer-john two-piece suits, women's suits seem to top out at size 14, and even that's expensive and hard to find.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:27 PM on March 5, 2007

You have 2 sets of suggestions. The 1st set is mind-body - your mindset affects your body. The 2nd set is about treating your illness as a medical event. I don't think they need to conflict. My advice is to follow the mind-body advice, and do whatever you can to lift your spirit, and have a positive attitude, but not to blame yourself for feeling crappy if it is not as successful as you wish.
Also pursue the health issues with your doctor, and work with your doctor on making sure your meds are optimized, and get recommendations for vitamins. Make sure you and your doctor take it seriously. Treat yourself as a person who has a condition that requires following a treatment regimen.

I have some form of auto-immune disorder, and find that regular exercise, some sunshine, and nature are very helpful. Any time I can't exercise due to illness, I tend to lose ground, and any activity I have to give up may be lost forever, so I keep that as my motivation on days when a 10 minute walk seems impossible and I'm doing better than I was a couple years ago.
posted by theora55 at 3:29 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I second everything Saladin says. And fat people can most definitely surf. Getting in and out of your wetsuit won't be as fun however. Surfing can change your life. But it's also a HUGE committment. It's expensive to start as well. Learning to surf requires a lot of learning about yourself, learning your limits, and most of all, dealing with disappointment.

I would suggest starting with something that has more upfront rewards. Quick pick me ups like walking, dancing, hula hooping, etc. And all the things other people have suggested. If you don't have time for more huge timesucking projects, even if they are passions, then start smaller. Think little passions and pickmeups. That'll get you through until you have more time for you time.

You said you enjoy writing - what about starting a blog? It's also a great way to chronicle what's going on in your life. You can look back on it and track your moods, medical history, etc., but it won't necessarily be about that cause it could be *whatever* YOU want to write about!
posted by iamkimiam at 3:44 PM on March 5, 2007

All these things sound like MORE time and energy commitments. Even passions aren't fun when you have to wedge them in and you feel obliged to indulge in them.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:06 PM on March 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

small_ruminant is right about the wetsuits.

Biking is my exercise/hobby of choice. Buy a rack and two panniers and you can do your grocery shopping! It doesn't take much longer at ALL, and getting that heart rate up as often as possible should be one of your goals. Riding to work gives me my daily dose of sunshine and headspace, too. If I don't have a good block of time to think and just be with myself, just like, letting those spinning wheels in my head go freely for a while, I get stressed out, lose my sense of focus, which takes many forms: sometimes explosive anxiety, sometimes just decreased ability to cope/depression... Sound familiar? Fat people can totally ride bikes, and don't forget: it's fun! Zoom! On weekends, you can bike to the next town for brunch... along the beach, whatever ya got. A very wholesome way to be in shape. The breeze on your face may be the cool splash you seek.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:15 PM on March 5, 2007

Also, I feel comfortable going out on this limb because you sound so much like me, but I may be mistaken: Once you get your sleep pattern under control, you may very well find that more exercise results in less needed sleep. Trust me, I loves me my sleep. I have the earplug collection to prove it. But when I do an hour of cardio daily I seem to get that hour back! Only 7 hours needed!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:19 PM on March 5, 2007

Having been in a very similar situation for the better part of my 20s, and just starting to feel energized and in control of my life, I have to ask you - are you getting enough you time? Other people have sort of hinted at this, but is there ANYTHING in your day, week or month that you are excited about, that you look forward to?

I was where you were, and it wasn't until I moved across the country, found a job I liked and made friends that I love to spend time with that I was able to start feeling engaged and motivated to do all of the things that I need to every day.

Exercising in the morning is very helpful. It gives you more time in the evenings, and actually helps me to get up, and get to sleep at night. I never would have believed I would be a gym morning person, but I was able to trick myself into it with the following method: Pick tomorrow's outfit and put gym clothes out before bed, wake up and toss 'em on before I even wipe the sleep out of my eyes, hightail it to the car and leave. Then I have no choice BUT to go to the gym before work.

All that said, can you take some girl time? Hang out with some friends. Make a plan to do something that you're really excited about. Try and incorporate something like that into your life. I think that could help you to feel better.

It sounds to me like you're pushing yourself really hard, but you've lost sight of why -- the payoffs aren't elating you like they should.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:23 PM on March 5, 2007

As a mid-twenties female myself, I've found that I need *more* than 8 hours a night, more like 9. Remember 8 hours is the average amount of sleep that a person needs. Some need more (like me) and some need less. At 6-8 hours I wake up grumpy and miserable. That little bit of extra time in bed lets me wake up gradually & happy.

Words of advice my doctor gave to me:
Always have a steady sleep schedule! No more than an hour out from your usual pattern i.e. if you get up at 6 on weekdays, don't get up later than 7 on weekends because it throws your system out of whack. DO NOT give in to the 14 hours of sleep on weekends thing!!! It's a trigger for things like migraines. And make sure that you have a good sleep environment (decent mattress & pillows, calm colours in the room, bed is for sleeping and not watching TV etc.)

And some advice from my mom:
She doesn't have sleep apnea, but my dad does and his not-breathing was interrupting her sleep. Is your husband restless at night? Have you tried sleeping in separate beds for a bit?
posted by cathoo at 4:31 PM on March 5, 2007

Best answer: Gosh, I think I know exactly how you (and many others in this thread) feel. I too will benefit from many of these suggestions.

I have a small suggestion I haven't seen here yet. It certainly won't solve anything, but it might contribute to making it better along with a bunch of the rest of the suggestions here. Leaving work at the right time. I myself have a hard time with this, especially when I'm feeling lethargic, because if I start being late to work, I start staying the equivalent amount of extra time, then when I do manage to get there at 9 I still stay until 5:30 or 6 out of habit, or worse, just because I'm too lazy to leave. This leads to a terrible cycle--I'm counting the hours, get less done, and then end up staying later than I meant to anyway. Ugh. But I do find I feel better when I actually get there at 9 and leave at 5. Plus I have more free time.

And what helps me get to work at time is getting in the shower right after waking up (or working out if I work out that morning), and not sitting on the couch to watch the morning news/weather until I'm naked and showered. And also (big one) not getting online at all in the AM until I'm at work.
posted by lampoil at 4:38 PM on March 5, 2007

Two suggestions:
1) You say you're having trouble concentrating. Does this mean that you're not getting as much done at work as you would like? Do you feel unhappy with your job performance? I find that I feel much more weary when I'm spending hours at work getting nothing done and frustrated about it. If there is some inherent problem with the work you're doing, say, the project you're on or whatever, that you could look into changing to suit you better it is well worth trying. If you're happy with your job but just feeling like you're not getting enough done there, well, you might want to concentrate on things you can do to make yourself feel more productive even assuming your current state doesn't change.

2) You're losing weight, at a rate of 1lb/week. You don't sound like you are overtraining to me, but you might be eating too little. Yes I know, you need to lose weight, but sometimes it is good for the body (or at least the soul) to take a break from the carefully-planned diet for a week or two. If you eat 500 calories more per day for a week you should not gain any weight. Should the end of that week find you much more energetic, then perhaps a slower weight loss or more exercise instead of fewer calories would work better for you.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:13 PM on March 5, 2007

Have you ever thought about Bach Flower Remedies?
The more I read about them the less I believe they are anything but placebos... but placebos work.

I had never tried them before, but when a psychologist suggested it I thought it worth a shot, especially after seeing it work on my persian cat. (And I kid you not.)
I have been taking them for three weeks and results are starting to show, amazingly, on the way I feel, think and rationalize.

There's a list of flower properties a therapist chooses for you after a consultation. The way they actually "work" though, is a mistery. To me, at least.

As all alternative treatments, this is of course an "extra" - something on the side, that might help. I would never stop my meds or any other treatment even if the Remedies changed my life.
I say look up a therapist and give it a try. They seem harmless, and may actually help you.
posted by AnyGuelmann at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: You say you're having trouble concentrating. Does this mean that you're not getting as much done at work as you would like? Do you feel unhappy with your job performance? I find that I feel much more weary when I'm spending hours at work getting nothing done and frustrated about it. If there is some inherent problem with the work you're doing, say, the project you're on or whatever, that you could look into changing to suit you better it is well worth trying. If you're happy with your job but just feeling like you're not getting enough done there, well, you might want to concentrate on things you can do to make yourself feel more productive even assuming your current state doesn't change.

I like my job a lot, but I have trouble concentrating because my deadlines are self-set and for the most part I manage my own time with very little outside direction. This makes it really hard for me to concentrate, especially when at the present time I am totally exhausted. I manage to get a burst of energy from the stress of an immediate project deadline, but other than that, I feel like a total sloth on the job and off. I hate it. I want to be productive.
posted by tastybrains at 5:54 PM on March 5, 2007

I had similar problems years ago. I tried a lot of different things and to this day I don't really know what worked. I have a half-baked theory but IANAD and I also don't know jack about chemistry so read on with your critical thinking cap.

I used to take a lot of ibuprofen and/or naproxen sodium for various ailments, dysmenorrhea in particular. I got used to taking those medicines whenever I had any little ache or pain. I reduced my use of that class of drug by about 90% and my symptoms (fatigue, general malaise) went away.

My half-baked theory is that the drugs were changing my body's pH and though they were alleviating pain and inflammation, they were disrupting my body chemistry. The reason I think that is because on occasion I take those drugs and I feel that drowsy, shroud-like fatigue creeping in.

Another thing to consider: add Omega-3 oils to your diet.
posted by Soda-Da at 6:35 PM on March 5, 2007

This is me! Right now I'm completely swamped from just finishing grad apps, my roomate rarely does dishes or takes out trash, my boyfriend's broken car means he always rides with me so I get no alone time, midterms are here, and excersizing only makes my day longer and me more tired.

Also, I don't know why, but I can never get to sleep, and sleep is always restless.

I've been exhausted feeling the whole semester and it really feels like I'll never have energy, free time, or a clean house again.

These are all good suggestions, but who has time to make them work? My day starts at 7am and ends at 11pm.
posted by nile_red at 7:45 PM on March 5, 2007

Lots of good advice here. One thing I could add: Try incorporating some silence into your life. No music, no radio, no tv, no people yapping. It can be incredibly rejuvenating, on a daily basis. I get silence in by sitting in the steam room at the gym in the morning after my workout, but there are plenty of other ways to set aside a little time for silence. I don't think humans were made for such incessant stimulation - I think it's taxing in ways we can't even imagine. For some people, some silence helps them refocus and rest.
posted by Amizu at 8:28 PM on March 5, 2007

Has your Doctor ruled out Fibromyalgia?
posted by JujuB at 9:11 PM on March 5, 2007

I've gotta 3rd the B-Vitamin complex suggestion. At my penultimate physical a little over a year ago, my doctor said I was anemic. I had lost a lot of weight and was working out regularly, but I was tired and had even had a couple of fainting spells. I was eating extremely healthy, but not a lot of red meats (normal B-vitamin source).

I started taking a B-Complex vitamin every day at the beginning of January and have had some remarkable results. My energy level is way up, the results of my last physical, in February, were almost flawless. No more anemia. I have been sleeping better, my slight Restless Legs Syndrome symptoms have gone away. The difference is almost like night and day.
posted by syzygy at 6:21 AM on March 6, 2007

Hi there. Mid-20s male here, perfectly healthy (with the exception of a cold I'm currently fighting off), average weight, get a reasonable amount of exercise. I sometimes get the same symptoms you do: lack of energy, compulsion to sit around and read or watch television, need for excessive sleep, depression.

I've determined that I'm predisposed to entropy. If given no input from other people and forgetting to plan, I'll end up sitting around doing very little and my activity level will slowly drop down until I come home from work and sit on the couch every day and eat prepackaged food. Calls from friends with offers to go out for dinner will go unanswered. My home, while not necessarily dirty, will be cluttered and disorganized.

What have I done? Well, I've found interests again, and some level of discipline. Set small goals with deadlines. Read books about cooking, stop at the grocery store on the way home after work, and cook a new meal every couple of days. Instead of doing the same thing with friends, find some sort of structured activity -- some sort of exercise class, social group, or continuing education course -- that meets regularly so that you have a routine of doing something that's productive. It made no sense to me that I could go on a trip with friends and be busy for the entire day, sleep six hours, and then do the same thing again when at home I'd be dead tired. The only real difference was the level of enthusiasm about what I was doing.

What does your husband do with his free time? I've known a number of married couples who have some sort of project going together, whether it's working on part of their house, collaborating on a project, or exploring a new interest in music.
posted by mikeh at 8:23 AM on March 6, 2007

Wow, many posts. No time to read them all to see if they have similar advice.

I would recommend a sequence of colon cleansing. If energy is a problem, coffee might be good for you, but caffeine causes stress, so you should only do the coffee when you really need a burst of energy for a week or so, and only when you're not under stress.

It sounds like you have some sort of anemia or blood disorder. Also, maybe the combination of antidepressants is not a good combination for you. I would recommend doing some research regarding the drug combinations you are taking. There may be a side effect that is undesired.

Your case seems bizarre, mainly because you're doing a number of things to combat depression but none of them seem to be working. That leads me to believe your problems might be caused by something physical. Has your doctor tested you for heavy metal poisoning? Have you ever had any mercury amalgams? Have you been subjected to lead paints? If so, you might be a prime candidate for chelation.

I wish you luck.
posted by noir at 4:51 PM on March 6, 2007

I'll second the silence idea. Also, you might try to cut down on extreme multitasking. Since going to law school I've become accustomed to trying to listen in class and browse the internet simultaneously (certainly not doing that now or anything). I think it has greatly increased my stress, and I'm trying to cut down on it. I find when I concentrate fully on one thing at a time, and put all other tasks down on paper or just let them go and don't do them at all, I feel much better.
posted by lorrer at 5:43 PM on March 6, 2007

Not to alarm you as it could be anything. However, has your doctor performed an MRI to rule out Multiple Sclerosis? Your constant fatigue and several other things you have mentioned should prompt a doctor to check for MS. Too often, MS is not diagnosed for years due to doctors failing to recognize the symptoms. Most physicians do not realize the cognitive effects of MS and the many other symptoms that are now known to be caused by Multiple Sclerosis. You might take a look at this list from the National MS Society. If you still have no answers after a certain amount of time, you might consider a visit to a neurologist.

posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:47 PM on March 6, 2007

A friend of mine was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. After a couple of years, it turned out to be gluten intolerance. Once she went off all gluten products, she was back to her old self again.
posted by wenat at 6:54 PM on March 6, 2007

You may want to go to physician specializing in functional medicine or read a book by Dr.Mark Hyman titled Ultra-Prevention.This doctor shows in his book that the symptoms you describe could be the result of food allergies or toxins in your system.
posted by PORTUGAL58 at 7:51 PM on March 6, 2007

I'd just second what wenat said. I used to get extremely tired all the time, sleeping 10+ hours straight and still feeling tired when I got up. I remember not even having the energy to get on my bike and looking enviously at those who could.

I finally went to a nutritionist and realised that it correlated to eating wheat. When I cut it out (along with cutting out sugar and starting to take a B vitamin), the problem went away. Even now, a couple of years later, I can recreate the effect - eating a couple of bagels will often knock me out for a few days.
posted by chrispy at 12:44 AM on March 7, 2007

Hey tastybrains - I hope you're hanging in there. I agree with the many posters who have suggested trying different anti-depressants or different levels of the current ones. I had to try several before I found the one that made me feel normal again.

You may also want to try Thai Massage. It's not like a regular massage whose purpose is to relax you. It's actually kind of interactive, and some have called it a combination between yoga and massage. You'll be clothed, in loose clothing, and lie on a room-size heated mat. The therapist works your entire body, pulling and stretching, and sometimes asking you to move or pull this way or that. I had my first one after work one night, thinking it would relax me and I'd be able to really sleep well, but it had the opposite effect. I've schedule all my massages since for morning or afternoon, they're that energizing.
posted by qrs136 at 6:09 PM on March 7, 2007

I'm coming late to this thread, but thought I'd throw this in. Here's some things that have worked for me, at least a little bit. I'm a long term depressive, insomniac, social phob. When I follow these, which is not all the time, I feel much better.

Set a firm bed and wake time. 10PM-6AM or whatever you need to do depending on the number of hours you need and your work schedule. Weekends too.

Get enough bright light. I have 6 CF bulbs in shop lights set up in my den/workspace, makes it nice and bright. I turn them on first thing in the morning and turn them off about 8PM.

Too much carbohydrate of any sort in the morning and afternoon make me sleepy, so I stick mostly with protein and vegetables till dinner.

I liked the suggestions from past askme threads about eggs and Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil with the Great Lemon Taste! This is good for omega-3s and vit D. 1 tsp mid-morning and a boiled egg for lunch. Nice and easy. I also like teleskiving's suggestion about eating greens. I don't like all the preparation that goes into making a salad. Instead I'll just eat a couple of large lettuce leaves after a meal. I think of it as medicine, not especially enjoyable, but good for me. I might also have a carrot or half a tomato. Nice and easy.

I was intrigued by teleskiving's suggestion a couple of months ago for cold showers. I tried it a couple of times with good results. I want to try it more once warmer weather arrives. But something inside me is currently saying "no, no, we're not going to do that again..."

I've loved coffee most of my life. I have trouble if I try to go completely off caffeine. So I use green or earl grey tea or half strength coffee with breakfast OR lunch (not both) depending on how I feel.

I've read enough lately about meditation and how good it is for your brain to start doing that again. I try for 20 minutes in the morning and before bed. I just use the breath counting method. I can post more on this if you're interested.

Look into positive psychology. I've been studying this lately. There are plenty of online resources for it. Tal Ben-Shahar is coming out with a book on positive psychology this spring. I've watched his Harvard lectures on the psychology of happiness and they're excellent. His book will probably cover all the same material. Also, as you've probably seen recommended many times before, David Burns's books are good.

All the usual disclaimers apply, IANAD, just a fellow sufferer. Don't know how any of these might interact with your condition and meds. But I read this thread with much interest and had to throw this in.
posted by DarkForest at 5:54 AM on March 8, 2007

One more thing. I definitely try to stay away from sugar. The sugar crash I get a few hours afterward is unpleasant. It's a struggle...
posted by DarkForest at 6:00 AM on March 8, 2007

Best answer: I have been going through a lot of the same thing lately and it is not fun. I really feel for you and wish you the best.

One insight that has really helped me is I realized how much of a perfectionist I am. Each day I would come home with a long list of things I *had* to get done, but was never able to accomplish. After many weeks of this, my anxiety started to get really bad. Once I realized that I am a perfectionist, and started to relax my standards a bit I found that I didn't get any more done, but I did feel a lot better about what I did.

Since we seem to share the same worry of household chores, I will share how I dealt with that in particular. First, I asked myself at what point I would be happy with how clean my house was. As I came up with the answer, I realized that it was way too high of a goal for me to reach in my current life situation - I just don't have the time. So, I asked myself WHY I thought my house should be that clean. I realized the only reason for having my house so spotless was so I could measure up to what I thought a "good" woman's house should be like. I realized that both me and my husband could deal with a house many degrees less clean than that perfect ideal I had in my mind.

Then I found a quote, "Love begins at home. And it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into that action." I then put it on post-it notes all over the house, especially problem areas. That helped me remember that the important thing is that my home is a place of refuge and love, not that it is spotless clean or that we had fabulous meals every night.

I am still working through this, but I found that it has helped me a lot in dealing with the daily stresses of life, and my home has become more of refuge than a stressor.

Also, there are a couple of resources that have helped me.

First, an article on perfectionsim. This from a religous standpoint, but if you aren't religious there is still good advice to be had from this article.

Second, a book with lots of good common sense advice on how to deal with anxiety and depression. He has all of the info in the book on the website, so you don't need to buy it if you don't want to.
posted by thesquire at 7:24 AM on March 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

The diet recommendations here made me remember the "Good Mood Diet" I've been trying in some ways to follow. There's an article here that covers a lot of it. The basic idea is that there are certain foods that give you energy, and you should try to eat lots of those, preferably at least once a day: Bananas, blueberries, broccoli, dark and leafy greens, mangoes, oranges, pomegranates, spinach and strawberries, fish, and soy or eggs. There are also foods that make you feel gross and tired, and you should do your best to avoid them: fried foods, refined sugars or flours, too much alcohol.

She has a book out as well, but the book gets into a lot of calorie-counting that really turned me off. But the idea to eat more foods that make you feel good, and eat fewer things that make you feel bad, seems a solid one. One of her articles said something like, "Eat an orange a day. I don't care if you've just eaten half a chocolate cake. Go eat an orange. It will make you feel better." That pretty much sold me.

The author claims it's helped a number of people with depression -- she started it to help her mother get over her seasonal affective disorder -- and says that the mood lifting is the main benefit (rather than weight loss).
posted by occhiblu at 8:51 AM on March 8, 2007

I know this is going to sound like complete snake-oil, but the two discoveries that have helped me feel much better over the last year are Seth Roberts' Shangri-La diet, which is a very simple way to keep your appetite under control, and Natural Stress Relief, which is a "generic" alternative to transcendental meditation. Take an open-minded look at both; they've been helping me feel a lot better inside my body and my head.
posted by muckster at 7:55 PM on March 9, 2007

A couple of good books for learning meditation are Sitting and The Miracle of Mindfulness.

This page is also reasonable. Ignore any mystical/historical mumbo jumbo about buddha, sutras, enlightenment, rebirth, etc. Meditation and everyday mindfulness is the main thing.
posted by DarkForest at 6:54 AM on March 10, 2007

Try getting tested for hypoglycemia from an endocrinologist. Many doctors know little about the problem and even less about how to live with it.

There are a lot of good books on hypoglycemia and online resources.
posted by naveed at 4:32 PM on March 13, 2007

Things to try:

* Drink water. Lots of other people said it. You should have four .5L bottles of water a day, which isn't as hard as it sounds. Have one with breakfast, one with lunch, one with dinner and one with a snack

* Eat small meals 4-5 times a day rather than 2-3 bigger meals. Ideally, eat every 3-4 hours while you're awake and stop eating 3 hours before bedtime. You'll sleep better.

* Get the right amount of sleep, every night. 7-8 hours. Don't sleep 5-6 hours during the week and try to make up for it by sleeping in on weekends

* Exercise gently, everyday. No need to break a sweat. Just dance around your living room to music, go for a walk with your husband, yard work...anything to keep you moving at least a half hour each day

* Look into allergies. Could be the cat. Could be a food allergy or intolerance to gluten or dairy or something else.

* Take a vacation. Don't spend it running around from place to place trying to see and do 101 things. Go somewhere peaceful and relaxing and rest.
posted by NatalieMac at 12:10 AM on March 17, 2007

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