I used to be always tired. Sleeping was never enough and no matter how long I slumbered and snoozed for, it wouldn't really make a difference in my energy levels. Tiredness, fatigue and lack of energy were something that I suffered for a long time. During my high school years I would get up just before school, barely make it to class and once school ended, I would take a nap at home. This habit continued all the way through my seven years of university. As a result, I became a night-owl, relied on coffee and Redbull. I was basically an over-caffeinated zombie. I experienced erratic cycles of fatigue and energy and in the end, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and had to take melatonin (natural hormone to induce sleep), in hopes of regulating my sleep cycle.
Once I started work, I was forced into a routine. I didn’t have erratic lecture times nor did I have the luxury to take naps (although I chose to nap over food during some lunch times). I was taken aback when I saw colleagues and friends who did the same or more amount of work as I did but still had the energy to exercise, go out and live more life. I was missing out in life and something had to been done. One of my new year resolutions was to focus on energy management over time management. Today, I hardly take naps, not because I don’t want to but because I don’t need to. I have more time on my hands. I wake up early to do my morning rituals with a peace of mind. At work, my staff commented that I’m much more enthusiastic and energetic. More importantly, I feel a LOT better and happier. To be honest, it wasn't so much the lifestyle changes but the consistency of these changes that really made a difference. To be consistent you need a system that works - we only have so much of will power. I will discuss more on this as we go, but for the time being here are my 6 lifestyle changes that helped me to be more, do more and live more.
#1 Cutting down on wine (Wine is Alcohol)
I still don’t regret buying the wine fridge though.
My flatmates and I are huge wine lovers. We drank almost every night. It wasn’t much, maybe a glass or two with dinner. Besides the perks of wine being an excellent social lubricant and a delicious drink, I also drank wine because it made me fall asleep better. But drinking consistently over long periods of time made me feel sluggish. Alcohol is a depressant that makes you tired. In fact, alcohol is known to inhibit REM sleep, a stage of deep sleep where people dream and restorative processes take place.
One day a colleague (flatmate) of mine came back home with fractured wrists after a sports accident. As a means of supporting faster bone healing, we all decided to stop drinking wine for the month. This decision proved to be great for all of us as another flatmate was actively trying to lose weight and removing wine in his diet helped him reach his goal too. During the ‘dry month’, I’ve noticed that my energy levels and concentration were noticeably improved throughout the day. I was a lot less tired and less fatigued.
Many wine lovers would argue that wine is not just another alcohol. They would (including me and my flatmates) cite studies such as this one which claims that ‘red wine holds secrets of long life’. I love wine but I’m not a sommelier either. The health benefits of wine may be true, especially with ingredients such as polyphenols. But polyphenols are easily found in other healthier alternatives such as green tea. If you frequently drink wine for its taste, that’s fine but let’s not kid ourselves and justify drinking for its over-marketed health benefits. In the end, wine is alcohol and it’s the dose that makes the poison. Do you frequently drink? Or worse, do you binge drink? If you find yourself tired throughout the day, try a dry month like I did.
#2 Regular Exercise (Have Fun, Be Accountable and Be Consistent)
Yes, we had cider
Exercise with its infinite number of benefits is a no-brainer. Once in a while, I will go for a swim, go for a jog or head to the gym. I have access to these facilities within my complex yet I was never consistent. I gave excuses and skipped exercise. Heck, I bought a road bike once and sold it second hand without riding it once! My failure to exercise regularly was because of three reasons - 1) I didn’t enjoy these activities, 2) I was not strict with myself and 3) I wasn’t consistent.
Consistency is key if you want life changing results. If you want to be a loving dad, you have to be consistent. A one-time act of love and kindness won’t get you a ‘Great Dad’ badge in the eyes of your child. It takes lifelong support and unconditional love. So to make exercise a regular activity for me I did the following: 1) I picked a form of exercise that I enjoyed, 2) I became more strict with myself by becoming accountable and 3) made it a weekly routine.
I started playing squash with my good friend Dino. I love playing squash because it is a high-intensity sport and more importantly, I find it fun! We purposely book a squash court (which costs money) few days prior to the game and this works amazingly to make myself accountable. Squash requires two to play, I’ve already told Dino that I will be joining him and we’ve paid for the court. Now that there’s a friend’s trust (commitment) and money on the line, whether I’m tired or it rains, I will go out of my way to show up. It’s been several months since we started playing together and I’ve never missed a single week! Now I’ve upped-the-ante and started to do endurance and muscle strengthening workouts at home. I consistently make myself motivated by tracking my progress (an app called Strides which I will share below).
If you’re fatigued and lack energy, try exercising regularly! Remember that consistency is key and don’t force yourself to do things that you don’t enjoy; it won’t work. Find the right activities and implement the right ways to support you to achieve what you want.
#3 Less Coffee, More Tea
Drinking coffee is one of my morning rituals and I’m sure it is for many people. As I’ve shared before, drinking coffee actually has a lot of health benefits, especially if you prefer plain black like I do. Drinking coffee has the following benefits:
- Improves energy levels
- Helps to burn fat
- Improves physical performance
- Lowers risk of diabetes
- Lowers risks of Alzheimer’s disease
- Makes you happier
The problem was that I drank too much. Again just like drinking wine, it is the dose that makes the poison. I averaged about 3 cups a day (Starbucks venti size) and contrast to the above benefits, too much coffee can lead to:
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
- Changes in alertness
Now that I'm much more strict with myself, I have replaced what would have been my third cup of coffee with tea (ginger lemon or green tea). Tea is a healthier alternative to coffee (remember polyphenols?) because of its herbal ingredients and the fact that it actually hydrates your body.
#4 Daily Meditation
I use both Headspace and Calm. Again, the real benefits can only be reaped if you’re consistent. Some of the benefits of meditating are:
- Reduces stress
- Improves concentration
- Increases self-awareness
- Increases happiness
- Slows ageing process
- Benefits cardiovascular and immune health
You may have previously attempted to meditate after reading several ravishing anecdotes and recommendations from famous people such as Tony Robbins, Dalai Lama, Tim Ferriss and Deepak Chopra. However, many fail to be consistent because they don’t feel the difference. When it comes to meditations, there are no immediate results. The biggest mistake in meditation is to expect a result, a noticeable improvement in life or experiencing the new nirvana. Meditation is a process. Don’t expect an immediate result but be consistent. Relentless consistency is the pathway to mastery.
#5 Eat more fruit
Eating fruit is again another no-brainer. Generally, fruit has the benefits of:
- Improving energy levels
- Preventing diseases
- Glowing skin
- Improving digestion
- Boost immune system
I find fruits to be delicious but I was never consistent in eating them. It’s probably because I treated fruits as desserts and let’s be honest, there are million other things besides fruit that makes for a good dessert. To be more consistent with fruit consumption, I’ve decided to see them as health supplements as opposed to desserts. Now I try to eat fruit at least 3 times a week.
I’ve mentioned before that I use an app called Strides to keep track of my habits and keep myself motivated. I use Strides to track things like ‘Eating Fruits’, ‘Taking Supplements’, ‘Making Bed' (see Stoicism article) and ‘Money Spent’. It’s an excellent tool and it’s free to download.
#6 Health Supplements
One of the best decisions I've made as a single professional working abroad was to hire a cook. Knowing my personality, it was very likely that at the end of a long working day, I wasn't going to cook my own dinner. Having my own cook turned out to be a little bit more expensive than dining out but I got to save time and eat healthy every night (This is another example how I completely avoided situations where I knew I was going to fail. Being accountable, whether it’s paying extra cash for services or promising a friend that you’ll show up for squash, is the best way to be consistent and get results).
In addition to eating right, I’ve started to take health supplements and this has made a tremendous difference in my energy levels. The first tip with health supplements is that if a specific vitamin or mineral is easily available from food sources, you are better off avoiding it as supplements. For example, did you know that multivitamins are proven to be more harmful than good? It’s all a marketing gimmick. The only health supplements you should be interested in are things that are not readily available from a normal diet. A good example would be Omega-3. To consume adequate levels of fish oil through diet, it would require you to eat at least 3 servings of large fish portions a week. Most of us are omega-3 deficient without even knowing it. Here are my top 4 health supplements that I personally take and recommend to my friends, family and patients.
- Turmeric: The most potent herb known to man. It’s been strongly suggested to prevent/fight cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and inflammation.
- Spirulina: Also known as the “Miracle of Sea” is so nutrient packed that NASA recommends it to their astronauts out in space.
- Omega-3: Omega-3 deficiency is the sixth biggest killer in America and it’s more deadly than excessive trans-fat intake.
- Probiotics: Having a healthy gut flora (good bacteria) is the beginning of living a truly healthy lifestyle with lowered risks of numerous debilitating diseases such as cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The lifestyle changes I've made are all common sense. We all know what to do and what not to do. What really matters is not more knowledge but our conscious efforts to be disciplined and be consistent. The consistent accomplishments in everything that I have set myself to do not only made me feel more energetic but happier too. If you enjoyed the article, I would recommend you to read 7 Life Transforming Things You Can Do Every Day. Zig Ziglar said in one of his seminars, "Life is hard and difficult! It’s meant to be difficult. But if you're disciplined and more strict on yourself, your life will become that much easier.” I truly believe that with the right tools and plans, you too can live a life of robust energy; doing more, being more and living more.