Types of fatigue and how to restore energy

Table of Contents

Sometimes the things people do to unwind actually make them feel worse, like alcohol and junk food. People often turn to alcohol in response to stress. A few drinks can indeed help you get to sleep, but the alcohol will metabolize within several hours of entering the body, often causing  a “rebound effect” that ultimately disturbs sleep.

And while sitting on the couch and eating potato chips may give you a momentary release, this short-term solution can also be addictive, as ongoing consumption of fatty foods can raise the reward threshold of this activity (requiring you to eat more to get the same satisfaction).

Just being inactive isn’t enough to re-energize you. Your body needs to get the right kind of rest to recuperate.

There are two right kinds of rest:

  1. Total relaxation
  2. Switching over to another kind of activity
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Total relaxation requires getting away from all stress factors. So put away the phone, turn off the news, leave your book for later. Instead, get some sleep, meditate, or take a bath. You might put on some music, maybe a YouTube playlist. You could also try the websites BrainFm or CalmSound, or download the Relax Melodies app. Or simply enjoy the silence. These types of relaxing activities engage the parasympathetic nervous system, the part involved in rest and recuperation.

The best way of switching activities will depend on what you were doing in the first place. If you’re doing intellectual labor, then you want to get your body moving: try exercising, dancing, or going for a walk. If it’s your muscles that are tired, work your brain: go for a puzzle, a crossword, a brainteaser, or a book. If you’re emotionally taxed, limit your interactions with people, meditate, spend some time on your own. The newer and more unusual the task, the more it will relax you.

The reasons of fatigue

There are two reasons for low energy levels: either we expend more energy than we have or we don’t restore our energy reserves. We expend energy for several reasons.

Maintaining the current processes in the body

  • Our body expends energy to maintain our body temperature at the required level.
  • Approximately 20% of our energy is spent on keeping the brain working.
  • If you are not a professional athlete or someone whose job involves heavy physical labor, then 10-30% of energy will go to physical activity.
  • Another 10% is spent on the digestion and assimilation of food.


When we experience stress, high-speed processes are activated in nerve cells even if we don’t need to run anywhere. Stress hormones increase our blood pressure and heart rate. They activate energy consumption in the nervous tissue. This occurs because such a response once helped us run away from enemies or predators. Our body gets energy for high-speed processes from carbohydrates, while other processes are fueled by fats.

We can’t store a lot of carbohydrates — we can only store fats. This is because people previously worked more with their muscles. They needed more fats than carbohydrates. Once these fats are exhausted, we begin to experience a lack of energy, or we turn to sugar. When we consume excess sugar, our body attempts to “protect” itself, resulting in impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes. So, reducing stress is an effective way to provide yourself with energy for the whole day. Snacking on sweets isn’t.


“Fear sells.” This slogan defines the modern world. Dismal daily news and dire forecasts for world affairs increase our anxiety. A high level of stress caused by fear negatively affects the production of hormones which participate in supplying energy. It leads to suppression of the hypothalamus, which participates in the processes of energy regulation.

Why energy reserves don’t recover:

  • Food. More than a third of a modern person’s diet consists of sugar, white flour, and saturated fats. Such food does not provide energy. It causes only a brief rise in its level and metabolic disorders.
  • Sleep deprivation. 34.8% of the US adult population sleep less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per day. Lack of sleep is associated with fatigue. The longer you stay awake, the more fatigue you will experience.

Levels of energy

There are several levels of energy.

Physical. This is the basic level (remember how hard it is to work and stay in a good mood when you are sick). This energy is maintained through nutrition, physical activity, keeping healthy, and muscle recovery.

Emotional energy. This is our mood, which helps us to be physically and intellectually productive. Our brain works better when it feels optimism and adventure or responds to challenges and opportunities. Any activity that brings a sense of joy, self-realization, and self-affirmation is a source of emotional recovery.

Intellectual energy. This is the ability of your prefrontal cortex to turn on. It can be different during the day: it is at its highest in the morning after awakening, decreases during lunch, and rises in the afternoon. Intellectual energy is maintained by the balance between periods of mental stress and recovery. Perfect balance is reached by people who work for 60 minutes in a state of concentration, and then actively recover for 20 minutes.

Motivation. This is what inspires us. It’s our confidence in following our chosen path, especially at hard moments when we face difficulties. A lot of books on self-improvement suggest that one begin by defining one’s values and goals in life because motivation helps overcome fatigue and physical limitations. We have noticed the opposite effect: if you learn how to relax physically, increase energy, and reduce stress, it will be much easier for you to start up an internal mechanism of positive change and to determine your values and goals.

How to recover from physical fatigue

You can either totally relax your body or activate your emotions and brain.

Here’s how you can totally relax your body:

1. Sleep

This is the main way your body reenergizes itself. Import your data to Welltory from the Sleep Cycle or Sleep As Android app. Take regular stress & energy measurements in the mornings and follow your patterns on the charts in our app (by selecting the “Check” tab). Choose your optimal sleep schedule based on this data. When do you feel most recharged?

2. Muscle Relaxation

There are several different muscle relaxation techniques, but the common practice is to tense and relax your muscles in a focused, controlled way. See this WebMD guide for specific details.

3. Sex

Not just fun, but healthy too! The Science of Orgasm author Barry R. Komisauruk relates that the hormones released during orgasm can dull physical pain. It might also help you sleep better. A study based on a large, international survey of female participants found that sex led to a better night’s sleep, perhaps because orgasm releases high levels of prolactin, a hormone heavily correlated with sleep.

4. Massage

You can target tired muscles directly by getting a massage. This will alleviate pain and help damaged muscles recover by counteracting inflammation and growing the mitochondria in your body’s cells.

5. Saunas and steam rooms

Saunas and steam rooms can temporarily ease muscle pain by dilating blood vessels and releasing endorphins. Recent studies have suggested that far-infrared saunas can also promote muscle recovery, while taking a steam beforehand can help protect your muscles during an intense workout. Be sure to keep hydrated, though! Dehydration will only make your muscles feel worse.

And here are some alternative activities you can try:

6. Reading

According to the National Sleep Foundation, reading before bed can help you get better sleep, and a number of researchers advocate books as an aid for reducing anxiety and depression. It’s also a great way to activated your brain to let your muscles rest. Participants in a recent study were found to have higher connectivity in brain regions associated with verbal activity and sensory-motor experience the morning after reading an adventure novel. The authors of the study suggest that this sensory-motor activity may be a result of identifying with the protagonist. So pick up a page-turner and step into someone else’s world!

7. Mind Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, iPhone games, brain teasers… Anything that gets your brain working will help your body recover physically. As a bonus, research suggests that mental puzzles can help slow the effects of aging on the brain. Basically, the idea here is to occupy your mind so that your body can recover. Give your brain a workout and let your muscles relax!

How to recover from emotional exhaustion

You can either: turn off your emotions or make the switch from expending your emotions to activating positive ones.

Here are a several ways to relax emotionally:

1. Take a Deep Breath 

Controlled breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. In fact, a Columbia University study argues that “yoga breathing” (pranayama) can be effective in treating a variety of psychological issues, including anxiety and depression. Even a simpler form of controlled breathing — quick inhalation and slow exhalation — has been shown to reduce stress in anxiety-producing situations.

2. Meditation

We already mentioned this as a way of relaxing mentally. It can also help you relax emotionally, perhaps by decoupling previously connected neural pathways. By learning to identify your thought patterns and the emotional reactions habitually associated with them, you can teach yourself to disassociate the two, thereby controlling your negative emotions. You can learn how to meditate with the Headspace app. To switch on positive emotions, you want to choose an activity that brings you feelings of happiness, self-realization, and self-affirmation. For instance:

3. Hobbies

Hobbies improve your outlook by promoting social engagement and improving your sense of identity. They can also promote a state that psychologists term “flow,” a state of full immersion in an activity, strongly correlated with happiness. Activities such as drawing, crafts, and home repairs can activate the brain’s reward system and promote relaxation. By activating the parts of the brain associated with good feelings, you can recover from emotional fatigue.

4. Art

While the effects of art on the brain are still being studied, the bulk of evidence suggests that many types of artistic activity (music, writing, dance, and visual arts) have positive health effects. For instance, the data from more than 200 studies of expressive writing (e.g. journaling or fiction writing) suggest the technique works for at least some patients, and a recent review of quantitative studies shows that music can have a significant calming effect. So, if you want to restore your emotional strength, just pick up pen and pad, drop by the local art museum, or put on playlist with your favorite music!

5. Talking with Close Friends

According to the Mayo Clinic, “friends…play a significant role in promoting your overall health.” Specifically, they foster a sense of purpose, decreasing stress, and promoting a sense of self-worth – all positive emotions that can help you recover.

6. Sex

Several studies have linked sexual activity to lowered stress levels. For instance, a 38-week study of 58 middle-aged women found that sexual intercourse led to a better mood the following day, and another study found that it can make one’s blood pressure less reactive to stress. Intimacy can go a long way in helping you recover emotionally.

How to recover from mental tiredness

We are surrounded by information all the time. News alerts, work updates, social media.

It takes a lot of mental energy to gather all this information and put it into an appropriate cognitive framework. The result is often “information overload,” a condition that exhausts the brain and lead you to make bad decisions. So what can you do about it?

You want to either relax your brain or make the switch to a physical activity.

Here are some ways you can relax your brain:

1. Information Detox

This means cutting back on the information you consume. Here are some ways to do it:

— Limit your social media use. If you keep focusing on your Facebook feed, you won’t have enough mental energy for everything else. A recent study also suggests it can decrease your overall happiness.

— Schedule your media intake. Only check the news and your social media feed at appointed times of day. Spend the rest of the day as far away from them as possible.

— Spend one day a week without technology. Do something else instead: go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie, spend time with friends and family.

— Help yourself stay on track with a time-management resource. For instance, RescueTime, which tracks your activity on apps or websites. You can also download the StayFocusd extension for Chrome or the Leechblock extension for Firefox.

2. Take a break from decision-making

We expend a lot of mental energy on making decisions throughout the day.  A 2010 study found that the longer a judge sat at the bench, the less likely they were to grant parole, due to the fatigue of deciding a long string of cases.

Find ways to simplify your daily decision-making. You could follow Mark Zuckerberg’s example and wear essentially the same clothes everyday. Or you could use a service like Blue Apron to select and deliver your groceries for you.

3. Meditation

Meditation makes the sympathetic nervous system less responsive, which allows the parasympathetic nervous system to activate and the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA to slow brain waves. The result is a powerful tool for reducing stress. Steve Jobs was famously an avid meditator, as are a long list of CEOs. Several tech companies, including Google, also offer meditation classes for their employees. Try it now with an app like Calm or Headspace.

4. Sensory deprivation

This basically means floating in a warm, secluded bath of Epsom-salt solution. The idea of being cut off from the rest of the world may sound scary. But over 90% of participants in a 2010 study found the experience deeply relaxing, and some find it enhances creativity. Intrigued? Check out these brief testimonials to see people react to this unique experience.

Or you can make the switch to a physical activity:

5. Working out

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, focuses your mind, and can make it easier to sleep. It also promotes communication among the body’s physiological systems, enabling the body to better handle stress. Indeed, a recent meta-analysis indicates that exercise is beneficial to those suffering from stress- and anxiety-related disorders.

6. Working with your hands

A study of 1,321 participants at the Mayo Clinic found that leisure activities like sewing, pottery, and home repairs correlated with a lower rate of cognitive impairment in seniors.

How to get motivation

You need to restore your inner energy through rest and introspection.

At a basic level, motivation is the impulse to act. Neurologically, there is building evidence that motivation may be connected to dopamine levels in the brain, while psychologists tend to correlate motivation with such concepts as autonomy, value, and competence. To regain your motivation, you need both to take care of yourself physically and to find value in what you do.

Here are some concrete steps you can take:

1. Relax 🙂

Psychologists generally agree that anxiety and depression are deeply connected, so your lack of motivation may be a result of the stressors in your life. The good news? All the measures we’ve discussed in this lecture can help you regain your motivation. Once you learn to relax physically and take care of your body, to increase your energy and reduce your stress, it will be much easier for you to motivate yourself.

2. Find value in what you’re doing

The science of motivation overwhelmingly suggests that the desire to get things done comes not from without but from within. For difficult cognitive tasks, external factors like money or prestige are poor motivators. Instead, people do better work when they can find ways to be creative and make each task their own. In this vein, the notion of ‘20% time’ – the ideas that employees could spend up to ⅕ of their workday pursuing their own creative interests is famously a cornerstone concept of Google corporate culture.

Ask yourself: Why is this job important to me? What unique ideas or capabilities do I bring? Is there another way I could be looking at today’s major tasks? Maybe you can even carve out some time for yourself during the week to think about creative workplace solutions, to tackle problems from new angles and try new tasks.

Set goals

Self-help books usually start with the problem of motivation: defining your values and goals in life. A review of 35 years of research confirms this sense that goal-setting is an effective way of spurring oneself to better performance.

— Think about your central values and long-term goals. How do your tasks for the day fit into this bigger picture? The answer to this question can help you find motivation.

— Conversely, think about how you can break down your tasks for the day into concrete, actionable units. By accomplishing a few small things, you can build up momentum to keep getting things done.

Regaining your motivation can take some time and effort. But once you find it, you will have a powerful source of energy to carry you through the day ahead!

How to check recovery level

This is where the data comes in!

Sure, you feel better in the moment. But how do you know that your relaxation techniques are improving your well being and energy levels in the long run? Well, you just need to select the “Measure” tab figure this out!

By using Welltory’s measurement technology, you can see the concrete effects of your relaxation techniques. Connect Welltory to other biometric apps on your phone to gather more data and see more clearly the effects of your relaxation techniques.

Remember to check your energy and stress levels every morning. Has your energy level risen? Have your stress level gone down? By tracking these data, you see clearly how your body is responding. Compare your readings the morning after trying various relaxation techniques. Which worked best for restoring your energy?

Once you find something that works, you’re ready to make effective relaxation an ongoing part of life!

Welltory Team, 23 Dec. 2021

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