Improving energy levels

Published 8:33 am Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hi Dr. Kim, I am a low energy type of person. My blood work always comes back normal but it seems that I get fatigued almost every day. Is there anything I can do at home to have more energy? — Julian from Elizabethton

Thanks for your question, Julain. Daytime fatigue, or low energy, is a condition that we all experience at some point in our adult lives. If you do not have a medical condition and have ruled out hormone imbalances, emotional stress, and sleep disorders, but still experience daytime fatigue from time to time, in this article are some everyday non-prescription ways to boost your energy and alertness.

Fatigue comes from a combination of irregular eating and sleeping, stress of all kinds (mental, physical and emotional), experiencing upset or emotional turmoil, a taxed immune system and possible exposure to chemicals in the environment. Here are the practical steps you can take to reduce this problem.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

1. Consult with physician. The first step is to see your physician because daytime fatigue can have medical causes. For men, try to rule out low testosterone as a cause. Women should have estrogen levels and a full hormone panel performed. Everyone should consider a check for the thyroid and adrenals. Blood tests can generally detect vitamin deficiencies and poor nutrition, and one should be mindful about their hydration and sleep patterns. If sleep is a problem, consider a sleep study. Depression and chronic pain can also play into the level of fatigue, so it is important to seek treatment for these conditions as well.

2. Consider stress. If your daytime fatigue occurs only when you are in a certain place or having a specific experience (work or school, for example), think about what is happening in that environment that could be stressing you out, zapping your energy. Situations that make us feel enthusiastic generate energy, while situations that we dread or know to be difficult take away energy. Your fatigue could be a symptom of stress. Reviewing your work load, how busy you are, if you are in a stage of life transition or dealing with conflict may shed light on where your low energy is coming from. Consulting with a counselor is a wise choice, especially if there is a long-lived concern.

3. Sleep hygiene. Healthy practices around sleep are tried and true ways to sleep more deeply and peacefully, conserving needed energy for the daytime. To practice sleep hygiene, do what your Grandma always told you. Go to sleep and wake up at about the same time each day. If you sleep in, only sleep in for 1 or 2 hours. Turn off screens a few hours before bed time, and if you must read use a gentle lamp with yellowish light (blue and white light encourages wakefulness). Calling it quits for anything that takes excessive mental energy, such as working or watching a complicated movie, is a good idea. Listening to gentle music and drinking nothing but water or herbal tea will soothe the mind to get you ready for sleep. Conduct a “brain cleanse” by writing down whatever is on your mind before sleeping. Sleep in a cool temperature room with no light, and invest in a comfortable pillow.

4. Clean up the diet. Foods that are overly sweet, salty, or fatty may give you a temporary burst of energy, but they later result in a crash. Fast foods and processed foods are loaded with sugar, sodium, fat, and artificial flavors, which make them very addictive. The human body automatically seeks flavor, because in nature, flavors are a sign of nutrients. But flavorful processed food often has little nutritional value. If your energy level goes down after meals, or about 2 hours after eating lunch, it could indicate that your foods are too caloric and not nutritious enough. If this is the case, the “universal” lunch meal to fix it is chicken and salad, though any combination of lean protein and vegetables will do. Having some protein at breakfast, and hydrating with water between meals, will help. Having sweets too early in the morning or late at night also create low energy by causing an insulin rush from the pancreas. Overeating can also result in low energy, because it takes energy for the digestive system to process the food. Having three medium sized meals, at the same time each day, will prevent hunger and create a harmonious cycle that stops the need to overeat.

5. Create a peaceful environment wherever you go. Daytime fatigue can be a sign of mental exhaustion or boredom. This is a mental defense against anxiety or conflict, and there are many personal ways to bring a peaceful environment with you no matter where you are each day. Perhaps some of these ideas will inspire you: Take a moment of silence before starting the engine in your car, intending that you will gently place your focus on the drive and safely arrive at your destination. If you listen to music in the car, choose something calming yet energizing, like instrumental music, classical guitar, flute, or piano. Your family might think you have gone crazy at first, but give them time. They will soon learn to look forward to car time with rejuvenating music. Carry a small bottle of your favorite essential oil and a few cotton balls. When you start feeling low, dab some of the oil onto a cotton ball or your pulse points to smell the energizing benefits.

6. Hydrate properly. Small cups of water throughout the day are very effective at hydrating gradually over time. To help the process along, use spring water and change the brand of water occasionally. All water tastes differently, and trying many different brands will help you find “your” water. Drinking small cups of any light-colored herbal tea, such as sencha, alfalfa, linden, or white tea, will hydrate moderately, let you have flavor and health benefits, and not add excess calories. Having a warm cup of tea any time you have a “drop” in your day or a spare moment will keep your energy levels (and your mood) bright and sunny.

7. Treat yourself regularly. Seeking pleasure in everyday life is important for mental and emotional wellbeing. It is not only when you are on vacation that rest is needed. Taking a bath with epsom salts and soaking in it rejuvenates the body and mind. An herbal bath can be created by taking a cheesecloth and filling it with a handful of oats, dried chamomile (from a chamomile tea bag works, too), and food-grade lavender flowers. Sink the cheesecloth in the bath like a tea bag. This combination is relaxing and energizing at the same time. Oats fortify alertness and nurture the skin. Chamomile relaxes the mind, and lavender is energizing, balancing, and mood-lifting. Take regular walks in nature to change scenery and look at living, growing things. Buy yourself a mindful present now and then, and set dates with your significant other. Remember that it is OK to take days off, especially from your personal routine, and that you do not own all the problems in the world. If you practice self care, your energy levels will likely get to a great level, and you will be a more effective person in society, and a happier person in your heart.

Reducing daytime fatigue, in the end, is not so much about having more energy or less sleepiness, but about living a balanced lifestyle so that you can be more present for yourself and others, and enjoy your life more. It would be a dream if we could all work less hard while getting more done, but challenges are inevitable. Making the effort to maintain good energy and peace of mind will make the challenges more manageable. If you know that you have enough energy to overcome anything, life becomes more inspiring. This is a goal we can all aspire to, starting with healthy life practices.   


Dr. Kimberly McMurtrey DNP, APRN, FNP-C is the Primary Provider at Tri Cities Health, located on West Elk Ave., Elizabethton. If you would like to submit a question for her to answer you can call 423-543-7000 or email your questions to

**Medical Disclaimer: The information contained in this column is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.