If you feel like you are moving around in a daze and lacking the motivation to go through the to-do lists, you are not alone. In a world where high-stress environments are normalised and constant screen exposure is the way of life, lethargy has become familiar. To put it simply, lethargy is a sense of fatigue that involves a lack of energy to engage in physical or mental tasks. In recent times, there has been a renewed focus on fatigue, especially with it emerging as a main symptom of Covid and long Covid. Currently, it affects at least 25% of healthy people worldwide, according to New Scientist.
In daily life, lethargy can feel limiting. Lack of energy can be stressful and leave you feeling frustrated, causing further physical and mental exhaustion. However, to understand lethargy, it’s important to unlearn unhealthy ideas about it and untangle motivation from the mish-mash of capitalism.
Lethargy is subjective; people experience and describe it differently depending on their lived experiences and environment. The underlying causes can range from overexertion or lack of sleep to more chronic health conditions. It is imperative to not look at lethargy as not a problem in itself but address factors that might be causing it.
In the chaos of a world driven by productivity, sleep is often procrastinated until it asserts itself through exhaustion. Fitness experts have regularly spoken about the importance of sleep for the body and the need to prioritise it. For instance, Sohrab Khushrushahi, fitness expert and founder of SOHFIT. “Getting adequate sleep every night and trying to be consistent with a sleep schedule is important to have energy the next day,” He also adds that along with good sleep, people should look into building awareness about what food works for them. “While a balanced diet is often advised, it’s important to understand what it means for different people. Ensuring that your diet contains a good amount of fruits and vegetables can help you hit nutrient goals. Foods that have a high sugar content can also cause a decrease in energy so avoid them in your meals.”
Moreover, some regular habits which people often pick up to get through a busy day, might not help them sustain their energy. For instance, caffeine or energy drinks that you might often swear by have only temporary effects. “Although they are promoted as energy drinks, they may cause an energy drop after a few hours. It’s best to avoid anything that high in caffeine or is promoted as a drink for energy,” says Khushrushahi.
While it’s good to engage in physical activity on a daily basis, as reiterated by recent studies that have stated that even a daily 10-minute walk can be beneficial for the body, there should be an awareness of one’s limits. Khushrushahi advises, “It’s important to monitor and structure your workouts in a way that you don’t overtrain. It can drain out energy and make you feel fatigued.”
Although people today seem to have an unbreakable bond with phones and laptops, research has cautioned that excessive exposure to screens can increase stress hormones, desynchronize the body clock or the circadian cycle and lead to fatigue. To maintain physical and mental fitness, it’s important to take some time off these devices, says Khushrushahi. “Reduce your screen time as you wind down your day. As you stay away from the phone or laptop, you give yourself time to relax and make it easier to sleep.”