Energy Boosters Fight Fatigue, Prevent Flu

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As worries about swine flu and the normal cold and flu season weight heavily upon everyone, it is important to keep your energy up. Fatigue can compromise the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and disease. Some simple energy boosters can help you fight fatigue, prevent flu and colds, and help you better enjoy the upcoming holiday season.

The Need for Energy Boosters
Stress and tension on the job and at home, financial worries, concerns about your health and that of your family, environmental pollution—all of these things can sap your energy, leaving you feeling like someone has opened up a spigot and drained the life out of you. Research shows that stress is a factor in many health issues, from headaches to heart disease and immune deficiencies. Stress and fatigue are associated with an increase in the production of stress hormones and a concomitant decline in immune function. None of this is good news when it comes to fighting the flu and other health problems.

Five Fatigue and Flu Fighters
The following energy boosters can be viewed as ammunition against fatigue, energy-draining stress, and the swine flu and cold and flu season.

Near the top of the list is take mini vacations every day. These are not the type of vacations you need to put in a request for, but five- or ten-minute escapes several times a day to unwind, relax, laugh, relieve stress, and just have fun. Some suggestions include guided visualization exercises, taking a brisk walk, reading funny jokes, watching a humorous video on YouTube, call an old friend, do a jigsaw puzzle online, or listen to your favorite music.

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What’s more important than food? Breathing! Practice yoga breathing exercises several times a day and feel the tension and fatigue melt away. There is clinical evidence that yoga breathing is helpful in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, all energy draining conditions. Yoga breathing techniques can be found online.

Move often. No, we don’t mean pack up the moving van, we mean get up off the couch, out of the chair or car, and ambulate. Energy begets energy. A meta-analysis of 70 studies on exercise and fatigue involving more than 6,800 people found that sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program had an improvement in fatigue compared with people who did not exercise. The bottom line of the study, which was published in Psychological Bulletin, was that regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue.

Get involved. Find a project, a cause, an event, that makes you feel good all over. You don’t need to do something that takes an enormous amount of time—time you may not have anyway. But if you are enthused about something and you look forward to making a difference—whether it’s helping an elderly neighbor plant her garden, volunteering at a local telethon, fostering a kitten for an animal rescue organization, or stuffing envelopes for a nonprofit organization, focusing on something or someone rather than on yourself can give you renewed energy. (Note: During flu and cold season, you may want to limit your social interactions, but there are still many things you can do that do not involve large or intimate settings.)

This fatigue and flu fighter may seem obvious, yet many people don’t do it well: sleep. Regular, adequate sleep is critical for a healthy immune system and for fighting fatigue. According to the latest Sleep in America poll (March 2009), conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 33 percent of Americans are losing sleep over financial concerns. Twenty percent of Americans get fewer than six hours of sleep per night, while the recommended amount is eight. Lack of sufficient sleep suppresses the immune system, results in daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and can be a safety issue as well. Make an effort to get enough sleep: go to bed at the same time each night, make your sleeping environment pleasant (temperature, comfortable bedding, noise level), avoid smoking, exercise, and caffeine for several hours before bedtime, eat a light snack if you are hungry, and avoid lights (including night lights).

Avoiding fatigue and relieving stress are important to safeguard your immune system and to fight against flu, colds, and other ailments. Incorporating these and other energy boosters into your lifestyle can go a long way toward keeping your energy level up and your fatigue and stress levels down.

SOURCES:
Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences 2009 Aug; 1172:54-62
Head KA, Kelly GS. Alternative Medicine Review 2009 Jun; 14(2): 114-40
National Sleep Foundation poll, March 2, 2009
Puetz TW et al. Psychological Bulletin 2006 Nov; 132(6): 866-76

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