We blame late nights and stressful jobs, but is there a more surprising reason you’re lacking bounce? Stylist investigates
Words: Kate Langrish
Hillary Clinton’s one. President and CEO of Yahoo! Marissa Mayer is another. And we’ll bet your office has a couple too. Upbeat, perky and always full of enthusiasm – a natural Tigger, if you like – no matter how much they cram into a week, or how little sleep they get. It’s more than energy though – in fact the word that best describes it is bounce. And while it’s something that blesses only a few, it’s something that the rest of us are obsessed with. According to statistics, we’re in the grips of an energy crisis, with 20% of women having suffered with fatigue that lasts for at least a month. A fifth of us say we don’t shower daily, purely because we’re too tired, and records show that 10% of GP appointments are to investigate unexplained tiredness. Doctors even have a term for it: Tired All The Time (TATT). And to make matters worse, we’re currently in the most depressing week of the year, following Blue Monday (18 January), when our natural instincts to hibernate hit overdrive, thanks to stretched finances from an early December pay cheque, gloomy skies and freezing weather, and the next bank holiday not even a speck on the horizon.
So why is it, that despite all that, some of us never seem to run out of steam while for others, simply surviving the working week means weekends routinely lost to the sofa? According to the latest research, there’s far more to bounce than simply getting an early night.
In fact, it’s down to a complex combination of factors – with everything from whether you’re the oldest or youngest in your family to the kind of snack you choose (salty or sweet?) said to play a part.
For some women, experts believe a saliva test could hold the answer to their tiredness. “Adrenal fatigue is a little known but potentially huge cause of low energy,” says author of A Great Day At The Office, Dr John Briffa. It’s caused by low-level ongoing stress – think replying to emails on the train home rather than staying half an hour later in the office, or doing our weekly shop online while watching War And Peace, all of which means we never actually switch off. It all puts pressure on the adrenal glands – responsible for excreting adrenaline and the stress-busting hormone cortisol, which gets us out of bed in the morning and helps regulate our energy levels. But instead of releasing a hit of cortisol in response to an emergency, constant stress eventually drains the adrenals, so they’re unable to produce enough of the hormone when you really need it. “It’s why people with adrenal fatigue struggle to get out of bed in the morning, and slump at 3pm, when cortisol should naturally kick in to give you energy,” says Dr Briffa, who recommends a private saliva test to measure hormone levels throughout the day. If found to be lacking, a combination of B vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and chromium, can help. “Try a ready-made formula, such as Natural Health Practice’s Tranquil Woman Support (£22.97, naturalhealthpractice.com),” suggests women’s health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville.
Perhaps most surprising is the finding that our demanding careers might not be the big bad energy thieves we often paint them as. “Increasingly, we’re realising that our overall attitude to life and feeling happy are our biggest energy sources,” says sleep and energy expert, neurophysiologist Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of Tired But Wired. Hillary Clinton – perhaps one of the busiest women on the planet – acknowledged this herself in an interview with Stylist last year when she said: “Each of us has talents. I have stamina. I have endurance. I have health and a sense of mission.”
“Your outlook is crucial,” agrees Dr Ramlakhan. “You can go to bed at 9pm every night for a month, but if your emotional energy is low, due to an unhappy relationship for example, you’ll still struggle to feel motivated in the morning.”
Of course, genetics still play a part. But what all the new research points to is that we have far more control over our energy levels than we’ve previously realised. “Yes, there’s a wide variation in natural energy levels,” acknowledges Dr Briffa. “Some people’s mitochondria – the tiny engines in our body that take energy from food –simply work better than others. Some of us are genetically determined to need just a few hours sleep, while others might have a low thyroid function, which makes you need more. But it’s very rare that low energy can’t be treated by tackling other issues in your lifestyle.”
So while tackling some of the issues here might feel slightly counter-intuitive, staying in the office late rather than working on the commute home, for example, means we’ve all got a chance of being that bit more like Tigger; it’s just a question of working out exactly what’s stopping us.
To help, if you’d rate your energy levels to be anywhere less than 60%, we’ve consulted a range of experts to create a quiz to diagnose the main reason behind your energy drain – and of course how to fix it. The solution might just surprise you.
Play the quiz below and prepare to get your bounce back…
Life tips from Tigger and co
“Jump? Tiggers don’t jump! They bounce,” said Tigger. “Then bounce down,” said Roo. “Don’t be ridiculous! Tiggers only bounce up!” Tigger, Winnie The Pooh And Tigger Too
“There is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” Eeyore, Winnie The Pooh
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.” Christopher Robin, Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin
“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Pooh, Winnie The Pooh
Illustration: ©Disney, based on the “Winnie-the-Pooh” works by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard