Feeling drained? This is why staying at home is so exhausting

No you're not just being lazy, there's a biological reason you feel the way you do

Shot of a tired businesswoman napping at her desk with adhesive notes on her eyes. Getty Images
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Even with all the Zooming and baking and at-home workout videos, the past month will have been a much quieter pace of life than most people are used to. And yet, despite regaining our morning commutes or the time it takes to get ready each day, a lot of people are finding themselves more tired than ever.

For many of us, this period of slowing down has actually drained our energy levels, rather than revived them. Doing nothing has taken far more energy than anticipated, leaving us feeling exhausted at the end of each day. But you are not just being lazy, there is a biological reason for it all.

It might not make sense at first, but energy levels come from far more than just how much we do in a day. Being in different environments, seeing different faces and moving our bodies regularly all act as mental stimulants, helping to boost energy levels and make us feel more alert. But while spending more time at home, we experience less mental stimulants as we are usually seeing the same people and the same few rooms, which actually leads to us feeling more lethargic.

Dr Rami Sukhon, specialist in family medicine at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai. Al Zahra Hospital
Dr Rami Sukhon, specialist in family medicine at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai. Al Zahra Hospital

“We all feel tired and fatigued during the lockdown, especially as we are used to a routine activity at our jobs,” says Dr Rami Sukhon, specialist in family medicine at Al Zahra Hospital in Dubai. “Many of us might not be fond of gyms, yet we do move at work and for personal chores. Though we are now in the comfort of our homes, we miss the daily hustle and bustle of life.”

And, because of the current situation the world finds itself in, it is likely that a lot of the virtual stimulants you are seeing – social media and the news – are offering negative information. The worry and anxiety that comes hand-in-hand with living through a global pandemic is a drain on our mental health, which can also have a huge knock on effect on energy levels.

Dr Sukhon suggests limiting exposure to social media where possible, and trying to avoid watching the news in the hours immediately before bedtime. Instead, find mental stimulation in hobbies such as reading, writing, cooking or painting – things that will use your energy up in a good and productive way.

He also stresses the importance of physical exercise, something reiterated by Chris Beavers, personal trainer at Ultimate Performance Dubai. By keeping active, you are ensuring enough oxygen gets to your body, and when your body is not moving, those oxygen levels drop, bringing your overall energy levels down. "Exercise is a cornerstone of good health – but it's even more important to stay active and exercise if you are stuck at home. It's important for many reasons – to support your immune function, reduce inflammation, burn calories and manage your bodyweight and be more resilient to stress – all of which will feed into you feeling more positive, energised and motivated," he says.

Chris Beavers, deputy gym manager at Ultimate Performance Dubai
Chris Beavers, deputy gym manager at Ultimate Performance Dubai

Not only that, but exercising will give you a rush of feel-good endorphins, getting your blood pumping and nutrients circulating better around the body. While you may have physically tired out your body, mentally, you will feel much more awake.

“Studies show there is a strong link between exercise and improved mood, and research also shows that exercise has a positive effect on symptoms of anxiety and depression – in particular aerobic exercises, like jogging, cycling, walking and gardening,” Beavers says.

It is likely you will have experienced some change to your sleep pattern in recent weeks, too. With a disrupted routine and more flexibility in working hours, many will have found themselves going to bed later than they usually would, and while that may seem harmless, letting your sleep time slip can quickly have a big impact on your energy levels the following day.

Equally, people suffering from anxiety right now may find themselves experiencing bouts of insomnia. A good idea is to try meditation before bed, which can help clear the mind of any stress and worry, leaving you feel calmed and centered, letting go of the day.

Lastly, Dr Sukhon suggests the importance of ensuring we all get some sunlight and fresh air throughout the day. Vitamin D is essential for our bodies and has a huge impact on energy levels, while fresh air can help clear any fog you might be feeling, especially if you have been sat inside staring at a screen all day.

“My sincere advice would be simply to open the windows and breathe well,” he says. “Take advantage of the sunlight.”