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Dear Cassey: I thought exercise would give me energy.
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August 27, 2021

Dear Cassey,

You and many people tell me that working out daily will help me feel more energized. For a month now, I’ve been working out 6 days a week for 30 minutes. I try to do a mix of cardio and pilates/weight training. I see it work for other people but I’m still feeling exhausted everyday and it is becoming hard to find motivation to workout.

I do lead a stressful life but I can’t help it: I have to juggle busy workdays, tend to my family, struggle with my mental health, and I’m facing some hardships in my life that make it hard for me to feel happy most of the time or sleep in peace.

Exercise is not helping me reduce my stress or giving me energy so far. I don’t know if I’m doing the wrong kind of exercise or if I should wait more. Do you have any advice to deal with my situation?

Sincerely,

Exercising and Exhausted

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Hi Exercising and Exhausted,

Thank you for this question! And ahhhh, isn’t it SO frustrating when you’re doing everything right, but then you don’t get the intended result?! Unfortunately, it’s not always just a simple cause and effect situation. Even though exercise can definitely help with energy and stress, there are other factors that can get in the way.

You named a couple of them in your question – stress and sleep!

So let’s talk about some things that can help you feel better. Your plate is FULL, and you deserve to feel like you’re on top of the world, not like it’s on your shoulders.

Stress

You’re juggling a busy job, a family (and everything that goes with it), your own mental health, and probably more. I’m sure that can be stressful! And stress is MAJORLY draining, especially over time.

Even though exercise is effective for stress management for many people, it’s important to remember that technically, exercise adds stress to the body. So if you feel like it’s making you more tired, you might need to make some changes! Here are some ideas to try:

Do what makes you happy – You know I’m a firm believer that you should find joy in your workouts! If you’re feeling like your workouts are a chore, that could be one reason why you still feel tired.

Make it social – Being a parent can be so isolating. Can you work out with a friend, or join a class, or even start a friendly challenge with a friend?

Consider gentle movement for a while – Sometimes when I’m going through something super stressful, I take a break from the more intense workouts and stick to walks and yoga. You’re still moving your body, but you’re not pushing yourself. Going on a solo walk with your favorite playlist or podcast gives you a chance to breathe and think (or focus on the podcast and give your brain a little “escape”). A slow, gentle yoga routine allows you to breathe deeply and quiet your mind and feels all around amazing.

Your body might be asking for rest – Try working out 4 or 5 days a week for a while. BUT keep those 30 minutes on the other days for YOU. Do something you struggle to find time to do.

Sleep

You said you’re struggling with quality sleep – I totally get it! Even if you’re getting yourself in bed to get enough sleep, it won’t do you any good if you’re not getting quality sleep.

It’s so hard when you have a lot on your mind and you’re stressed! Try to stay off your phone and/or computer close to bedtime, and incorporate some way to decompress into your bedtime routine. Read a book, meditate, stretch, journal, or just take 5 minutes to breathe deeply. Consider talking with your doctor about ways to improve your sleep!

Nutrition and Hydration

Finally, the other big factor – nutrition. Parents take care of everyone else first, right? Sometimes that leaves them surviving off of their kids leftovers, skipping meals, or just grabbing whatever is convenient.

So my first question is, are you eating enough? Consistent meals that include carbs, protein, and healthy fats are sooo important for maintaining your energy levels.

Next question – are you getting enough water? Taking care of all the things makes it easy to forget to drink during the day! And dehydration can really tank your energy levels.

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out for more help if you need it. 

If it feels like nothing is helping you escape your exhaustion, talk to your doctor! They can help you rule out or manage other causes like hormonal issues or vitamin/mineral deficiencies. And if the weight you’re bearing is feeling extra heavy right now, finding someone to talk to is important. This isn’t something you have to deal with alone!

PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, leave your questions below! I may answer it in an upcoming Dear Cassey post!

6 thoughts on “Dear Cassey: I thought exercise would give me energy.”

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  1. Del says:

    Hi. Have you tried getting your blood levels checked for anemia? There’s no behavioral way around anemic exhaustion and everything Cassey said is also true. If I’m not getting in trouble for naming products, you can try Numedica Hemaplex FE with iron, folate, B-12 & Vitamin C & other nutrients- 1 each morning with food & plain water for 20 days, then save the rest for when you feel low-energy again- I usually can go 2 months before I restart. Nighttime, maybe 1/2 of a Slow-Mag- they taste like a 9-volt battery when they’re chopped in half but a whole one is too strong for someone with low blood pressure. Take it with plain water 2 hours before you’d want to sleep. There is no grogginess or addiction risk. Hugs!

  2. Elly Ashlock says:

    This blog was really helpful. I have to sometimes to accept that my body needs gentle movement. I find that making it social helps me so so much. My roommate and I use long walks as a time to hang out with each while getting in some movement. This is good for our mental health as well. I related to a lot of this blog, and really enjoyed this one.

  3. Mariale says:

    Dear Cassey! Can you talk about what can I eat when is too early to have breakfast but I am going to workout? Thank you!! I admire you very much 🙂

  4. Natalie says:

    Dear Cassey, should I eat less on days I rest and eat more on days I work out? Also, should I eat my food even when I’m not hungry?

  5. Vanessa P. says:

    Try Qigong. It is comparable to yoga but not as strenuous. It is more of a standing meditation with gentle movements that will give you a relaxing workout and helps quiet your mind as well. I follow qigong for vitality on Youtube. Practicing Qigong actually helped me release a lot of stress. Doing a 5-10 minute routine before bedtime helped me sleep a lot better.

  6. Homework-filled teen says:

    Dear Cassey, I’m in high school right now and ever since my school went back full time, i haven’t had time to workout. i feel stressed out a lot because of this and i feel like i will lose the muscles that i gained during quarantine. How do i fix this?
    Love, Homework-filled teen

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