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  • Clare Backhouse

Trouble-shooting tiredness

Troubleshooting tiredness: top 10 tips for festive fatigue.

This season can be tiring. But big health overhauls aren’t always easy at this time of year either.

Contrary to what you may have heard, nutritionists don’t always go around bellowing ‘Quit The Coffee’ and suchlike.

Part of our job is to know when it’s time for some gentle steps. Like at Christmas.

So, if you’re tired, here are ten simple, gentle things your body might appreciate – maybe even more than coffee.

1. Liquid

It is shockingly easy to get dehydrated in winter, when we are less inclined to drink cold water. Imbibing sufficient non-caffeinated liquid is one of the cheapest, easiest, and most effective things to do for better energy, but very few of us actually do it. Two litres is a good goal.

Quick fix: find a non-caffeinated herbal tea you like

Further fix: find a large teapot. Work out how many teapots-full equals two litres. Then add herbal tea, and plough through accordingly.

2. A peace process

If you have a lot of stress going on, have a counterbalance at the ready to re-establish your peace.

Quick fixes: sing a song loudly, call a friend, read a few pages of a good book, take a quick walk, pray a short prayer

3. Protein

My clients know this one of my top recommendations. Without protein at meal times you are likely to fade after an hour or two and crave sugar and/or a little nap. (Not needing to nap any more is something my clients often report.)

Quick fix: some meat or fish or eggs or cheese or beans or nuts or seeds at meals

Further fix: if you are on a plant-based diet, this blog may help further with protein and micronutrients:

4. Phone-hiding

Too much connection beyond yourself often means too little consolidation within yourself.

And too little brain space to deal with your own life. Hence extra tiredness.

Quick fix: don’t use your phone while on the loo (!), on short journeys etc. Just be.

Further fix: set an alarm that sets boundaries on your phone, especially morning and evening.

5. Less of the ‘difficult’ foods

So often, we know that certain foods don’t agree with us, but we eat them anyway and then wonder why we’re tired. While the reason for this may need to be unravelled eventually, for now – you can just step away for a bit.

The top things I see causing trouble for my clients are: gluten-containing foods, dairy, sugary foods, alcohol, and ‘FODMAPS’ foods like garlic, onion and beans.

Quick fix: avoid your particular ‘most difficult food’ this season

Further fix: have a look at my blog on reducing cravings:

Further further fix: meet me in the New Year for a sort-out!

6. Sleep help

Most of us need some sleep help. Some issues may need deeper work, but for now:

Quick fix: create a bedtime buffer, an hour of being in bath or bed without screens and in dim light.

7. Saying no

Such a cliché. But nevertheless true.

Quick fix: backtrack and say ‘no’ to that needless plan.

Further fix: if you menstruate, you may find it particularly helpful to say ‘no’ to things at certain times in your cycle:

8. Vegetables

You know this. But without vegetables, you may be liable to nutrient deficiencies, constipation (through lack of fibre), and a less diverse microbiome (through lack of prebiotic plants).

Quick fix: find some vegetables. Many greens are on offer at present due to a UK glut.

Further fix: see my blog on how plant foods help your gut:

9. Light

Movement, fresh air, daylight. People give these things unfailingly to their pet dogs, but non-dog owners like me may forget the simple basics! Daylight helps sleep hormones kick in better at night.

Quick fix: don’t think about it, just go outside for ten minutes right away (I actually had to do this moments after writing those words.)

Further fix: schedule outside time into every day. My current moment is around 1 or 2pm, when the daylight seems to be strongest. It changes with the seasons though.

10. Further blood tests

Finally: some tiredness may be due to processes which are slightly helped, but not resolved by all the above, for example, problems with thyroid function, or nutrient deficiencies like anaemia.

If you have ever had a “borderline” or “come back and test again later” result from a blood test, it is well worth resolving this properly.

If it’s a thyroid issue, I recommend getting an in-depth test that will show what is really going on (TSH and T4 are not sufficiently telling markers, unfortunately).

Quick fix: do the things above. Listen to my podcast interview on thyroid health:

Further fix: get in touch and book a free intro conversation.

I hope this little list has inspired you to return to some of those health basics that you don't always put into practice. Let me know how you get on!

And as always, feel free to get in touch and ask questions, share comments and ideas, or just say hello.

Here's to your very best of health in the Christmas season, and a peaceful beginning to the New Year,


Clare Backhouse, dipION, Registered Nutritionist MBANT

Registered Nutritional Therapist CNHC


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