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Did we really have more energy when younger?
I used to wish I had the energy I possessed in my twenties. Recently, though, I looked back at those years with more clarity. In truth, I worked ridiculous hours at a challenging job, stayed out late, drank too much went on a lot of really bad dates, all the while worried about paying back my college loans. It was exhausting.
My thirties were equally tiring. I cared for active children while building my career. I arranged playdates, helped with homework, tired to make time to nurture my adult relationships, worked long hours and still worried about my college loans.
My forties and fifties brought new challenges that drained me in different ways. As the kids grew, they needed more time and attention with homework, activities, school issues and more. I still worked long hours and struggled to find balance. I tried to make time to connect with my husband and friends. My college loans were paid off by then, but I worried about how to pay for the kids’ college tuition.
As I enter my sixties, l find myself with more time to explore interests and hobbies put on the back burner for too many years. The kids grew up and settled in their own homes; while I miss them terribly, I am happy they became independent adults. It’s no longer difficult to find time to nurture my adult relationships. And I no longer stress over helping the kids with college tuition.
So as far as the thing about having more energy, I’m not convinced that’s actually true. I think some of us see our earlier years through rose colored glasses. In fact, it seems much of what older adults perceive as fatigue or less energy is due to lifestyle changes, bad habits, and mental and physical health problems.
Why some people perceive themselves to have less energy as they age
It’s true people slow down some as they age, however it’s entirely possible, to retain 80% or more of the energy you had when you were younger, even into your 80’s and 90’s. We can’t do much about health issues and hormonal changes that affect our energy levels, but we can make a conscious effort to live an active and healthy lifestyle. Here are important factors to consider:
As we age, physical activity becomes somewhat more difficult. As a result many of us do less of it. This creates a vicious cycle; a more sedentary lifestyle makes us feel less energetic. Activity is an essential component of aging well. If the type of exercise you did previously no longer works for you, find another activity that does. If you were a runner and now your knees hurt, try cycling. Or take a walk or perhaps a yoga class. Just keep moving – 20 minutes a day is all you need.
It’s a fact that our bodies absorb nutrients differently as we age. At the same time, changing levels of hormones and other chemicals in the body might decrease our appetites. Additionally, many of us relax our dietary standards when we no longer have children to feed. Poorer nutrition becomes a problem when we indulge in less healthy food options, eat less overall, and/or consume a smaller variety of foods. Make it a priority to it a healthy diet and take supplements as per your doctor’s recommendations. Good choices and nutrient dense foods help you feel better and more energetic. And don’t forget to drink lots of water; dehydration can cause us to feel tired too.
Unfortunately sleep is more difficult for a lot of us as we age, but it is an important part of aging well. For obvious reasons, a lack of shut-eye can cause fatigue. Practice good sleep hygiene; try to develop a sleep schedule, don’t eat late at night, and sleep in your bed, not in a chair in front of the TV.
Smoking, alcohol and other drugs (including many prescription medications)
Smoking, alcohol and medications may all cause fatigue. You certainly have control over how often you smoke, drink or take recreational drugs, but not as much choice when it comes to prescription medications. If you experience extreme tiredness, talk to your doctor about possible side effects, drug interactions and the possibility of substituting one medication for another.
Depression, loneliness and isolation can cause fatigue or a general malaise. are unfortunately very common with older adults. Emotional concerns such as excessive stress, worry or anxiety take a physical toll on your body, which also may result in fatigue. The days and hours can seem to drag on endlessly when we are not in a good place.
Ensure you maintain robust and meaningful social relationships and an active social life for emotional fulfillment. If family and friends do not live close by, perhaps a volunteer position can provide you with a purpose and opportunities to make new friends. Some alone time is good, but too much is not. Try to practice mindfulness, meditation and yoga to better cope with stress. And please keep in mind we all need support sometimes, whether it comes from family, friends or a professional; there is no shame in asking for help. If you are someone who does not easily accept help, try to be more open to it. Your mental health is as important as your physical health to age well.
Things to look forward to in older age
I feel ready and excited for this next decade. Here’s what I consider the benefits of aging and look forward to most:
- Caring less what others think
- Discontinuing toxic relationships
- Continuing friendships with people I enjoy
- Worrying less about things I can’t control
- Exploring new interests and hobbies
- Benefiting from lessons learned in earlier years
- Taking a nap or going to bed early if I choose
- Replacing costly health insurance with Medicare
- Receiving Social Security benefits
- Enjoying Senior Discounts!
Our priorities change as we enter different life phases; With fewer responsibilities and commitments, I have more flexibility to choose how I want to spend my time – and with whom. I do live life these days at a slower pace than in earlier years, but that’s my choice. I take care of my health, both mental and physical, to remain healthy and energetic.
I love this phase of life. I choose to focus on the benefits of aging and not on the negative…who’s with me?
DISCLOSURE: This article is not intended as medical advice. It’s essential to talk with your doctor before implementing any new lifestyle changes
originally posted 4/17/2021