12 Mindless Habits That Are Secretly Exhausting You


“Poor posture can deplete your energy levels by putting more pressure on your body’s muscles, joints and ligaments,” said Naueen Safdar, medical director at EHE Health. “Your body has to use more energy to compensate, leading to fatigue.” 

The fix: If maintaining good posture isn’t your forte, using various posture-correcting products — an ergonomic office chair or cushion, a posture-correcting brace or RockTape — can help you get into the habit by offering your body gentle reminders, Safdar said.

Adding posture-correcting exercise moves to your workouts that straighten your shoulders and strengthen your core are also paramount to the de-slouching process.

Taking shallow breaths

Even though breathing is thought of as an unconscious activity, we tend to breathe incorrectly when we have a lot on our mind.

“Shallow breathing reduces the amount of oxygen the body takes in and the amount that can be transported in the blood to our organs and cells for optimal function,” Naidoo said. (It can also trigger pathways in the brain that exacerbate anxiety and trigger fatigue, Magavi said.)

The fix: Any time you notice yourself feeling particularly tense or stressed, use that as your cue to take several deep breaths to combat shallow breathing.

Deliberately penciling in diaphragmatic breathing — say, during work breaks or at the beginning and end of the day — can keep your penchant for shallow breathing in check while balancing out your nervous system and increasing your odds of better energy.

Diaphragmatic breathing can be performed by placing one hand on the upper chest and the other right below the rib cage.

“Take deep breaths through your nose so your abdomen moves toward your hand and your chest remains still,” Magavi said. “Then exhale through pursed lips as you tighten your stomach muscles and allow them to fall inward.” 

Letting little tasks pile up

Texting someone back. Changing a lightbulb. Booking your pet’s wellness visit. The cumulative mental load of unintentionally stockpiling tiny tasks like these can be distracting and mentally draining.

“Even manageable duties start to feel overwhelming and suffocating due to their sheer number,” Lippe said. “The constant and unsolicited ‘I should do task X’ thoughts also creates a sense of shame and buildup of anticipatory anxiety.”

The fix: Ideally, any task that takes less than five minutes should be done right away, as it’s the most energy-efficient option — but when this isn’t practical, don’t rely on memory.

“Immediately write it down on a to-do list,” Lippe said. “This strategy provides peace of mind and reassurance that it will be dealt with eventually.”

Allocating 30 to 60 minutes each week to tick off the accumulated small tasks helps compartmentalize the stress — and fatigue — associated with a never-ending to-do list. 

“It transforms a negative feedback loop of shame into a positive one of accomplishment and productivity, converting a draining experience into an energizing one,” Lippe said.

Not dimming the lights at night

Exposure to bright lights at night signals it’s still daytime to the brain. “This inhibits the brain’s release of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone,” Lippe said. “This can disturb the sleep-wake cycle and lead to insomnia, poor sleep quality and fatigue.”

The fix: As the sun sets, use the opportunity to do your circadian rhythm a solid and dim your lights or turn them off — or consider investing in smart bulbs that automatically dim your home at specified times.

“Research shows exposure to red light, rather than blue light, has less of a negative impact on our sleep-wake cycle,” Lippe said. “It’s worth configuring your devices to automatically shift into night mode, which uses warmer colors to emulate the benefits of red light.”

Not tweaking advice to suit your personality or lifestyle

Using another person’s advice can help provide a framework to build on, but if you don’t personalize recommendations, you run the risk of falling short of your goals.

“This wastes time as well as energy, and can cause energy-sapping emotions such as frustration, disappointment and resentment,” Lippe said.

The fix: When you’re given or are researching advice, it’s important to critically appraise it. “Consider how applicable it is to your specific context and what may differ,” Lippe said.

For example, the advice that it’s not good for your health to work in bed doesn’t take into account that for people with a chronic illness, chronic pain or severe anxiety, working in bed is often a necessity — and forcing yourself to take this advice as is can drain your energy even faster than customizing (or discarding) it to suit your situation.

“If you want similar results as somebody else, always remember that how you get there can be different,” Lippe said. “Prior to taking any guidance, define your starting point and where you want to be.”

Once you decide to move forward, experiment with how you apply the advice and adjust course as you go along.

“Regularly evaluating the outcome mid-process is important,” Lippe said, as is recording your results. “It’s easier to adjust based on a written account, rather than relying on memory alone.”

This post originally appeared on HuffPost.

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