By: Zana Carver, PhD
Thyroid and Energy
People who struggle with their thyroid health also struggle with their energy levels. The everyday tasks that others take for granted seem like moving mountains to someone who has low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroid) https://www.thyroidcode.org/thyroid-introduction-2/ but there are some tips to help level the playing field.
Take a hard look at your commitments
The first thing you need to do is evaluate your daily tasks and decide; are you trying to do too much? If the answer to this question is yes then ask yourself, what can you take off your plate? Is there any work that you can delegate to someone else? Always keep in mind what matters to you. Once you’ve taken a closer look at what is necessary for you to get done, then keep your focus on what matters.
Keep your motivation visible
What motivates you to finish the work that matters? Set up a daily reminder of what is most important to you. For example, a sticky note, inspirational quote, picture, or screensaver can help you to stay motivated when your energy levels drop, i.e., creating a safer, healthier world for my family. Keep distractions such as email notifications not visible or audible. This applies to social media as well; only allow yourself a specific time to return emails and use social media.
Compartmentalize your day and start small
Divide your day into chunks of time and list the most critical task or tasks (no more than 2) down for that chunk of time. Don’t write obvious activities, such as laundry or calling your Mom every Friday. Break down large tasks into small sub-tasks and group them into a couple of chunks of time. You can always get more done, but never list too many tasks or work projects that are too large because this will impair your motivation. Learn what not to do with my graduate school example where I consistently listed too many daily tasks. Everything took twice as long as I initially thought and it quickly became overwhelming. Also repeatedly transferring work projects to the next day caused me to stop using a planner. So please take my advice, it’s much better not to overwhelm yourself by only listing one or two small tasks for that chunk of time because there is always the possibility to get more done.
Schedule around your energy levels
If you’re a morning person that’s when you schedule the most challenging task you have to tackle. If energy decreases in the afternoon, then schedule light activities such as answering email, organizing, or referencing during that time. This advice also applies to scheduling your day and week or changing your schedules. For example, you could schedule your more challenging tasks for blocks of time Monday through Wednesday and save lighter tasks for Thursday or Friday. You should also be able to adjust your daily schedule depending on your energy level. If you have a day where you didn’t get any sleep the night before and you’re completely exhausted, it’s not the best time to tackle your toughest project! What else could you do that day, and could your reschedule your focused work for another day?
Know your limits
The human ability to focus on a task is limited, and if you think you can work for eight solid hours a day, think again. My guess is that your productivity drops off substantially after an hour or two without a break and you may be more exhausted the next day or your energy level may completely crash by the end of the week. Set a timer and give yourself breaks. Although any timer device works for this tip, there are many great apps out there that can time your work sessions for you. The one I like to use is Focus@will https://www.focusatwill.com/app/music because you can listen to background music while you work. You can choose the energy level or even just background sounds and turn the volume down so it mutes random noise that can be distracting when you are trying to work. Listen to your body to know when you need a break. Do you function best with 10-minute breaks every 40 minutes, or a more extended 20-minute break every 1.5 hours? Do something physical during breaks, i.e., walking, stretching, and yoga are excellent choices.
I know how exhausting getting organized sounds but the problem of spending an hour or more looking for something important is very discouraging, not to mention time-consuming! Getting organized and staying organized is the most daunting task for me because I want to jump right in and get to work when my energy is high, and I tend to put off organizing when my energy is low because I fall behind so quickly. However, putting in some extra time up front will save you lots of time each day and make your daily tasks much more manageable. Also, there are excellent organization systems out there in both paper and electronic forms. I’m old-school and prefer using a planner, but there are helpful syncing tools with email and calendar apps such as Outlook.
Set up your day the day before
Setting up a chunked schedule with essential tasks the day before will allow you to jump right in without procrastinating, taking the guesswork and indecisiveness out of what to do next. Another option is to schedule your week at the end of the prior week. Just be sure to make it flexible!
Be kind to yourself
We get so focused on meeting deadlines and taking care of others that we forget about ourselves. Make sure you’re eating healthy, getting good quality sleep, and exercising. Also, make sure that you are not overdoing caffeine, sugar, or alcohol. Do not schedule work on the weekends, unless it’s a temporary emergency work deadline. We all need some downtime.
It’s ok to have a non-productive day; please permit yourself to be ok with what you can’t get done. We’re all human and can be our own worst critics. No one is perfect. People who struggle with their thyroid health are strong and eager to make up for lost productivity when their energy improves. Permit yourself to be imperfect and if you have a lousy day-tomorrow is always a new day!
To learn more about “thyroid thrivers” check out the fantastic site, Thyroid Nation! https://thyroidnation.com/thyroid-thrivers/