Dr Amy Shah, lost control in a split second car accident, hurrying to pick up her kids after work ran late. A symbolic moment, it was the catalyst for a life overhaul, to stop overdoing it and being so “effing tired”. She shares her tips with B+S.
As a doctor and wellness expert, trained at some of the United States’ most distinguished universities, Dr Amy Shah had the job, the family, her health – the things that many of us aim to achieve.
Yet, one day racing from a last minute meeting to pick up her kids, Amy was involved in a horrific car accident. Escaping unscathed, she realised that she was speeding through life, balancing her commitments on a tightrope, on a collision path towards disaster.
Speaking on Body+Soul’s daily podcast Healthy-ish, Dr Shah said that moment brought her back to the books, where she noticed that we’re all struggling to feel rested in our mind and our body.
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“There are so many reasons that we have an energy crisis in our world, and it’s not just about doing too much…This has to do with both mind and body exhaustion. So what’s happening in our world is we’re asked to do many, many things all at once,” she tells host Felicity Harley on the Healthy-ish episode How to stop feeling so effing tired.
Dr Shah notes that this is especially true for women, who face the stressors of work, the mental load of family duties and a difficult balancing act between the two. “There are many, many stressors that are happening, societal pressures,” she says.
Our culture leaves no opportunity for rest
When delving back into her learning to figure out her problems, Dr Shah studied ancient cultures and the way our bodies respond to light and natural circadian rhythms.
“In ancient civilisations of the past, a lot of the stress relief was built into the culture,” she says. “There was things every day to relieve the stress but in our modern world we have hijacked the entire system so that all we do is work.”
This culture forces us to lose touch with our natural circadian rhythms, the ‘24-hour light and dark cycle that runs our bodies and run our brains’.
“80% of our genes work on circadian rhythms. What that means is, when it’s light out our body is programmed to do certain things, and when it’s dark out our body is meant to renew and relax. When we don’t get enough daylight, don’t get enough sleep and get a lot of blue light at night, we’re just getting more tired.”
Essentially, wake up with the sun, and for goodness sakes put the phone down before bedtime.
Mastering the energy trifecta
Dr Shah’s theory is that the key to feeling rested is mastering the energy trifecta, made up of gut health, hormone health and immune health – with our brain in the middle of all that dictating the show.
“They’re essential to energy…it’s essential we keep those parts of our body healthy,” she says.
She explains them as an interconnected puzzle. “If one of those pieces is off balance, the entire thing crashes to the ground.”
Essentially, what we need to do is eat well for better gut health, keep our hormones in check, get enough sleep and enough exercise to keep our immune systems boosted. A well-rounded lifestyle is the best for us.
Tips and tricks to master the energy trifecta
Dr Shah goes through the specifics (how many hours to sleep, what to eat, how to exercise etc) in detail in her book, however she does have a few quick fixes for those who might need an extra boost right now.
Her tips include:
- Get some bright daylight: “Getting bright light into your eyes is a great way to tell your brain to wake up and to tell the rest of your body to wake up. Getting some sunlight in the morning is a great way to jumpstart your day.”
- Vitamin D: “Take a supplement if you’re low in Vitamin D, which many of us are.”
- Supplements: “There are some supplements I talk about called Ashwagandha and Amla berry, these are supplements that are very natural to our body – they’re not adding hormones or subtracting hormones – but they’re very good at stress relief. When you’re doing everything else right, sleeping, eating right, but you want a little boost, that would be a nice thing to add to your regimen.”