How to Fix Tired: Go to the Source

Why are you tired? What’s your afternoon slump about? How should you handle it? You might be surprised.

It’s fair to say that tired is a common state of being in the world right now. Putting it mildly: It’s been a stressful year. And that’s on top of the stress that most of us were living with before March 2020.

We might be tired when we wake up, or tired all the time. The 2:00 p.m. slump is a well-known phenomenon. Most of us “suffer” from this. We’re all fired up at lunchtime and by mid-afternoon, we want to take a nap. So often, we fuel up with coffee or chocolate or (insert your favorite pick-me-up).

Ayurvedically speaking, there are two main reasons you’re tired when it’s not bedtime. Depending on which one you’re dealing with, your approach is completely different. The first step is to define “tired.”

Kapha Sluggishness

Source: Accumulation

Kapha is the Ayurvedic base bodily constitution (or, dosha) that is made of earth and water. You can be a Kapha body type and lean toward Kaphaness in general, or you can have a Kapha imbalance that is more temporary in nature. 

When you’re Kapha tired, you feel heavy (too much earth) and/or wet (an overabundance of water). The water element can present as congestion or you may feel snuffly. If you have too much earth, you put on weight easily (or feel extra heavy on a given day) and you feel leaden, like there’s a weight holding you to the couch. You likely also have some inflammation so there may be some pain (joint pain is very common). You may feel sleepy and sleep excessively, causing you to feel even more tired. Your emotions can feel dark and depressive. The Kapha Sluggies feels like depression, in your body and in your mind.

The source of Kapha tiredness is accumulation. Too much substance. Excess food. Excess water presenting as allergies or flem of some kind.

Vata Crash

Source: Overdoing/Overthinking

Vata is the Ayuervedic base bodily constitution (or, dosha) that is made up of air and ether (space). You can be a Vata type and lean toward Vataness in general, or you can have a Vata imbalance that is more temporary in nature.

When you’re Vata tired, you may feel spare and floaty. You might feel extra dry, like the moisture in your body has evaporated. You may feel anxious or numb. You might struggle with insomnia even though you are so tired you feel like you could sleep for a week. You could feel like you want to rest but also feel restless at the same time. Your mind might be racing while your body is struggling just to stay upright.

The Vata Crash is the result of burning the candle at both ends. You overwork and overdo or overthink and the boomerang is the crash that can leave you exhausted but not necessarily feeling depressed.

Addressing “Tired”

We should NOT treat the Kapha Slugfest the same as the Vata Crash.

We are so trained in our society to keep going at all costs. If we’re tired and we still need to finish the work day, we fuel up. Our instinct, based on our lifestyle, is to pep up when we’re tired during the day. That instinct is usually correct for Kapha Sluggishness. Kapha needs movement. Take a walk or go for a run. Do vigorous yoga.

Kapha can even handle some caffeine well. Sometimes a little caffeine can be the gateway drug for the movement that Kapha needs but DOES NOT WANT TO DO AT ALL. Clearing out the congestion, heating up the cold water and earth to light a bit of fire under Kapha is exactly the right remedy. Unstick the sticky Kapha.

A Kapha protocol is the exact opposite of what Vata needs when it is crashing. Vata needs to rest, to slow down and calm down. Vata needs to be soothed. Treat Vata like a flower, is the common axiom in the Ayurvedic community.

Unlike Kaphas, who will rest at the drop of a hat, Vatas resist resting. Often, they want to rest but when crashing, they’re so wired up and spun out that they are unable. They will go to a vigorous vinyasa yoga class, for example, convinced they just need to get a little energy boost. NOT SO.

Vata needs to close their eyes for 10 minutes. Caffeine is absolutely the last thing Vata in a crash needs. Their medicine is calming, warm herbal tea. Touch the earth. Vata needs the gentle, calming yoga class (restorative yoga may be TOO CALM for the Vata in the midst of a swirly crash), or a meditative walk in nature or around the block, slowly, without the intention of getting in a few more Fitbit steps or working off “excess energy.”


Recognizing the difference between your “tireds” is half the battle. For most of my life, I treated my exhaustion as a Kapha problem (long before I’d even heard of Ayurveda). I threw any fix at it that would eliminate it (tbh: mostly caffeine and sugar, which only exacerbated the situation). When I realized that my exhaustion was from overdoing and could not be cured by doing more or by medicating it away, it was a game changer.

I am Vata-Kapha as my base constitutions, so my air/ether and earth/water are in perpetual conflict. The dance is delicate between when to move my Kapha and when to rest my Vata. Knowing how to recognize the difference between my tireds gives me the blueprint for how to address them.

Dark and snuffly? Get moving! Wired and depleted? Make time to sit still and let my mind and body rest.

Rejuvenation is possible if you know what you’re rejuvenating. Give the remedy that adds to the cause and you only make it worse. First, determine the cause, then apply the right remedy. Game changed.

Article © April 25, 2024 Susan James, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission. This article and many others are available at