We have all experienced fatigue, at one time or another. Some of us may experience it often. If you are perpetually tired, then I am talking to you. Let’s look at the causes of fatigue, dangers of lack of rest, and ways to combat fatigue, naturally.
Experts say that 10% of us at any one time are suffering from persistent fatigue. Persistent fatigue or tiredness is more common among women than men. General Practitioners say they regularly see patients who come in complaining of severe tiredness.
As a consequence of our busy and stressful modern lifestyles, most of us will at some time experience fatigue. On most occasions, fatigue can be relieved after a good night’s sleep. However, this is not the case for everybody. Some people find that tiredness becomes a chronic problem which undermines their day-to-day functioning – i.e. it significantly affects their quality of life.
What is Fatigue?
Fatigue is generally defined as a feeling of lack of energy and motivation that can be physical, mental or both. Fatigue is not the same as drowsiness, but the desire to sleep may accompany fatigue. Apathy is a feeling of indifference that may accompany fatigue or exist independently. In addition, individuals often describe fatigue using a variety of terms including weary, tired, exhausted, malaise, listless, lack of energy and feeling run down.
Common Causes of Fatigue:
Feelings of fatigue often have an obvious cause, such as:
- Alcohol use or abuse
- Caffeine use
- Excessive physical activity
- Lack of sleep
- Medications, such as antihistamines, cough and cold remedies, prescription pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants
- Unhealthy eating habits
Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as:
- Depression (major depression)
Unrelenting exhaustion may be a sign of a medical condition or underlying illness, such as (most all of these problems, can be diagnosed with lab work and a physical examination):
- Acute liver failure
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic kidney failure
- Heart disease
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Medications, such as prescription pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure medications and some antidepressants
- Recovery from major surgery
- Restless legs syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
When To See Your Healthcare Provider:
Call for an appointment with your doctor if your fatigue has persisted for two or more weeks despite making an effort to rest, reduce stress, eat right and drink plenty of fluids.
Seek immediate medical attention
Get someone to take you to an emergency room or urgent care if fatigue is accompanied by:
- Abnormal bleeding, including bleeding from your rectum or vomiting blood
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Severe abdominal, pelvic or back pain
- Severe headache
Call 911 or your local emergency medical service
Get emergency help if your fatigue is related to a mental health problem and your symptoms also include:
- Thoughts of harming yourself or of suicide
- Concern that you may harm someone else
Also get emergency care if your fatigue is accompanied by any of the following:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Feeling that you might pass out
Naturally Ways to Combat Fatigue:
1) Sleep: It is recommended that adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep/night. If you are not getting this amount of sleep and you feel fatigued, then start with getting a goodnights rest.
Did you know that you can actually sleep too much? This is not usually our problem, but it can happen. Oversleeping can actually cause fatigue, like not getting enough sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours/night.
2) Drink Water: If you aren’t drinking plenty of water by now, you should! This may be the reason why you are feeling tired. Juice, soft drinks and the likes aren’t what you should be consuming if you are tired. You see, dehydration reduces the blood volume which creates fatigue. Those other drinks are full of sugar which actually causes dehydration. Water is king, so make a habit to drink a glass of water whenever you feel tired.
While I work, I always have a full glass next to me. This is the best way, because if you have to get up and get water, you will never remember it, especially while you are working intensively. With water right next to you, your mind will just know to take a sip here and there throughout your activity. You will be surprised how quickly just drinking water can get rid of your fatigue.
3) Get Moving: Sometimes our fatigue is caused by inertia, especially when you have to work at a computer or sitting at a desk all day. Movement, any type of movement is exercise! Moving your body creates an increased blood flow which in return increases your energy and defeats fatigue. As well, it makes you breathe deeper and you already know the benefits of breathing deeply as mentioned in point #1. So, all that you need to do is just get up, stretch a little bit, and walk around if you can. The best would be to do this every hour, so that you break the pattern of inertia. So get up and move, you will feel more awake right away!
4) Eat a Balanced Diet: I talk about the importance of eating a balanced diet often. It not only helps us maintain health, but a poor diet can lead to fatigue. Food is fuel – good fuel in, and you feel good, bad fuel in and you feel… bad! It’s pretty simple. Check out my past blog on the importance of diet and what foods you should be eating: https://thenpmom.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/healthy-habit-3/
5) The Ultra Quick Power Nap: A quick power nap in the middle of the day is a great method to revitalize yourself and boost your energy to last you until the end of the day. However, most people who work in public settings cannot just take a nap like that! What you can do is take an “ultra quick power nap”, which consists of simply closing your eyes for a few minutes, clear your mind, breathe deeply and slowly, and then return to your task. You can do this either at your break, or even at your desk. Just like that, you have gotten rid of your fatigue, and you can also enjoy better focus and alertness.
6) Laugh a Little: Laughter has a lot of benefits, such as releasing higher levels of endorphins which make you feel better. This also sweeps away any feelings of being tired. As a matter of fact, recent studies have shown that even the anticipation of laughter increases endorphin levels. So you don’t have to laugh out loud, simply finding something amusing is beneficial. So start reading some jokes online, listen to your favorite radio show, or watch some funny videos on YouTube. You will notice that once you start laughing, you won’t be tired anymore.
7) Take a Multivitamin: The first thing I recommend, when all testing is negative, is a good multivitamin. A daily multivitamin can quickly help with fatigue, by supplying your body with essential vitamins and minerals. I recommend a women, men or children’s one-a-day vitamin. They can be purchased at most stores, and generic is just as good as brand. So, every can afford a multivitamin.
8) Take a Moment for You: I am a busy wife, mother and nurse practitioner. I recognize how valuable our time is. We can easily become overburdened by activities of daily life. Simply carving out 10-15 mins of time for yourself – to take a hot bath, run/walk, read (your bible), pray or meditate. You will see a difference, if you simply take the time out for yourself.
Fatigue is an American staple, or so it seems. We often push ourselves beyond exhaustion. We were never placed on this earth, to abuse ourselves. Lack of sleep is abusing ourselves. I challenge you to take some time for yourself, and ….rest! See your healthcare provider, if your fatigue does not improve.
Remember: Your family will thank you!