You work long hours, fumble through unpaid bills and fight off a week-long cold. You’re just plain tired out. You leave work early, skip the gym, eat a light dinner and then settle in for the night. By morning, you’re feeling rested and ready for the day. That’s normal fatigue, the body’s way of saying slow down, take a break.
Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, is a persistent state of mental and physical exhaustion that takes a serious toll on body and mind. It’s characterized by a lack of energy and motivation, a feeling of muscle weakness, difficulty focusing on task, and mental fuzziness. It can be triggered by mental or physical illness and aggravated by physical inactivity, poor sleep habits, an inadequate diet or certain medications, such as antihistamines, antibiotics and blood pressure meds.
Load up on Energizing Whole Foods
Stressed-out bodies often crave the simple carbohydrates found in sweets and highly processed foods. They give the body a burst of energy as sugar rushes into the bloodstream. The pancreas, in response, secretes a large amount of insulin causing blood sugar levels, as well as energy, to drop quickly.
Avoid rising and falling blood sugar levels by choosing nutritious whole-grain snacks and eating at least three meals a day. Skipping meals and then gorging overloads your digestive system, depleting energy and diverting blood from other vital places, such as the brain. Drink lots of water, too, at least eight glasses a day. Dehydration reduces blood volume which causes fatigue.
Beat the Blues With Exercise
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to manage depression, one of the most common causes of chronic fatigue. A stressful work environment, irregular sleep patterns, an unstable home life, and a lack of social or family support only make matters worse. With depression, the subconscious battle to suppress feelings is exhausting. You need a safety valve.
Find someone who will listen without judging. Consider individual or family counseling for a professional perspective. At work, organize and pace yourself, sit down and resolve issues with co-workers, accept your share of the responsibility, and try a walk at lunch time.
It might sound counterintuitive, but regular exercise will raise your energy level. It helps regulate metabolism, lowers your pulse and improves circulation. Moderate physical activity several days a week will lower stress and increase energy. Whether you walk, run, swim, bike or garden, you’ll find yourself with more energy, stamina and motivation.
Sleep for Body and Mind
Insomnia may be caused by stress, depression, chronic pain or poor sleep habits. It is physically and mentally draining. But don’t obsess about sleep loss or sleep schedules; it will only cause more stress. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and well ventilated, with as few distractions as possible. Go to bed only when you are sleepy and get up the same time every morning. Avoid vigorous exercise and caffeine before bedtime.
If you’re exhausted at the end of a stressful week and need only a pleasant weekend to recover, that’s normal fatigue. But if that worn out, tired feeling just won’t go away, you may be experiencing chronic fatigue. It’s potentially debilitating and should not be ignored. Look for the underlying causes and then, one step at a time, move forward and take charge of your own welfare.