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Eight Proven Tips to Stop Feeling Stressed Out, Overwhelmed & Totally Exhausted

Eight Proven Tips to Stop Feeling Stressed Out, Overwhelmed & Totally Exhausted

Are you one in five people that feel anxious all of the time or a lot of time? A 2014 survey of Mental Awareness Week in UK shows only one in twenty people never feel anxious. According to Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), women are more likely to feel anxious than men. Wait, there’s more! One-fifth of people who have experienced anxiety do nothing to cope with it. Comfort eating is used by a quarter of those who suffer with feelings of anxiety, and women and children are more likely to use this way of coping.

Is that normal?

We accept these feelings as a part and parcel of our fast paced digital lives. As we go about our routines, we brush these little pesky feelings as a one-off and accept the signs as bad habits, tiredness, sugar cravings, or poor sleep, only to cause further damage in terms of confidence, relationships, health and our lives.

Anxiety is a very real and unpleasant physiological condition and not one that we can brush off. It is created by over-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Adrenal glands are tiny organs sitting just above the kidneys and secrete hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. They produce the hormones Pregnenolone (the Mother Hormone), DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). The adrenal glands are your body’s first line of defense against the stresses of daily living – they give orders to the reproductive organs, play a role in thyroid function and metabolism and regulate the fight-or-flight stress response.
Cortisol is the main stress hormone made in your adrenal glands and it’s designed to get you out of danger. When you’re in a stressful situation, you feel the positive effects of cortisol – the rise of energy, the sharp focus, the charge.

Cortisol has 3 main jobs: raise blood sugar (to feed muscles so you can run or fight), raise blood pressure, and modulate immune function.

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There are two key points about a healthy stress response that need to be emphasized: first, it takes priority over all other metabolic functions in the body and second, it wasn’t designed to last very long.

Our ancestors used this response to escape life-threatening situations, like fleeing from wooly mammoths. Their adrenals would release adrenaline and cortisol which would immediately increase their heart rate and blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, shut down digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen their senses. Thousands of years later, our bodies still respond the same way, except nowadays we are not running away from anything. In the past there would be acute moments of stress followed by periods of rest, but today we are in a constant state of less-threatening but chronic stress – tight deadlines, a mean boss, bills, demanding partner, your teen hanging with the wrong crowd – the list goes on…

If this were to happen once or twice a month it would be okay, but for most of us it happens every single day with absolutely no let-up. This eventually leads to what is known as the “cortisol switch,” where your body not only recognizes the positive aspects of cortisol but starts recognizing the negative aspects of cortisol too.

Example: You drink a cup of coffee and feel like a rock star for 30 minutes. Ready to take on the world! Then you hit a wall and get all anxious and jittery. Your blood sugar drops and you begin to feel heavy and deflated.

If you have been stressed for several months or years, you probably have chronically elevated blood cortisol levels. Cortisol promotes abdominal weight gain, cravings, and makes weight loss very difficult. High cortisol suppresses your immune system. If your cortisol has been cranked up for a long time, there usually comes a point when your adrenal glands simply can’t pump out enough cortisol anymore; they become exhausted. This stress and total burn out of adrenal glands is known as Adrenal Fatigue or Dysfunction.

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How do you identify adrenal exhaustion?

Feeling tired but wired
Not feeling rested after a night’s sleep
Light, broken sleep
Strong cravings for sugar and/or salt
Feeling overwhelmed like you cannot cope with what life throws at you
Feeling tired in the morning but getting a burst of energy anywhere between 4:00 and 8:00 p.m.
Poor memory, brain fog and lack of concentration
Weakened immunity and recurring infections

If the adrenals are constantly over-worked, the entire endocrine system becomes deficient and stops functioning properly. This is why the food you eat and proper stress management is crucial to begin healing your hormonal imbalances. Once your adrenal function is restored, cortisol production is reduced and your adrenals resume normal function and production of hormones.

Sadly, many in the conventional medical world do not acknowledge adrenal conditions unless they are severe diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome (excess cortisol) or Addison’s disease (severe lack of cortisol usually caused by autoimmune disease). Milder forms of adrenal imbalance can definitely impair the quality of your life and produce quite severe symptoms. The first step is to get yourself tested. You are supposed to have higher cortisol in the morning and lower levels in the evening, but this pattern is often reverse in people with imbalanced adrenals.

How to treat adrenal exhaustion?

1. Try to get adequate sleep. People with adrenal fatigue often have poor quality sleep. Your adrenals will greatly benefit if you can unplug and get in bed by 10:30 p.m. The hours before midnight are more restorative to your body.

2. Try to reduce the stress in your life or look for more effective ways of dealing with it. Make self care non-negotiable. Massage, meditation, yoga, counseling, reading, or going for a walk are some ways you can unwind.

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3. Steer clear of stimulants. I have nothing against caffeine, but people with adrenal fatigue should really eliminate it out of their diet. It is also best to keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum, especially before bed. It can help you feel drowsy, but it does reduce the quality of your sleep.

4. Minimise your salt and sugar intake. If you often crave these foods in order to keep you going, try to indulge in healthier versions instead. Try swapping a packet of crackers with some olives instead. When it comes to sugar, small amounts of fresh dates, manuka honey or maple syrup are healthier alternatives. These foods are so intense in flavor, that you only need small amounts to appease a sweet tooth. As your energy levels improve, you will stop having these cravings.

5. Make sure you eat enough protein and good fats. This will help to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, reducing the energy slumps caused by a blood sugar crash.

6. Most of the Vitamin C in your body is stored in your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands will struggle to function if you don’t consume enough Vitamin C, so be sure to get a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

7. Magnesium is calming to the muscular and nervous systems and it allows the adrenals to repair themselves. Taking some magnesium before bed should also help improve your sleep quality.

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8. Find out if you have a food allergy or intolerance. Eating foods that your body cannot tolerate is a major physical stress on your body. You may need a nutritionist’s help in uncovering hidden food sensitivities.

Repairing and nourishing these tiny glands would not only protect you from chronic illnesses, but also improve your mood and anxiety. Remember there’s an important difference between giving up and letting go. So let go of the stress. Take the first step with mindful eating.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Stockette via shutterstock.com

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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