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14 Things People Who Go To Therapy Want You To Know

14 Things People Who Go To Therapy Want You To Know

When people hear a friend talk about therapy, a number of worries come to mind: Is he okay? Does he hate me? Is she suicidal? Unfortunately, knowing this, many people choose not to even attend therapy, even when they are in the most dire of situations. If people were more understanding of what therapy entails, and why people choose to attend therapy, these preconceived notions would fall to the wayside, along with the stigma attached to seeking help.

1. We’re not weak

Does going to the gym mean you’re physically weak? No. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Therapy is like a gym for your mental and spiritual well-being. Each session builds you up even more than you were before, and as you continue to work on the issues you may be facing in life, you continue to grow on a daily and weekly basis. The truly weak are the ones who avoid their problems and shelter themselves, rather than overcoming the obstacles life has thrown at them.

2. We’re not crazy

The social stigma attached to therapy is that, if you need professional help, you must be crazy. Again, that’s just not the case. Many perfectly sane, healthy individuals attend therapy to get some outside perspective about their life, especially as they navigate through rough experiences. Even therapists go to therapy! It’s not a matter of not being able to help yourself; it’s a matter of getting advice from a professional who sees things objectively and understands the best course of action to take.

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3. We’re not medicated

Those attending therapy should not be looking for a quick fix. In fact, quick fixes, such as using alcohol or drugs, are usually part of the reason people begin attending therapy. Self-medicating simply masks larger issues that we’ve ignored or avoided in our daily lives; but when the effects of the drug wear off, the problems still exist. It takes much more willpower to confront your issues and tackle them than it does to drink a ton of beer and forget your problems exist for a couple hours. And when you confront your issues without the use of alcohol or drugs, you wake up stronger the next day, ready to take on the world once more.

4. We’re not wasting our time

There is absolutely no reason to think spending an hour a week getting your thoughts and feelings in order is a waste of time. In fact, if we all spent more time collecting ourselves, the world would most likely be in better shape than it is. Not only is the time spent in a session helpful, but it also helps us use our time outside of therapy more wisely. Going back to the gym metaphor, you wouldn’t go to the gym once a week and eat McDonald’s the rest of the time; you’d also start eating healthier, making healthier decisions, etc. Same with therapy. You carry with you the lessons learned in the short session throughout the week, making a better use of every moment of your day.

5. We’re not wasting our money

Yes, therapy can be expensive. But can you really put a price on your well-being? If the answer is yes, then you’re ironically a great candidate to start attending sessions! Going back to the last point, yes, the sessions might seem expensive, but if you utilize the lessons learned correctly and carry them with you throughout your life, the money amount completely evens out. $150 for an hour may seem like a lot, but if you use what you learned in that hour all week, assuming you’re awake for about 130 hours a week, you’re really only spending about a dollar an hour. Is your happiness and success really not worth a dollar an hour?

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6. We’re not alone

A lot of people, when they find out a friend is in therapy, tend to wonder why their friend didn’t come to them, or doesn’t just go to their family with their problems. Well, the truth is, we know we can, but we don’t want to burden everyone else with our problems. Plus, we most likely already know the responses we’ll get from specific people if we go to them. Again, a therapist is an objective professional who won’t judge you, and won’t give you the stock answers most friends give to each other, even if they mean well. Sometimes explaining your issues to someone you don’t know can be more beneficial than discussing them with someone you’re close with.

7. We don’t talk about you

We don’t go to our therapists to gossip or talk trash about our closest friends. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Everything discussed in a therapy session is meaningful and productive, which gossip certainly is not. We might talk about you, but anything negative we might say will ultimately come back to us from the therapist as “Well why do you feel this way about so and so?” It really is all about us. The sitcom joke of “My therapist said you need x, y, z” is simply a running gag that refuses to die, and has no factual basis in real therapy.

8. We’re okay with needing help

Although there usually is some catalyst that is the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” most people who attend therapy have been thinking of doing so for some time. Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to it, people often wait until their breaking point before they decide to attend therapy. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. If it was more socially acceptable to engage in therapeutic sessions, more people would attend before they reach their wit’s end. But at any rate, the mere act of going to therapy shows that a person is okay with needing help, and is willing to seek it out from a professional.

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9. We’re not necessarily in a bad place

Although many wait until they’re in dire straits before attending therapy, others are more proactive, and use therapy to avoid bad situations rather than to get out of them. Maybe they see the writing on the wall, or they’ve started out on a path to detrimental habits or hobbies, and want to head them off before things get to bad. Maybe everything is going fine, and they want to keep it that way. Whatever the case may be, attending therapy is a surefire way to get out of the funk you’ve been in, and ensure that you don’t stay too long in a “bad place.”

10. We’re not there for a set period of time

Therapy isn’t one of those “I think I’m cured, doc!” type of appointments. It’s merely a catalyst to get you moving in the right direction. As was mentioned before, the hour spent in a therapy session means nothing if it’s not acted on throughout the week. Yes, there will come a time when you don’t need your therapist anymore, or quite as frequently, but your self-improvement is always a work in progress. In fact, the moment you think “I’m good now, thanks!” is probably the moment you become complacent and stoic. Therapy is a springboard toward a better life, but you will always need to put in effort even after your sessions are over.

11. We don’t need you to feel bad for us

Like we mentioned before, being in therapy doesn’t mean we’re in a “bad place.” And it doesn’t mean we’ve changed who we are completely. We don’t need pity, because we actually feel stronger than we ever have before. It’s fairly ironic that people might feel bad for friends who are in therapy, but never felt bad for them before they started their sessions. Wouldn’t a good friend have noticed something was wrong before having to be told about it point blank?

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12. We aren’t bossed around by our therapist

The old saying is true: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force him to drink. Our therapists definitely don’t tell us what to do. They would be wasting their time. However, they can guide us to make our own decisions using their professional observations and opinions. Once the therapist and the patient are able to find the best course of action, the patient is the one who needs to take the steps. Honestly, if a therapist were to blatantly tell you how to live your life, would you even listen?

13. We can’t recommend a therapist for you

Therapy just isn’t for everyone. Like we mentioned, it’s not a magic cure-all, and some people might not work well with specific therapists. What works best for me might not work at all for you. But, what we can tell you is, if you’ve been debating going to a session, absolutely do it. If you have an inkling at all that you might need some professional assistance, there is no reason not to give it a try. You might not like it, and might choose to discontinue services. On the other hand, going to therapy might actually change your life.

14. We’re not suicidal

This is a big one. The biggest misconception about people in therapy is that they’re teetering on the edge of Hamlet-ville. If it’s not obvious by now, let me make it clear: not all people in therapy want to die. People in therapy are there because they want to live. It’s those who are on a path of self-destruction, that choose not to better themselves, that run the risk of an untimely demise. Those who attend therapy are actively trying to get better, and, by taking this first step, they ensure that tomorrow will be a better day.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm2.staticflickr.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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