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Must Read: 6 Reasons To Consider Acupuncture

Must Read: 6 Reasons To Consider Acupuncture

Science has changed a lot about the way we think and live today in the 21st century. Today, old beliefs and practices have either ceased or been replaced with more practical methods. This is especially true in the field of medicine, where the industry is rapidly thriving with thousands of clinical studies and tests being assessed every year to meet regulations on new medical devices and drugs. These tests must be performed to meet the growing demands of our population and today’s technology. This is why we can have our illnesses and symptoms treated efficiently and effectively.

On the contrary, even though our field of medicine has advanced, there are no guarantees of the perfect treatment. Doctors will recommend or prescribe additional medications or alternative treatments still. These alternative treatments come in a myriad of forms, but one of the oldest and most heavily debated is the ancient Chinese treatment of acupuncture.

Acupuncture began about 2,500 years ago in China, where the practice consisted of puncturing the skin with sharp needle-like devices. These specific areas or points where needles are inserted are believed to mitigate certain symptoms by triggering the brain to release endorphins, our natural painkillers. What’s the reason behind this? Practitioners believe that those specific areas in our body are pathways for creating Qi (pronounced “chee”) energies. With the principles of yin and yang, if a certain area of the body is in pain, it is due to the imbalance of energy in that area. These disruptive energies must be balanced, therefore acupuncture steps in to help balance the energy in the body by allowing a consistent flow of energy throughout the entire body.

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However, ever since its exposure to the western culture, acupuncture has been met with serious contentions and studies to resolve it as a placebo treatment. But, it’s rather difficult to ignore it when millions of Americans have reported to seek acupuncture as a complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment. It’s also been a topic on the Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz shows. Even the U.S. Air Force began teaching “Battlefield Acupuncture” to their physicians in the early 2009. With clinical studies, testimonies, and official recognition by institutes and government agencies, here are a few reasons why acupuncture should be considered a serious form of alternative medicine for the next time that you’re in pain.

1. It is safe and painless

This is one of the most common reasons why many people never seriously consider acupuncture: Needles! But, these aren’t the needles you see at the hospital lab. The needles of acupuncture are specifically designed to be imperceptible and be devoid of any serious pain. They are fine, thin needles that have surprised many patients with the lack of pain. However, if during and after acupuncture you do feel minor pain or bruises, those are common side-effects. If you feel serious pain, then you should find another practitioner who’s more competent.

The use of needles can spread infection if not sterile. When it comes to acupuncture, this should be of no concern because the needles are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The needles are disposable with good manufacturing practices and the single-use standards of sterility.

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2. It is cost effective

One great benefit of seeking acupuncture as an adjunct treatment is the cost, along with the fact that some health insurance companies cover the treatment. If your insurer does not cover or only covers specific parts of the acupuncture treatment, still the overall benefits of seeking acupuncture is cost effective in the long run when it comes to serious chronic diseases. Nationwide, the median cost of acupuncture is $100. Here is a quick guide to the average cost in the U.S.

Acupuncture is considered as an alternative medicine, but you can also prevent ailments by being proactive instead of being reactive. While others seek acupuncture after the recommendation of a general practitioner, some treat themselves regularly as if they’re getting a therapeutic massage. Visiting an acupuncturist and receiving regular treatments can benefit your health in the long run.

3. It embraces new technology

Just because it’s an ancient practice doesn’t mean it can’t adapt with newer technology. There is another newly designed treatment of acupuncture that is called electroacupuncture (EA), but instead of needles just being inserted, it is attached to a device that sends electric currents or pulses into your body. Unlike other electrotherapy practices, EA sends the electricity into the body on the focused area. EA has been shown to be effective with heart disease, hypertension, nausea, and weight gain, though it is not recommended for patients with pacemakers or a history of seizures and epilepsy. The fact that acupuncture is able to adapt with growing technology shows its capability and popularity.

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4. It helps treat stress, anxiety, and depression

A popular reason why acupuncture is recommended is due to the fact that it is a drug-free treatment. There are so many medications that can battle stress, anxiety, and depression, yet those medications will have side-effects which may require additional medications. The other general treatment of these conditions is therapy, which can be a long process.

Studies have shown that people who get regular treatments have felt more relaxed and peaceful during the treatment and afterward. Another study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies in October 2013 — with the intent and purpose to investigate whether acupuncture can improve memory as it also reduces anxiety — had surprising results: students who underwent a 20-minute acupuncture session were found to have less anxiety and better memory immediately afterward than those who didn’t have acupuncture.

Getting acupuncture can also help wean a person off medications, but keep in mind that acupuncture is an adjunct treatment. If the counseling and medications are not working, then consider acupuncture. Although it has been proven to treat depression, be cautious during pregnancy. It is recommended to seek acupuncture after 12 weeks of pregnancy to be on the safe side.

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5. It is recommended as the best alternative painkiller

It has been published that Americans spend billions of dollars for alternative medicines or treatments to reduce pain. In 1999, eight medical centers, including Harvard, Duke, and Stanford, created a study to find the best alternative medicines. The top five choices were produced and the very first recommended treatment was acupuncture.

6. It can help with many common illnesses

Doctors and even acupuncturists will inform you that acupuncture should be a side treatment and not a primary treatment for an illness. Never let an acupuncturist diagnose you. Acupuncture is there as an adjunct treatment to alleviate the symptoms on top of other treatments.

But, the battle between science and acupuncture is ongoing. More studies and research are always being developed. However, regardless of the myths and misinterpretations, acupuncture has shown to have positive effects on numerous diseases, symptoms, and conditions such as: allergies, headaches, nausea, pain, sprains, blood pressure, depression, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Featured photo credit: Tomás Fano via flickr.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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