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Your Childhood Experiences Might Be Eating At You, Here’s How To Deal With It

Your Childhood Experiences Might Be Eating At You, Here’s How To Deal With It

Let me start off by saying that we are all responsible for our own actions. When it comes time to make a big decision in life, or even when making all the little ones that eventually contribute to the development of your personality, it can be harder for some to take the right path, but there is still a choice.

I’m not trying to be mean to anyone or turn a blind eye to the fact that we are far from being all equal, and that some people are just dealt a better hand of genetic cards, grow up in better conditions, and so on. However, the fact that there are always different choices to be made, no matter how hard and gruelling the best choices might be for some, is incredibly important, and you’ll soon see why.

You see, the old nature-versus-nurture debate gets even more complicated when we throw in things like personal choices, and you have your genetics teaming up with your childhood demons and insecurities to try and push you in certain directions.

Most people know that there are many different ways to go about any situation, but it’s that deep-seated emotional baggage that tells them that they don’t have options, that they can’t make it, that it’s someone else’s fault, and so on.

The ACE Study and Questionnaire

A study of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE’s for short, has been going on for years now, looking at childhood experiences of thousands of patients and comparing them to their medical histories in adulthood. They have a nifty little questionnaire you can check out to gauge just how heavy of an emotional load you are carrying on your shoulders. However, we should bear in mind that things are not black and white – it’s a scale with “loving, supportive family and fairly nice childhood” on one end of the spectrum, and “a completely dysfunctional, violent and abusive family and troubled childhood” on the other end. You could fall anywhere between the two extremes.

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Bad childhood experiences are not always big traumatic events

Don’t think I’m just talking about survivors of major traumatic events like the death of a parent, sexual or physical abuse here – even those with seemingly “normal” childhoods have to deal with tons of stress and may have had experiences that stick with them well into their adult life and cause them to form bad habits that make them unhappy. Lack of support, being denied physical and verbal affection from close family, parents who constantly criticise and mock you, growing up in an emotionally unstable family where shouting outburst are the norm – these things can also have a huge effect on your life. Plenty of seemingly well-off kids from “good families” crave the support, respect, and love they never got as a child, and this causes them to turn to self-destructive behaviours as adults.

The mental side-effects of living with stress and anxiety are reversible

There is a strange masochistic tendency to give in to the pain when you’ve got unresolved issues, but the problem is that a true masochist is submissive by nature, and we can’t get anywhere while we are in that vulnerable, fragile, frightful, and dependent state. Luckily, scientists agree that the negative effects that childhood stress has on us can be eradicated.

There are a lot of ways in which our old issues can affect the way we live our lives, which you might not even be aware of. I will list the most common ones below and try to give you an efficient and actionable strategy for overcoming these problems.

It takes a strong survival instinct to let the past stay in the past

Here’s a little test. Did you notice how I said “survivors” and not “victims” a little while ago? Go back and check, I’ll wait. Having the right mindset and a strong will are the only two things that can help you overcome adversity and build a better life for yourself, no matter where you came from and what you had to endure.

These are the things that will allow you to see the different choices available to you and give you the strength to stick with positive changes. In other words, you need to envision yourself as a survivor – bad things happened, you lived through them, and now that you’ve got your life in your own hands, you have to try and make the best of it.

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You feel trapped, unfulfilled, surrounded by people that don’t get you or make you happy

This is the most common problem that people start to experience as they get a little older. You start to see that those friends you had in high school and at college didn’t really have all that much in common with you, aside from the fact that that you went to the same school and liked to party and hang out at the same places. Another thing people tend to realize is that they feel more comfortable doing something different than what they initially thought would be a good career choice for them, what they may have gone school for.

When you are a kid, it’s much easier not to think about things too much, take other’s advice blindly and just do what you are “supposed to do.” Study, go to a school that will afford you better job prospects, dress appropriately, and just generally follow the rules. When you realize that following the rules can make you as depressed and lonely as making stupid choices can, you begin to resent the world around you.

If your entire environment feels boring and bleak, and you aren’t satisfied with the type of person you are becoming, a good solution is to make a big change and start over. Like restarting a computer when it gets a bit buggy, simply box everything up, move to another city and start over with a fresh slate – it can really fix a lot of problems. There are lots of little things you can do to make yourself feel more at home in a new environment, but you’ll also have the freedom to change anything you want.

The new people you meet won’t have a predetermined image of you, nor will they know every little mistake and embarrassing secret from your past, so you can reinvent yourself. Most importantly, you get to choose who you want to allow to come close to you. Sometimes, it’s best to cut all ties with people and places that drag you back into a dark state of mind.

You try too hard to please others and fit in

This point is somewhat related to the previous one, but you there is a notable difference – you may feel great about your environment, work, and even most of your friends, but you feel like you are losing yourself bit by bit because you change and adapt to best suit the temperament, tastes, and lifestyles of those around you. When trying to please everyone all the time, mistakenly thinking that this is how you build rapport and show that you care, it’s easy to forget who you really are and what makes you happy. Too many people try desperately to appease their parents and look for a group to be a part of when they can’t find the understanding and affection they are lacking at home.

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The main thing to remember here is that it’s impossible to please everyone, and that you don’t have to try and “please” anyone. Being nice, friendly, compassionate, and considerate is not the same as liking all the same things as somebody, agreeing with everything they say, doing whatever they want to do, and never stating your own opinion or asking others to do what you want to do for fear of being rude or too demanding.

It would be foolish for me to suggest that you just stop doing these things all of a sudden, but I can ask you to take some time off from everyone else and do some soul-searching. It’s not that difficult, actually – take a few days off from work or, if you can’t manage that, wait for the weekend, turn off your phone, tell everyone that you’re ill, and get some quality alone time. Listen to the music that really speaks to you and moves you, watch a few movies that you find exciting, look at clothes and gadgets online that you think look good and forget about what others might say.

You should also think about the type of partner that you prefer – what are the physical and mental attributes that really turn you on, and what really makes you care for someone – as well as what you expect from a good friend. It’s like one of those goofy questionnaires kids make or something that you’d find on an online personality test, but instead of using it to put yourself in a neat little box and put a label on who you are, you should use these questions to help you learn more about yourself. From then on out, it’s a slow and steady journey of focusing on what you enjoy and trying to make yourself feel good for a change, even if that gets you a few disapproving looks or an arrogant sneer from others.

You are an emotional eater and have neglected your body

Some people deal with problems by resorting to drugs or alcohol. For others, it is a somewhat lesser evil, but a destructive and deadly one nonetheless. Emotional eating can wreak chaos on your body, as it is incredibly easy to become obese when you’re already low on energy and don’t feel like leaving the house, and then you reach for something sweet in a desperate effort to fill the void in your chest.

Body image and confidence issues aside, obesity is linked to a number of serious medical conditions that can considerably shorten your lifespan and reduce the quality of your life. Accepting who you are and feeling good in your own skin is great, but once your lifestyle and level of fitness start negatively impacting your health, it’s time for a change. We develop bad eating habits early on during childhood and they become so ingrained that it’s incredibly hard to shake them off.

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The problem is that a lot of self-appointed fitness “gurus” just don’t understand the gravity of the underlying psychological issues. It’s not about being lazy or not having the “warrior mentality” – and quite frankly, unless you are a professional soldier, you do not have any such thing, no matter how many burpees you can do in 5 minutes – it’s about having this huge beast made up of fear, sadness, pain, and some more fear pushing down on your chest every time you try get off the couch and make a change.

The way out is difficult, but if you pace yourself and focus on long-term results, you can ease into a weight-loss regime that you are comfortable with. Keep in mind that you will have to make a big shift in your diet, focusing on nutritious foods as well as your overall activity levels. Building both strength and endurance is how you get your body to shed weight quickly, and all that extra exercise, coupled with stretching, has also been shown to positively affect your mood.

You have a strong inner voice of self-doubt that won’t shut up

We all have that critical voice or those pessimistic thoughts that often get mistaken for being realistic with yourself. Some people have these in spades — constantly present, guiding every decision that they make, and causing them a great deal of anxiety. Every little thing that you did as child seems like a bad decision and the things you didn’t do because you were afraid are now huge regrets that eat away at you. It’s hard to come back from such a deep and dark place where vivid images of your past mistakes, wrongdoings, failures, disappointments, and humiliations keep haunting you.

Once again, it’s not a matter of “stop this” or “do that,” but rather a matter of understanding that there is a way to loosen the hold they have on you, and that it involves proving the voice of self-doubt wrong and letting the images fade away into the deep memory compartments of your mind, replaced by positive new experiences. I’m not going to lie to you, a lot of people need help to jumpstart the healing process.

Consulting a therapist is the first step, and drugs can actually help get you through that initial phase. For those worried about prescription pills, good old medicinal marijuana has been shown to be effective at fighting depression, so you will have something to help you stay calm until you can get back on your own two feet and develop better coping mechanisms. Exercise and meditation can help a lot as well, and hobbies that involve plenty of repetitive work are also great at allowing your mind to relax.

When it comes to breaking free of the past and making a huge lifestyle shift, there is no easy way of doing things, particularly if you have issues from your childhood that keep eating away at you. Just know that it can be done, and that people with some fairly horrific pasts have turned their lives around and found success and happiness. You have to make that first step and shift mental gears before you can create any sort of coherent self-improvement strategy. It might be the hardest thing you will ever have to do, but it will pay off.

 

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Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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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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