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Last Updated on December 17, 2020

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Fatigue Symptom (& How to Boost Energy)

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Fatigue Symptom (& How to Boost Energy)
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Adulting is hard, there’s so much to do and so little time. Juggling between work appointments and personal commitments, commuting through traffic, paying bills – our days are marked by a series of endless tasks.

Feeling tired after a hectic day is quite normal – nothing that a warm shower and a good night’s rest cannot cure.

However, if the bouts of fatigue occur more often and last longer, you might have a problem. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t ignore fatigue as a passing phase.

Warning signs of fatigue

Feeling tired all the time? You’re not alone my friend. Scientific studies show how fatigue has affected the productivity of people irrespective of their age and gender.

You cannot just take a relaxing vacation or a couple of days off work and expect the exhaustion and restlessness to disappear.

So, the next time you find yourself wondering “why am I so tired all the time?”, don’t blow it off. Here are a few red flags that one should look out for:

  • Lack of sleep and excessive snoring
  • Sudden weight gain or weight loss
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Yellow colored urine
  • Panic attacks, palpitations, anxiety
  • Severe headaches and body pain
  • Weak immunity
  • The onset of allergies and itchiness
  • Cracked lips, acne breakouts
  • Sudden and excessive hair loss

Note: Victoria (Australia) state government’s BetterHealth portal offers a more detailed list of symptoms related to fatigue.

[1]

Why you shouldn’t take the fatigue lying down

We’ve all had those days when you’re so weary, tiredness no longer remains just a condition, it becomes an emotion.

The reason behind this exhaustion can be both physical and psychological. Physical fatigue affects your bodily function (hand limb coordination, blinking frequently etc), psychological fatigue affects the cognitive function of your brain (i.e. feeling dizzy, “brain fog” etc).

Fatigue can be an early sign of depression or anxiety. And there’s no escape, not until you get professional help.

People who have chronic fatigue may become depressed and experience extreme bouts of sadness along with the muscle cramps, joint pain and headaches – an unfortunate combination that affects mostly young to middle-aged adults.

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Proper sleep and an orderly life might be helpful in controlling the sudden bouts of dizziness and acute fatigue you feel all day. In fact, it would come as a surprise to many that chronic fatigue actually keeps one awake at night.

There’s nothing worse than being bone-tired but unable to fall asleep. Making a few changes in your routine cannot magically cure psychological issues such as depression or physical problems like high blood pressure. You need to see a doctor for that.

Do not dismiss your exhaustion, especially if it’s affecting your daily life and productivity.

Chronic fatigue vs Feeling tired – What’s the difference?

Imagine feeling so exhausted that the simplest of tasks seem impossible. Now combine that physical exhaustion with severe headaches, joint pains and nausea. Finally, imagine telling this to a close friend only to have him/her roll their eyes in disbelief.

These hypothetical scenarios are part and parcel of someone suffering from chronic fatigue. Fatigue is a daily struggle while tiredness is just a temporary incontinence.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is a legit medical condition and means a lot more than just your body feeling tired.

In severe cases, the symptoms can last for up to 6 months or longer. A report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has revealed how one in five people suffer from or show signs of chronic fatigue.[2]

Underlying medical conditions triggering your fatigue symptoms

Most people blame the hectic lifestyle for their lethargy. And while that’s true to some extent, it’s not the only reason behind your exhaustion.

Fatigue can be a sign of some serious disease or medical condition. It could be a symptom of the following kinds of ailments.

Anemia

Anemia is a condition that affects your RBC count and blood supply to the brain, the heart and tissues. Women are more susceptible to feeling weak and tired because of blood loss during menstruation, or later in their pregnancy and breastfeeding stages.

Anemia is not a disease, but rather a sign of some other unresolved issue in your body that needs thorough diagnosis and fixing. It might be because of an iron or vitamin deficiency and other conditions like kidney failure, arthritis, and even cancer.

Fatigue is a common symptom in anemic people, along with other signs like chest pains, breathing problems, insomnia and headaches.

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To combat anemia, increase your intake of Vitamin C, consume yogurt and turmeric, eat a lot of green vegetables, include sesame seeds in your salads and smoothies.

Diabetes

Many people with diabetes describe themselves as feeling unbearably tired or lethargic at times.

High sugar levels disrupt the blood circulation, the cells don’t get enough oxygen or nutrients to function properly.

The RBCs are inflated due to excessive glucose, causing an increase in the production of monocytes in the brain that make you feel inactive and lethargic.

Low blood-sugar, on the other hand, can cause fatigue among other ailments as there is not enough fuel to power the cells.

Proper medication, a balanced diet and plenty of exercises would keep diabetes and your fatigue in check. Bring home a reliable blood sugar/glucose meters.

Blood pressure issues

Given that so many signs are associated with fatigue, it is no surprise that blood pressure goes unnoticed.

Almost every adult is struggling with a high or low blood-pressure problem. There are no prominent signs of hypertension and maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to diagnose. It is only when your arteries and other organs are at significant risk that we understand that all is not well with our body.

Some uncommon symptoms include chest pains, headache, frequent bouts of dizziness, vision problems and fatigue.

The physical exhaustion can also be a side-effect of the medication prescribed for blood-pressure fluctuations.

To control your blood pressure, focus on reducing extra flab from your body, exercise regularly, quit smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, reduce the amount of sodium in your food, avoid caffeine, and try yoga to de-stress.

Also, use a credible blood sugar monitoring device.

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Sleeping disorders

Feeling tired and run down during the waking hours is something we all struggle with. The ever-piling work pressure jam-packed schedules and chaotic lifestyle disrupt our body’s natural clock. And as you don’t get a proper shut-eye at night, you’re disoriented, confused and cranky in the morning.

Chronic fatigue has often been associated with sleeping disorders. Sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome are a few common sleeping disorders that people with chronic fatigue are susceptible to.

Researchers from Stockholm University showcased how sleep deprivation could negatively impact your social appeal.[3] Don’t worry, some medications, sleeping aids and a good rest are all you need to overcome the exhaustion.

Adopt a regular sleeping schedule, don’t eat heavy dinners, don’t drink alcohol or coffee before sleeping, and make your room’s lighting and air quality congenial for a good sleep.

Also, as a potent short term solution, use a handy cleansing device along with your favourite cleansers to make your skin look better. Use some safe and useful skincare devices to combat the negative signs of sleep issues on your face.

Thyroid problems

Tiredness is a common sign of hormonal imbalances in the body. And when your thyroid hormones are out of whack, chances are that your body would tire easily.

The thyroid gland, located in the front of the neck, is responsible for controlling metabolic activity. An excessive production of the thyroid hormone (aka hyperthyroidism) speeds up the metabolism, while a deficiency of the hormone (aka hypothyroidism) slows the metabolic process of the body.

Hyperthyroidism causes fatigue, muscle sprains (especially around the thighs), sudden weight loss, excessive sweating and an irregular menstrual cycle in women.

Heart disease

People having cardiac problems might have trouble performing everyday tasks like climbing stairs, carrying some weight or even walking for a long time.

Fatigue, excessive sweating and intolerance to exercise are a few common symptoms of heart diseases. The arteries in the heart are blocked by cholesterol, blocking the blood flow to the other parts of the body.

As a result, you become more prone to breathing problems, high-pressure and even diabetes.

Fatigue can also occur due to dehydration – the toxic wastes aren’t flushed out, it accumulates in the organs and weakens the body from within.

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Menopause

A few symptoms of chronic fatigue also overlap with menopause.

Joint pain, headaches, anxiety, sleeping disorders, muscle cramps- they’re all part of menopause induced fatigue.

Hot flashes, excessive sweating, vaginal dryness and physical exhaustion can be your body’s way of coping with the hormonal changes when the menstrual cycle stops.

Almost every woman in her late 40s-50s has to go through this phase. However, if your symptoms are severe and extend over a long period, you should get it checked with a good gynecologist.

How to boost your energy

These days, we’re so used to luxury that even the most basic physical activity can tire us out. So, if you find yourself out of breath after climbing a few stairs, you need to stop and ask yourself – “Am I treating my body right?”.

Staying up late all night binge-watching movies and hogging on pizza is exactly the kind of lifestyle that would get your body in trouble.

Some fundamental lifestyle changes can go a long way toward increasing your life expectancy.

Here are a few easy and natural tips to boost your energy levels and stay fresh and active all day long:

  • Get more sleep. This is easier said than done, but there are sleeping aids and meds available over the counter that help you sleep better. Learn to hack your sleep cycle or try out Sleep Cycle app; it analyzes your sleep and wakes you up during the light sleep hours, ensuring you’re well rested before waking. It’s been positively reviewed by CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Wired.
  • Regular exercise. Not just hitting the gym, but also yoga and meditation that keeps you mentally and physically fit. Try this guided meditation or try out Headspace, the most popular guided meditation apps of its times.
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol. Any drug addiction can cause weight gain, breathing problems, sleep apnoea and other physical problems. If you find quitting smoking a herculean task, try replacements such as V2 Standard Starter Kit and V2 Pro Series 3 e-cigarettes, that cut down significantly on the nicotine intake.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of organic fruit juices and water at regular intervals.
  • Eat healthily. Include fresh fruits, veggies and proteins in your diet, do away with the calories. Eat a nutrient-rich, balanced diet. Find a healthy eating plan that suits you.

When to make an appointment with your doctor?

Chronic fatigue has recently been recognized as a disease by the medical community. Today, doctors are acknowledging fatigue as a problem that doesn’t just imply lack of sleep, but a host of other medical issues that might be hidden underneath the apparent exhaustion.

Unfortunately, the layman still sees fatigue as a blanket term used to define lethargy, laziness, complacent behavior and a bad hangover.

Make an appointment with your doctor if your fatigue is accompanied by depression, severe anxiety, chest pains, breathing problems, dizziness, abdominal cramps, rectal bleeding, vomiting and migraines. It might lead to some fatal consequences if left unchecked for long.

Summing it up

Chronic fatigue is tough to deal with, more so when people around you aren’t aware of your daily struggles to fight the exhaustion off.

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Acknowledge the problem and get help – that’s the only way to deal with it.

Featured photo credit: Doğukan Şahin via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Victoria (Australia) state government’s BetterHealth: Fatigue
[2] Royal College of Psychiatrists: Sleep and tiredness: key facts from the Royal College of Psychiatrists
[3] Stockholm University: Negative effects of restricted sleep on facial appearance and social appeal

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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better
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Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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Reference

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