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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

5 Sources Of Fatigue And How To Fight Against Them

5 Sources Of Fatigue And How To Fight Against Them
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Have you ever felt extreme tiredness to the point that you feel unable to function? Are you bordering on exhaustion rather than feeling a little ‘low?’ Feel like your mental and physical capacity is suffering? Well you may unknowingly be suffering from fatigue and it’s about time you do something about it.

Millions out there are struggling to get up and out in the morning and feel the effects lasting throughout the day, most notably at work where we feel like the lack of mental and physical capability is stealing our productivity. So what to do then?

Below are the five common causes of fatigue and ways to tackle them so you can be more productive, maintain razor-sharp focus and have bags full of energy throughout the day.

Like everything in life there is a cause and effect and fatigue is no different. There are both physical and mental symptoms of fatigue, which can frustrate you if you don’t know how and why they are occurring. Whether it be stress levels, nutrient deficiencies or lack of self worth, fatigue is out to stop you in your tracks so it’s time you understand what can be done about it.

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What does mental fatigue feel like?

A lock of focus, the inability to concentrate for long periods, a wandering mind, and lack of creativity is what mental fatigue feels like. Once the brain is clear on what it has to do and the mind isn’t playing tricks on you, you will find that your focus improves, and your motivation is back.

And what about physical fatigue?

Struggling to get out of bed, always feeling like you want to sit down, lacking drive and energy to do the things you love are all signs of physical fatigue. If your brain isn’t functioning then the body will start to shut down too. Your brain’s primary role is to keep you safe and sound and is more concerned with surviving than thriving so your body won’t be allowed the energy to perform everyday tasks. So on to the five main sources of fatigue…

1. Lack of sleep

Lack of sleep is too common nowadays. It can start off with a few late nights and before you know it months have passed and you haven’t been able to remember the last decent night’s sleep you’ve had. During sleep your brain and muscles go in to repair mode. Hormonal and metabolic changes take place and your cells get a chance to regenerate. Sleeping helps improve your mood, energy and vitality in both the short and long term.

Here are my top three supplements to help you get a peaceful night’s sleep:

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1. Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain which regulates your sleep cycle.

2. Valerian root. Got a lot on your mind which is causing you to keep awake at night? Well this supplement will help reduce anxiety and help you relax so you can get great sleep.

3. Magnesium. Studies show most of the population lack magnesium. In order to help your muscles relax and calm your nerves take this mineral daily.

2. Stress

Yes I went there! I said the ‘s’ word. You’ve got stress bombarding you from all angles and your adrenal glands are not happy about it. The walnut-sized glands sit on top of your kidneys and their role is to manage stress levels. Be careful how you treat them as they can only take so much damage. When you are suffering from fatigue you can be sure that your adrenals are crying out for help. Overworked adrenals lessen your ability to conceive, maintain energy and perform sexually as well as maintaining sugar levels and reducing inflammation.

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How to manage stress? Start by not taking life too seriously. Stress is only your perception of what’s going on around you so the minute you realize life isn’t as bad as you make it out to be then that will help you on your way to reducing your stress levels.

3. Spending too long working out

Over the years as a fitness and well-being professional, I have seen people slave out in the gym for hours on end. I get that if you want to have your dream physique you’ve got to work hard in creating it but there is a difference between working hard and working smart. Studies by researchers show that after 45 minutes your testosterone levels drop and your cortisol levels rise which is what you don’t want considering you are looking to drop your stress levels. In reality most of us spend too long in the gym doing things that aren’t relevant to our workout. Focus on getting quality work done within the 45-minute mark. Otherwise you are placing unnecessary stress on your body and will find it harder to recover increasing your chance of fatiguing.

4. Dehydration

Considering you are a minimum of 70% water, don’t you think it would be helpful to keep up your water intake throughout the day? A lot of the time exhaustion is actually dehydration in disguise. We don’t consume near enough water as we need leaving us feeling tired, lethargic and heading for the nearest coffee machine. Your cells, just like your car need the right liquid to work so make regular stops to the gas station to get you feeling full of beans again.

How much water should you be drinking? In his book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, the leading figure in hydration, Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, recommends one liter of water per 50 pounds of body weight. I would stick to that great advice as I’ve personally seen great results off the back!

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5. Too much caffeine

This point follows on perfectly from point #4. Coffee is the most addictive drug on the planet and its high caffeine content is the cause of fatigue in most people but instead we overload thinking we are dealing with fatigue. Too much of the stuff causes the adrenal glands to overwork and feelings of tiredness and lethargy start to kick in. Its addictive qualities will have you reaching for a cuppa every time you’re feeling a little low but be warned if you’re overloading on caffeine and have a toxic diet. Expect negative effects on quality of life.

There you have it, a clear guide to what is causing fatigue and knowing what you now know you can get on with building the right strategy that fits your life to make sure you can enjoy it without feeling tired, drained and demotivated.

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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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