Beating Fatigue
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

Beating Fatigue

Are you feeling sluggish or run down? You might feel achy or find yourself saying, “I just don’t feel like myself.” It is no fun. These feelings are normal if you’ve just finished a stressful week at work or weathered a family crisis. It can be even more unsettling, if you don’t know what is causing it. The clinical term for this feeling is “fatigue.” It can be rooted in physical or mental challenges. Here’s what you need to know. 

Don’t take it lightly. Call your healthcare provider. Fatigue can be caused by a lot of health problems, some of which are very serious. Sleep apnea, anemia, depression, hypothyroidism, hidden urinary tract infection, Lyme disease, the flu, COVID-19, diabetes, heart disease, and allergies are just a few of the common health issues that can cause fatigue.

Your provider will recommend tests to help determine the cause of the problem and rule out conditions. They will also look at the medications you take, as some of them cause fatigue in some patients.

Once your provider has determined that your fatigue is not being caused by a major health emergency or medication, they will likely have suggestions you can use to cope with and improve the fatigue with lifestyle changes.

Target stress. If you can, try to incorporate activities that have a relaxing vibe. Many people find swimming or pool exercises soothing. Others prefer yoga, meditation, or Tai chi. Listening to music, journaling, reading, cooking, gardening, or doing anything else you enjoy helps reduce stress too. Getting out in nature or with friends can also be beneficial. If you have a difficult time reducing stress, talk therapy could be a good next step.

Adopt a sleep routine. When night falls, find a relaxing routine. Get to bed at about the same time each night and wake up at about the same time each morning. If you’re having trouble with fatigue, allow 8 – 9 hours between the times when you “head to bed” and “rise and shine.” Avoid naps, especially if they make it difficult to sleep at night.

Get active. It may seem counterintuitive, but exercise is a great way to give yourself an energy boost. Movement and fresh air just make us feel better. When we work our bodies, we optimize their performance in a way that provides more energy for doing all of the things we want to do.

Put a healthy spin on your diet. If you have been overdoing the refined carbohydrates or fried foods, it can feel refreshing and energizing to switch to leaner proteins with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You might find that it gives you more energy too.

Hydrate. Be sure to include plenty of water, fruit-infused water, herbal tea, or other unsweetened caffeine-free beverages in your diet. An over reliance on caffeine can actually leave you feeling more run down. Some doctors even recommend diminishing your caffeine slowly over 3 weeks followed by 1 month of no caffeine at all. Surprisingly, some people find that they are less tired without it. Limit alcohol too, as it can disrupt sleep patterns.

These changes will likely give you more energy.  If you are overweight, they may help you lose it, which is one of the best ways to decrease fatigue. Carrying extra pounds is literally exhausting. It puts extra strain on your heart, which can leave you feeling worn out. If you have other health problems, making these changes will likely improve those also. That’s not to say the changes are easy. Ask your healthcare provider for the sources of support that are available to you locally, and best wishes for more energy, vitality, and fun.

Norr Hashem, DO, is a primary care physician at SVMC Pownal Campus, which is part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

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