Are you feeling fatigued? Perhaps, you are overwhelmed with exhaustion to the point where you collapse on the sofa at the end of the day? Don’t worry, you are certainly not alone and there is help. According to the CDC, women are twice as likely to report being more exhausted than men. This data is old however, I think it’s fair to say the last several years have not been energizing. It’s overwhelmingly understood, women have borne the brunt of the pandemic.
Exhaustion can stem from both physical and emotional causes. We will review them below.
Physical Causes of Exhaustion
There are many reasons from a psychological standpoint that may be causing your fatigue. This list is certainly not extensive. I will cover the things I see most commonly in my clinical practice.
Your thyroid is a super gland controlling a lot of bodily processes. Approximately 12% of women will develop a thyroid disorder. Your thyroid can be either over or under-active. If you have hypothyroidism, then you may be particularly exhausted. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, depression, constipation, and constantly being colder than those around you.
The only way to definitively diagnose thyroid issues is through a blood test. If you suspect you may be suffering with hypothyroidism, ask your provider to check your TSH and T4 level. Treatment is readily available through medication and lifestyle alterations.
Vitamin D Deficiency
At least 40% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. This is also measured by a blood test. Unfortunately, the old adage about getting more sunlight does not work in many parts of the world. At our latitude in Maryland, it may not be possible. Plus, you need to consider the risks of sun exposure. Vitamin D Deficiency can cause more than just fatigue, long term it is linked to cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
The good news is that you can reverse this by taking a Vitamin D Supplement. It is a fat soluble vitamin which means you won’t “pee it out” if you take extra. Therefore, work with your provider on the right amount and have it monitored. Vitamin D also needs to be taken with food to absorb best.
Anemia is a lack of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Common reasons for anemia include iron deficiency and excessive bleeding. Women with very heavy periods are at risk of anemia. The treatment depends on the cause. A complete blood count will show anemia.
Lack of Sleep
Ok, this is really obvious. However, people don’t seem to believe that quantity and quality of sleep matters. This is evidenced by going to be way too late, playing on their phones in bed, and keeping an erratic sleep schedule. Sleep matters. Most people need between six and eight hours of sleep. It is best to keep a regular schedule. READ: don’t stay up crazy late on the weekends and then sleep in. It is ok to have some variation, just keep it within an hour of your normal week schedule. There is no fix for sleep deprivation other than getting more sleep.
Emotional Causes of Exhaustion
Oftentimes, our fatigue stems from depression, stress, overwork, or anxiety. A lot of people don’t connect physical symptoms to mental ones but our bodies can be good indicators of how we are doing emotionally.
Ongoing, constant stress is exhausting. Your body has a sophisticated stress response system housed in the Vagus nerve. You have probably heard of “flight or fight”, right? There is also “Freeze or Please”. Theres are all manifestations of the parasympathetic nervous system housed in the Vagus nerve. Essentially, when initially stressed, we jump into action. We solve the problem and function really well. However, you can only maintain this for so long. Eventually, your nervous system “collapses”. This is when you are on the couch and can’t get up. Hence, exhaustion. This is a highly simplified explanation. I’ll write more extensively about it in further posts. However, I want you to make the connection that prolonged stress will ultimately lead to exhaustion.
Depression and Anxiety
Most people think of excessive worry or a sad mood as characterizing depression and anxiety. Both are true. But, there are also physical symptoms to both conditions. Fatigue can appear in both depression and anxiety. It is incredibly rare for depression or anxiety to go away on their own. Therefore, seek treatment if you have not been feeling like yourself lately.
Ways to Get Your Energy Back
We discussed ways to correct some of the physical causes of exhaustion. See your primary care provider for a complete work up if you are experiencing fatigue for more than 2 weeks.
Improve Your Sleep
Books have been written on this subject! Here is the TL:DR version:
- Regular, consistent bedtime
- No screen time (including your phone!) for an hour before bedtime
- No caffeine after 12 noon
- No exercise too late in the evening BUT regular exercise earlier in the day can help
- Limit alcohol and tobacco
- Keep your bedroom cool
- Kick the pets out
Reduce Your Stress
If books have been written on sleep hygiene, then entire libraries could fill the stress reduction advice genre. The bottom line is that we can not often change our external situation. We only have power over our internal response. Learning new ways to see the world, along with coping skills can help. Setting boundaries is essential. Too often, we say “yes” too often. Over commitment leads to stress. Here are some ways therapists cope with stress. They name engaging in meaningful activities with people they care about go a long way.
We have been through so much in the last two years. Processing our experience can help us slow down and make sense of our experiences. I know you have heard all about mindfulness. You know why? Because it works. Mindfulness does not actually reduce stress in itself necessarily. It cues you into how you are doing so you can make changes that work for you.
This is not a simple process. Nor is it an overnight change. Consider taking some time to evaluate what you want, what makes your life meaningful, what energizes you, and what drains you.
Feeling really Burnt out and over-stressed? Join us for the RESET RETREAT May 20-May 22, 2022.