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Fatigue is an extreme feeling of tiredness, weakness or low motivation.
It’s not the same as ‘being a bit sleepy’ after a party or ‘temporarily overwhelmed’ after a big day at work. Instead, it relates to a deeper struggle. It impairs your ability to function in the world for a prolonged period.
Fatigue is a symptom, rather than a disease itself. Physical, psychological, lifestyle and/or environmental factors can trigger it. This means there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for fatigue. The remedy is different for each person.
The two most common types are:
Relates to an overwhelming sense of exhaustion in the physical body. It’s when energy levels are low, you’re constantly tired, and it’s hard to move even the smallest amount. It’s common for physical fatigue to lead to mental fatigue.
Refers to a decreased ability to perform mental tasks. It occurs when activities that once required little thought become difficult. They feel cumbersome and you’re unable to perform them efficiently. It usually involves feelings of sleepiness and a lowered attention span. Mental fatigue often contributes to physical fatigue.
Both types of fatigue can contribute to the various stages of fatigue symptoms.
It’s difficult to fully participate in life when you have fatigue symptoms.
Your work, school and social life can be negatively affected. Not because you don’t want to partake, but because you feel incapable. Mustering the physical and/or emotional energy to gather with others, or even visit the supermarket, can feel impossible.
Signs of fatigue that are extreme and unexplainable, e.g. chronic fatigue syndrome, are most disruptive. It often results in the person feeling helpless. They may also withdraw from society because interacting becomes so difficult.
These celebrities have suffered with chronic fatigue syndrome:
Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Experts suggest his extreme tiredness and weakness triggered ‘burnout’. This likely resulted from his gruelling touring schedule.
Blake Edwards, writer of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, struggled with extreme fatigue for 15 years. He spoke about his struggles in the film I Remember Me.
It’s also believed that Florence Nightingale had chronic fatigue syndrome.
Apparently, she developed it after returning from the Crimean War in the 1850s. Her work as a nurse, during that time, was so draining that she was housebound for years afterwards. She even found it difficult to talk with visitors in her home. International Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Day is celebrated each year on her birthday – May 12th.
Fatigue signs and symptoms include:
Physical: Low energy, chronic tiredness or sleepiness, sore muscles, muscle weakness, headache, poor appetite, reduced immunity, slow reflexes, impaired hand-to-eye coordination, blurry vision, digestive upsets.
Psychological: Brain fog, poor concentration, low attention span, short-term memory problems, confusion, apathy, low motivation, impaired decision-making skills, irritability.
Treatment for fatigue needs to be individualised for each person and related to the initial cause/s. Common treatments include:
If you’re wondering what causes fatigue, the answer is unique for everyone. Common causes of persistent low energy include:
Here are some natural, drug-free ways to minimise the signs of fatigue:
Sleep is essential for treating fatigue, as it’s when the body’s innate healing intelligence is most effective. Aim for a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Note that people with fatigue often need more sleep, so don’t be shy to take naps or go to bed early if you need to.
Gentle Exercise, such as walking or yoga, helps to build physical and mental energy. Research has found that striking a balance between rest and gentle exercise can speed up fatigue recovery.
A Nutrient-rich Diet that includes lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains is imperative for people with fatigue. Drinking at least 1.5 litres of water daily is important too. Together, this nourishes and hydrates the body. It also ensure toxins are flushing toxins and blood is circulating well.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often used to treat fatigue symptoms. It involves working with a psychologist to identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. Then, strategies to replace them are created.
Supplements can help boost physical and mental vitality. Popular options include B-Complex vitamins, Magnesium and Ginseng.
Acupuncture can help lift energy levels and decrease muscle pain. It’s also a great way to stimulate the release of feel-good hormones.
The following health experts can help treat fatigue:
Here are 3 things you can do to support someone who’s struggling with low energy:
What is the main cause of fatigue?
Fatigue is often caused by unhealthy habits or routines, such as lack of exercise or eating lots of highly-processed foods. In this instance, making appropriate lifestyle changes can rectify the problem.
It’s important to note that persistent low energy can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition. This is why it’s best to see a health professional if you have persistent fatigue.
What are the symptoms of fatigue?
What does fatigue feel like?
Fatigue refers to having low energy and motivation levels. Physically, having persistently low energy can make it difficult for you to perform everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, shopping, socialising. Mentally, this can lower your interest in life, and make you feel confused and moody.
When should you worry about fatigue?
If your fatigue persists for more than 2 weeks, it’s best to visit your health professional for a thorough check up.