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Fatigue – what is your body trying to tell you?

Do you ever feel like you are exhausted before your day even begins?

Caucasian woman sleeping on desk with head on hands.

Fatigue is our bodies way of telling us that we need to slow down. Like the gas light blinking when your car is running low on gas, fatigue tells us when our body is running low on energy. Energy comes from the food we eat, but we can also get energy boosts in other ways.

What causes fatigue?

  1. Lack of sleep – The amount and quality of our sleep matters. Ideally, we need to have a good nights sleep of between 6-8 hours for our bodies to heal and recuperate. For those with sleep apnea, insomnia or even something as simple as a newborn baby interrupting the sleeping cycle, the quality and quantity of sleep may be jeopardised.
  2. Inactivity – Think about how you feel when you are sitting down all day compared to when you are doing something active. Remaining sedentary brings our heart rate down and our metabolism to a crawl. Our body’s nervous system hits the “conserve power” button, activating the parasympathetic nervous system known as “rest and digest”.  Even though we are in energy saving mode, it can feel like we aren’t firing on all cylinders.
  3. Stress – A little stress can give us a burst of adrenaline from our sympathetic nervous system but high levels of stress for prolonged periods causes our bodies to be hypersensitive and on high alert. Our “fight or flight” system is great in moments of danger or potential risk but running on all cylinders is not a sustainable state, you are likely to physically, mentally or emotionally burn out.
  4. Diet – Not eating regularly or enough nutritious food can take a major toll on our energy stores. Fatigue is also a common side effect from some vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including vitamin C, D and iron.
  5. Dehydration – Our bodies are composed of up to 60% water so it’s no surprise that we feel a little sluggish when we forget to hydrate.
  6. Conditions – Many conditions present with fatigue as a  symptom such as hypothyroidism, depression, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  7. Medications – Side effects of many medications can be fatigue, drowsiness or even insomnia which is no big deal if you are only using these for a small amount of time but if you require ongoing prescriptions these symptoms can be debilitating!

What can we do to fix it? 

  1. Exercise – Incorporating exercise into your day causes an increase thumbnail_largein your metabolic rate. As we move, our body starts increasing our heart rate, waking up all our muscles and will eventually signal our fat cells (which store our excess energy) to start converting the stored energy into usable fuel. If you only have a few minutes, try to get up and walk across the office, perform a few squats at your standing desk or even just sneak in some quick stretches to get your blood flowing!
  2. Increasing the Quality of Your Sleep – Make sure that you eat a healthy dinner a few hours before you hit the hay so that you will be comfortably digested. Limit your fluid intake so that you won’t have to wake in the night to empty your bladder. Try to refrain from using screens directly before bed, opting for a book or meditation.
  3. Proper Nutrition – Avoid processed foods, eating a healthy diet full of colourful fruits and vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins. For more details visit our local nutritionists from the Proactive Health Network, Krys and Bonnie’s blog on nutrition and fatigue.
  4. Hydration – Water contributes to many processes of the body: acting as a lubricate, shock absorber, conductor, helps regulate our body temperature, just to name a few. Remaining hydrated with water as well as electrolytes, which are conductive chemicals including potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium, ensures that our heart, nerve and muscle tissues are able to communicate with the rest of the body. You can find electrolytes in a variety of foods such as bananas, yoghurt, spinach, or table salt respectively.
  5. Strategies to Manage Stress – Stress begins with an overload of the mind but slowly overloads our body tissues as well presenting as physical pain and dysfunction. Calming and clearing your mind is the best way to manage stress. Going for walks, try a yoga class or meditation can be great ways to start sifting through the build-up of life administration. If you don’t take a little time for yourself now, stress can lead to burning out later.
  6. Monitor conditions – Speak to your family GP if you had started experiencing fatigue or constant exhaustion that is not associated with any other lifestyle or work changes.
  7. Reassess medication list – Visit your family GP if you are experiencing abnormal levels of fatigue. You may need to revisit your medication list and update some of your prescriptions.

Call Hands on Health Care at (02) 9949-3017 or book online at www.handsonhealthcare.com.au


August 10, 2018
Katie MacRae