How to Handle Fatigue

How to Handle FatigueIf fatigue is more than just a casual acquaintance, you’re probably feeling tired just reading this.  You catch yourself trying to lift your whole body by your eyebrows.  Your posture slumps and your mind is foggy.

Of course we’d suggest you do Kai Chi Do to increase your energy! But we’ve also got a few other ideas for making fatigue less familiar:

First, don’t assume it’s all in your head.  Look for a physical cause.

If you snore or you’re overweight, consider getting a sleep study to check for sleep apnea.  When you have sleep apnea, you don’t get deep restful sleep because your body is continually rousing your brain just enough to remind you to breathe but not enough that you come to full waking consciousness.  In other words, you can have sleep apnea and not know it.  Snoring is sometimes an indicator – although snoring can mean other things as well so you still need the sleep study to check for apnea.  Being overweight is a risk factor for sleep apnea – meaning you are more likely to get sleep apnea if you’re carrying extra pounds.  And recent research also shows that sleep apnea makes it more difficult to lose weight – which is another great reason to get it treated.

And if you already know you have sleep apnea, but you can’t get used to sleeping with the mask, there are new gadgets available, like nose pillows and nasal patches.  Ask your sleep Dr about them.

There are several blood tests worth checking if you are tired all the time, despite a good night’s sleep:  Thyroid profile, Vitamin D level, and Hemoglobin and Hematocrit (H&H for short.  These two values are actually included in a complete blood count,  also known as CBC).

There’s a great deal of controversy about what should be considered healthy results for thyroid levels – and which thyroid tests are the best indicators.  Your thyroid is an endocrine gland.  It makes hormones.  The classic symptoms of low thyroid levels are weight gain, fatigue, and depression.  If you’re having difficulty losing extra pounds when you are eating healthy – in type and quantity of food – and also feeling drained and down, you might look to see if your thyroid is the problem.

Low Vitamin D levels also cause fatigue, and can cause muscle weakness and pain.  Vitamin D isn’t actually absorbed from sunlight – it’s actually made by your skin when it is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of sunlight.  Wearing sunscreen actually reduces Vitamin D synthesis by blocking these rays.  And very few foods are rich in D.  Fish is your best bet (especially salmon and trout), and milk – only because Vitamin D is added as a supplement.  A great place to check nutrient values of foods is the US Dept of Agriculture Nutrient Database.  Anyway, you have to ask yourself, how much salmon can a person really eat?  If you’re not getting unfiltered sunlight every day, and you’re not eating fish or milk every day, you might want to get that D level checked to see if you need a supplement.  And by the way, if you’re overweight, you’re more likely to have Vitamin D deficiency because this fat soluble vitamin might just be getting stored in your fat instead of absorbed.  I’ve talked to some people who found out their levels were critically low, and felt a major improvement in their energy levels once they got that tuned up.  There is also some question about what “good” levels are but if you’re low, you gotta start somewhere.

Hemoglobin and Hematocrit are indicators of how well your blood can carry oxygen.  And since every cell in your body needs oxygen to live, your oxygen carrying capability is really important.  When your H&H are low, you’re anemic.  You might be having shortness of breath or dizziness, especially on exertion.  The most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency but there can be other causesBest foods to eat to increase your iron levels are red meats, egg yolks, and dark green leafy vegetables.  And drink a little orange juice with that spinach salad – You absorb iron more efficiently in the presence of Vitamin C.

And by the way, if you want to give your precious body more oxygen, quit smoking, for God’s sake.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in woodsy areas, it’s a good idea to check your body for ticks. Lyme disease causes wicked, low down fatigue.  It can cause muscle pain, joint aches, and neurological symptoms such as problems with memory.  And the best success with treatment of Lyme disease occurs if you’re treated with antibiotics as quickly as possible after the bite.  You might notice a bull’s eye rash, but even if you don’t – if you’ve been romping in the woods and then get slammed with fatigue, consider that a tick might be responsible.  And I just have to say, I’ve talked to a number of people who tried to avoid the antibiotics and try “natural” methods instead, and it just prolonged their symptoms.  Sometimes, medication is the right thing to do.  Going “all-natural” shouldn’t mean you lose all common sense.

Another cause of fatigue is simple dehydration.  Are you drinking enough water?  Especially in the hot summer months?  Keep in mind that caffeine drains water from your system and increases your chances of dehydration.  (It binds to a fancy chemical called anti-diuretic hormone, making it act like a diuretic – which means it makes you pee a lot.  Alcohol is dehydrating for the same reason.)  So stay away from the coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate.  Water is better for you.  Even some of the herbal teas have caffeine so get in the habit of reading labels.

And if you’ve finished doing the body check, and you’re still dragging, it’s time to look inside.

What’s holding you down? What’s blocking the flow of all that juicy rich Life Energy you love?

This is a good time to listen to your feelings.  Don’t stuff ’em – They’re messengers.  Be honest with yourself.  If you’re dreading Mondays, consider changing jobs.  If you’re feeling unsupported in a relationship, communicate your needs.  If you’ve been in a grind, take a break.  Enjoy yourself!  Teach yourself how to relax deeply.  Have some fun.  If your thinking is the culprit,  do things that get you out of your own head – like exercise or singing or helping somebody else – or do some deliberate reaching for a single thought that feels better.  Reach out to someone who cares about you.

And, of course, Kai Chi Do will get your Energy pumping.

Photo of Gomez the dog by Hawkins IntangibleArts, retrieved from Flickr Creative Commons.