Constant Tiredness: its Causes and Cures
Tiredness - the Symptoms
Tiredness used to be a complaint that followed a night of poor sleep or a day’s hard graft. But some time ago, I reached a point where I was always tired. I threw my hands in the air at least once a day and said those immortal words: “I’m tired, so tired”. It is not a good way to be. When you are always tired, you lose the enthusiasm for everything. Routine work becomes more difficult and learning anything new becomes nigh on impossible. Activities that once filled you with joy now evoke nothing but a yawn – and that is not the worst news.
You no longer wake up in the morning, excited and delighted to be facing a new day. You snarl at friends and family without meaning to. You begin to avoid all occasions of socialising, partly because you can’t face the challenge of meeting people and partly because you don’t want to run the risk of your ill humour ruining established friendships. The little things that once filled you with pleasure; going shopping, a trip to the theatre or a trip to someplace like the sea, leave you unmoved. There just doesn’t seem to be any point in the effort involved because you will end up, of course, even more tired. When you get to this stage, you really need to look at what is causing your fatigue.
Staring at the ceiling....
Tiredness and its causes
Fatigue can be the symptom of an entire range of illnesses, from ME , thyroid deficiency and diabetes to the onset of clinical depression. A visit to a GP should clear you of having more serious illness. With a clean bill of health, it was time for me to look at my lifestyle more closely. Initially, I could find no flaws. I spent the obligatory eight hours in bed – more at the weekends. A deficiency of iron in the blood can cause tiredness, but this was ruled out as well. I wasn’t under undue personal or emotional stress. The breakthrough came when a friend advised me to take up a new pastime and I decided against it because I had, (I reckoned) too much to do already – hah! That was my eureka moment.
We live in a world that is filled with things to do, both inside and outside of work. We juggle employment with family commitments, dates with friends and lovers plus keeping up with other interests or “hobbies”. Daily, there are emails to check and texts to answer. Information screams at us, in a stream of bright colours and loud noises from every computer and television screen – enough to leave the healthiest person an exhausted wreck. As if this wasn’t enough, we feel bound to keep “keep connected” on social media. Linking with possible work contacts can be a good thing but maintaining Facebook, Linked In and Twitter accounts is a drain on time and energy. In our most private moments, we are surrounded by a plethora of gadgets vying for attention, with the line between the personal and the professional becoming ever more blurred.
Writing for an array of clients, sending out client pitches and marketing, and working on speculative projects had left me feeling that I was on an eternal treadmill. There came the day that I simply felt unable to do anything but lie in bed and let my eyes rove over the ceiling. My mind had simply shut down and was saying, no more, thanks. I need a break.
Have you ever suffered from constant tiredness?
Resting and Recuperation
Even the strongest of minds is a fragile entity that can snap when stretched too often and too far. In this life, we are so conditioned to equate “resting” with “laziness” that we cannot grasp that a tired mind needs to recuperate occasionally before moving forward. Yet, we fully accept the concept of an automobile resting in its garage or an aeroplane in its hangar between bouts on the road and in the air. However, our minds are more finely tuned and fragile than these very powerful machines. Here, I am not knocking the modern world; technology is a great and wonderful thing, but the brains that organize and run it all are the most important engines of all – but back to the ceiling.
Something about the restful activity of scrutinising all of the details over my head that I had never noticed before had curative powers. I began to notice the small uneven-esses in the plaster-work, the dustwebs that I hadn’t had time to clean, and small ornamentations that led to my wondering about the origin of the building. In the longer term, it became the basis of a feature on architecture – but I had to recover first. Slowly, I became aware of other details of my surroundings. I noticed the texture of the carpets and flooring. I woke up to sounds and sensations that I hadn’t registered in a long, long time, the water running into the bath and its temperature – it had always been too hot – and the tang of cooking breakfast – it really was a case of waking up and smelling the coffee. As my recovery gathered pace, I became able to focus on print and began to read about meditation.
Awareness or mindfulness is the essence of meditation – just think of that word “mind-fullness”. Many people go through days so full of things to do and deadlines to meet that they barely register the sensations around them. We call this state running around like a headless chicken. There is much truth in this rather amusing cliché, however, since the “headless chicken” really is akin to losing one’s mind.
I discovered that my growing awareness was actually a meditative state, one that was advancing my recovery. Previously, I had lost touch with my immediate surroundings. My focus was eternally on a client deadline later in the day or week, expending a load of energy on imagining what terrible thing might happen if I missed it. Not only was this making me more tired, I constantly ignored vital signals of heat and cold, hunger and thirst, indeed, refusing to attend to any need that might slow down the progress of the work. In the longer term, prevention is better than cure and I needed to develop a strategy to avoid getting to that stage of fatigue again.
Scary facts about fatigue
- A woman needs to sleep, on average, one hour longer than a man.
- Sleep deprivation can leave a person open to clinical depression.
- Some of the world's most notorious accidents, for example, Chernobyl, have been attributed to human error due to fatigue.
The road to recovery
Adjustment is vital – this is where mindful-ness comes into play. If you feel tired every morning, you are most likely not getting enough sleep. When you feel tired during the day, stop what you are doing and rest. Do not work through extremes of hunger and thirst, cold or heat but adjust whatever it is in your environment that is causing the problem. Put on extra clothing or shed excess garments. Take all available work breaks, even if you do not, at this point, feel fatigued. Here, you may have a problem with work colleagues who see attending to these human needs as a sign of weakness. However, you just have to learn to ignore them since it is better to be healthy than “cool”.
Really stressed-out people may need to take an interval away from work and family. Finding time to do it is not always easy, of course, but a since a sound mind is a tenet of good health, the effort does pay off. Hire a babysitter, check into a quiet hotel for a few days; whatever it takes.
Pay attention to the immediate environment. There exist the results of numerous studies to show that the immediate environment plays a huge role in stress. This is not just with regard to obvious factors like cold and heat but with matters like the sights, sounds and smells in your surroundings. Colours like blue, pink and green are restful and calming, while red and yellow can needlessly excite and agitate the brain. If you can’t choose the colour of the office you work in, create collages of restful colours on computer drawing software. Print off and surround your desk with the images, or email them to your smartphone. When you feel stressed out, concentrate on them. By the same token, listen to calming sound collages and pieces of music – during one of your breaks? – download from numerous music sites online. Wear a favourite perfume daily or keep a vial of scented oil – lavender is good – to sniff when you need it.
Set aside a daily “stress corridor”. This is the interval, as early in the day as possible and usually one to three hours in length, in which you deal with all of those irritating and mundane tasks and possibly, people, that cause your throat to constrict and steam to pump from your ears. This will leave you free later on to concentrate on the more creative, challenging and stimulating projects, tasks that leave you with a feeling of real achievement. It may not be possible to ring-fence your day entirely, but controlling at least part of the day should make an improvement. If you find that you cannot control any area of the day, it could be that you are in the wrong job.
Be ready to embrace change. The notion of “change” fills many people with alarm, whether in regard to career or relationships. No matter how pleasant the prospect of a new and better life is, it is all too easy to baulk at the messy rites of passage that moving on involves, whether it involves a course of study or a change in behaviour. Whatever you decide to do, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Social networking has never been easier; for example, why not reach out to other local people who are addicted to work, and set aside a day in the week for doing something “silly”, going to the beach in summer and snowboarding in winter? A stressed-out person I know did this and I have never seen her so happy.
Whatever you do, it is important to remember that constant tiredness is not “one of those things”. It is not healthy, not desirable, not a sign of “achievement”. You do not have to accept and put up with it – you would not ignore a constant pain from a vital organ, now would you? It is a miserable, life-sapping condition that robs you of happiness, health and ultimately wealth. Resolve to conquer it, today.