Fighting Fatigue

fatigue cartoonHave you ever woken up feeling very tired?! That statement seems like a contradiction. You will expect that after a full night’s rest, one should wake up fully invigorated and prepared to go through the day ahead. Yet, I woke up just feeling that way this morning! I woke up feeling very tired.

For a couple of months now, work concerns kept me on the road. It has been a time of unbelievable traffic hold-ups, noise and pollution of all kinds, a hectic schedule, and watching out for the ubiquitous “okada” riders.  Whether you are a driver of a vehicle or a pedestrian, the fear of okada, is the beginning of wisdom for a safe journey.

The whole situation caught up with me a few days ago when I woke up after sleeping for 7 hours still feeling tired! I wonder how many people living in the metropolis woke up everyday feeling that way. Fatigue (especially longstanding) is a cause of many non-specific symptoms and complaints given in many consulting rooms worldwide. We will be looking at fatigue today as a enemy of productivity.

Are you tired all the time?

Please take time to think and answer that question. Do you feel tired all the time? Some days are you so low on energy that you’re drowsy by lunchtime and in need of a nap by mid-afternoon.

While acknowledging the power of the environment one lives in (as in my own recent experience; I felt my fatigue was due to the change in environment), most of the time, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines. You still have the power to put the vitality back in your life. Stress, poor eating habits, overwork, even medical treatments can wear you down and cause fatigue.

Know the “Enemy”

Sun Tzu said in his all time classic, “The Art of War” that, “… If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Taking a good of the things that might be responsible for your fatigue is the first step toward relief. Fatigue can have a variety of lifestyle causes, including (but not limited to):

  • Lack of sleep.  We looked at this a little last month. Sleep is a powerful and important part of life. We now know that sleep is important for problem solving and memory. It may be a costly mistake to go for an exam without getting adequate sleep. Getting even an hour less than the sound slumber you need each night can leave you drowsy and unable to manage your daily routine. You may not go to bed early enough. Or more likely, you go to bed but can’t sleep well. As you get older, it becomes harder to get uninterrupted sleep. You sleep less soundly. You awaken earlier. You may start experiencing fatigue constantly.
  • Stress and anxiety. If you’re running from one task to the next without a break, it’s eventually going to wear you down. Body no be wood! Going through life anxious and on edge can keep you from relaxing and getting the rest you need.
  • Inactivity. You’re too tired to exercise, so you don’t. But then when you do exert yourself, you tire easily because you’re out of shape. That is the paradox of inactivity that leads to even more inactivity. We know that engaging in moderate physical activity for a half-hour or longer most days of the week may decrease stress, improve mood and leave you feeling energized. Ignore that lift and use the stairs. Rather than taking the car to that appointment on the next street, walk there. Buy an exercise equipment at home. It could even be something as simple as a manual bicycle ergometer. Don’t buy one just for decoration. Buy it and use it.
  • Eating habits. I say to people, “you are what you eat”. If you’re not eating properly or drinking enough fluids, your body isn’t getting the fuel and fluid it needs. You need 3 liters of water daily if you live in the tropics. In fact, Mild dehydration is one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue.
  • Certain medications. Some medications, including antihistamines (commonly found in cold, catarrh and cough medicines), and many beta blockers (used for treating some heart conditions) can cause fatigue. In addition, some cold medications and pain relievers contain caffeine and other stimulants that can keep you up at night and hence make you somnolent the next day.

What to do

To beat fatigue, try these tips:

Reduce stress

Take some of the pressure out of your day. Learn to say no. Set priorities. Then organize your activities so that you avoidfatigued man confusion. Pace yourself. Put aside time each day to do something you enjoy. Take a midday stroll, or get up 15 minutes earlier to give yourself more time to start your day.

Manage workplace tension

On-the-job aggravation can add to work-related fatigue. Sit down and try to resolve conflicts with co-workers. Become better acquainted with your boss and clarify what he or she needs from you. Be realistic about your limitations. Take time out to get up from your desk and stretch for a few moments several times a day. All these are proven to help.

Be active

Life is all about motion. Try to include at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity in your day. Don’t worry about doing a full workout all at once — start with 10 minutes of activity at a time. Whether you walk, garden or swim, once you get moving, you’ll likely notice you have more stamina. While 30 minutes is the minimum recommendation, you may need up to an hour of moderate activity daily to maintain fitness and a healthy weight.

Eat well

You are what you eat! Take time to eat wholesome complete meals. Make fruits and vegetables a constant staple of your daily diet. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and other antioxidants that will help your body repair itself and fight off diseases.

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system and acts as a sedative, making you tired for hours after consuming no more than only a drink or two. It may also disrupt your sleep, if you drink just before bed.

Drink Enough Water

Water is life. Drinking minimum of 3 liters of water everyday will help keep your body adequately hydrated and would not only help you fight fatigue but also can put at bay urolithiasis, constipation, exercise asthma, gout, urinary tract infections, hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease, venous thromboembolism, cerebral infarct and bronchopulmonary disorders.  Even cancer of the large intestine has been linked to inadequate water intake.

Please drink up. It may just save your life!

Practice good sleep habits

Avoid eating, reading or watching TV in bed. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet. And set your alarm for the same time each day — the routine can help you establish a regular sleep schedule. Naps are OK, but keep them short and early in the day. Schedule workouts at least six hours before bedtime. Small snacks may help you drift off, but large late-night meals can keep you up. If you can’t sleep, don’t toss and turn, go into another part of the house and read or relax until you feel drowsy.

Where your doctor comes in

Sudden or persistent fatigue, despite adequate rest, may mean it’s time for you to consult your doctor. Unrelenting exhaustion may be a sign of an underlying medical problem. In general, talk to your doctor if you’re extremely tired or unable to regain your energy after several weeks of increased rest. Medical causes of fatigue are many some important causes include:

This is what is commonly referred to by lay people as “low blood level”. This blood disorder results from a number of problems that affect your blood’s ability to transport oxygen, causing fatigue.

Fatigue can be a symptom of cancer. A thorough checkup, including routine cancer screenings, can help rule out malignancy as a cause of your fatigue.

A loss of energy that’s accompanied by any number of symptoms, including sadness, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, a lack of interest in pleasurable activities, and difficulty concentrating may be a part of depression. This is quite common in our environment due to our peculiar socioeconomic terrain and in my own opinion the gradual shift of our society and families from the communal and extended family setup to the nuclear, “On Your Own” (OYO) setup. The presentation of depression in a consulting room can range from the sublime to the bizarre. However a large number of people that with the condition will opt not to be treated so as not to be labeled “MAD”.

Extreme fatigue can be a warning sign of diabetes. Signs and symptoms of diabetes, in addition to fatigue, include excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision and recurring infections e.g. boils.

Prescription or over-the-counter medications may cause fatigue or make you too restless to sleep well. Antihistamines, cough and cold remedies, some antidepressants, and many other drugs may make you tired. Talk to your doctor if you suspect your medications are making you tired.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

You have probably met many people with this condition. It is characterized by an inability to keep your legs still and by tingling or aching sensations in your legs, feet or arms. The symptoms generally occur at night, preventing sound sleep.

Sleep apnea

This is also a common disorder. Some people erroneously mistake disorder as a good sign of a “sweet” lovely sleep. In the Nigerian setting, if you want to describe how deep and well someone is asleep, you describe it by how much he/she is snoring. Signs of this disorder include loud snoring, pauses between breaths as well as awakening frequently while gasping for air. It’s a common source of fatigue because it interferes with sound sleep. Losing weight and quitting smoking may help, as well as an adjustment in sleeping position. Lying on your side or facedown may reduce snoring.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

fatigue blokeChronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that doesn’t improve with bed rest and may worsen with physical or mental activity. Of all chronic illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome is one of the most mysterious. It is a diagnosis of exclusion i.e. the diagnosis is made after all possible causes of fatigue has been looked for and no cause is found.

Severe and debilitating fatigue, muscle aches and difficulties concentrating are the most commonly reported symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. In some cases, low-grade fevers and swollen lymph nodes also may develop.

Take a vacation and go and enjoy yourself and your family. That may just be tonic you need to invigorate yourself.

I look forward to hearing your questions and feedback.

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