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Fatigued: These are the causes, the consequences and the solutions

Fatigued? Everyone’s tired once in a while. So you’re tired, go to bed, wake up and feel fit again. Often, our body gives us signals to tell us it would like some rest. Rest either in the form of sleep or relaxation. Is it however difficult to get out of bed in the morning? Do you have to drag yourself through the day and are you yawning all the time? All of us experience days like these every so often.

But if don’t have any energy for weeks, you might be under the weather. In order to figure out what you can do about your fatigue, you first have to identify its cause. Fatigue can have all sorts of causes. Research shows that 80-90% of people experience physical complaints as a result from stress more than once a week. This article discusses the most common complaints, for which it’s required to take action to combat the fatigue. Do you recognise these symptoms? Please contact us to start working on it right away.

The Effects of Fatigue

You can probably guess what the effects of fatigue are. We will show the symptoms later on in this article. If you recognise these symptoms, it’s important to take action. If you don’t, your fatigue could quickly turn into being overworked, and you could even experience a burnout. Both of these conditions require a long recovery period. It takes on average 6-8 weeks to recover from being overworked. Recovering from a burnout will take many times longer. The average burnout duration is 8 months, and we’ve seen cases that needed 2-3 years to recover!

Causes of Fatigue

We will describe the possible causes of fatigue below.

Insufficient Sleep

The most common cause of feeling fatigued is of course insufficient sleep. On average, people need about eight hours of sleep. Some people don’t need more than six, while others require nine hours. You will notice it during the day. If you’re tired during the day and have trouble concentrating, you might just need more sleep. You could try to go to bed and wake up at fixed times for a while.

Insufficient Sleep

Nutrition and Exercise

If sleeping isn’t the problem, nutrition and exercise could be why you’re experiencing a lack of energy. Your body needs fuel in order to function properly, so a healthy diet is really important. Start your day with a proper breakfast and make sure you have enough protein and carbohydrates. Research has shown that people who exercise multiple times a week, indicate to have more energy after six weeks.

People who work out on a regular basis also say they sleep better. Don’t instantly go for that cup of coffee if your diet and exercise don’t seem to work. Caffeine as a pick-me-up could have counterproductive effects. Caffeine shortens your sleeping time, disturbs your sleep cycle and lowers the quality of your sleep. Also make sure to not drink alcohol close before sleeping. A glass of wine before bed might help you fall asleep, but you’ll end up having a lighter sleep. F

or the same reason you shouldn’t drink more than two or three cups of coffee a day. Finally, drinking water is essential for your body to function optimally. Fatigue could indicate you’re dehydrated.

Character Traits

Certain character traits could be the cause of fatigue. Perfectionists for instance might worry a lot, which could lead to headaches and sleepless nights. If you continuously set the bar very high for yourself, you will drain your energy.

You should therefore learn to be satisfied and grant yourself some rest from time to time. Do you brood or worry a lot? Do you always fret over what other people think of you and about all the things that could happen? That consumes a lot of energy.

And it’s a shame to waste energy by worrying about things that will possibly never happen. Do you keep everything locked up? Always bottling up your feelings can make you feel very tired. Are you someone who takes work very seriously and do you work a lot? There’s definitely nothing wrong with that, but it’s however important to unwind after busy times. If you just keep going and going, you could build up so much stress and become so fatigued that you will eventually become overworked. Feeling tired is one of the major features of being overworked or burned out.

Health Complaints and being Overworked

Fatigue can of course also be caused by other physical or psychological complaints. It’s wise to consult your doctor if you suspect one or more of the following causes apply to you:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Anaemia
  • Depression
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Diabetes
  • Heart problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Iron deficiency
  • Allergies

If you don’t really know why you’re tired and you’ve been fatigued for more than three months, you should consult a medical professional.

Tired from Stress

Stress is a major factor when it comes to overtiredness. Whenever you experience stress, this means your body is in a fight or flight situation, which means constant action. The body is busy with an approaching imaginary danger. Numerous hormonal reactions take place inside the body, which will eventually cause you to feel tired. In fact, the body is overactive and looking to stockpile more reserves. That’s why you often see people lose or gain weight because of stress. Stress also impacts sports performance, your level of concentration, sleep hygiene and mental performance.

Tired from Stress

Consequences of Overtiredness

We will describe the possible effects of overtiredness below.

Bags/dark circles under the eyes

There’s a circle of fat and moisture under the eyes in order for them to turn properly. Fatigue will cause a deep, dark circle underneath the eyes, that shows even more on pale skins. The fatty tissue under the eyes will retain more moisture if you’re tired, stressed, sleep poorly or if you’ve just cried. This leads to a lighter skin, showing the blood vessels even better, which leads to even darker circles.

Painful, stinging eyes

Fatigue causes painful, stinging eyes and will give you the urge to rub them often. This is often caused by looking at the same object for a long time (a computer screen for instance). It leads to muscle contractions around the eyes, and you’ll sometimes even see little red veins in the eyeballs. Working in a dry environment with airconditioning will irritate the eyes more easily and more often.

Blurry vision

Stress and fatigue can cause blurry vision in one eye (it could also be in two eyes). Stress tenses the muscles around the eyes, which leads to a loss of vision acuity, or sharpness. This complaint usually fades as the stress or fatigue decreases. Many people don’t recognise the blurry vision as caused by stress or being overtired. Many of the people we guide however suffer from blurred vision.

Irritability

When a child is being difficult, its parents usually tell the child it has to go to bed early that day. So we actually understand that difficult or annoying behaviour and fatigue go hand in hand. Stressful situations at work or in one’s private life can lead to fatigue and mental exhaustion.

You’ll eventually end up in a vicious cycle that’s difficult to escape. You react too intensely to things and will walk on eggshells in order to avoid this, which leads to further exhaustion. This completes the cycle, because you’ll end up reacting even more intensely. Before you know it, you have a short fuse caused by fatigue. Everything will irritate you. Time to properly recover!

Irritability and fatigue

Painful joints and muscles

When you’re physically tired, the energy reserves that are normally located in the muscles are used to provide energy. When these reserves are depleted or used incorrectly, your joints and muscles become painful. Waste materials remain because the moisture drifts away, leading to painful joints. This often causes people to move differently and placing more burden (and stress) on other muscles.

If your muscles hurt because of overtiredness, it’s important to move properly (using your locomotor apparatus in the correct way) and to exercise. Physical activity will circulate your blood more quickly, so the waste materials can be disposed of.

It’s however important that you drink enough. Drinking a lot of water will thin the blood and make it easier to be pumped around your body. This speeds up the waste disposal process and will make painful muscles caused by overtiredness an ailment of the past.

No will to do anything

When you’re tired you don’t feel like doing anything. Your body wants to recover, even though you might want to keep going. It feels like you can’t get yourself to do anything, while in fact you just need to properly recover. The most important feature of people who have the right balance between energy intake and output, is that they feel like doing the things they want to do. The body will produce the right hormones to actually start these events. If you’re always lagging behind and are overtired, this turns into negative stress. So, listening to your body also means you listen to the little voice telling you whether you’re in the mood to do something or not.

Panic attacks

A panic attack means you’re suddenly anchored to the ground. You start sweating and shaking, you can barely move and you’re afraid of collapsing on the spot. Once you’ve experienced a panic attack you’re scared of having another one.

A so-called ‘trigger’ is developed that instantly leads to huge amounts of stress in your body that always ‘breaks the camel’s back’. It’s therefore common to remain very sensitive to panic attacks after they’ve had their first one. In case of panic attacks it’s often important to adopt a very healthy lifestyle in order to create a greater resilience. Complaints of fatigue sometimes resemble complaints that are seen in panic attacks, in turn creating more feelings of panic.

Panic attacks and over tired

Incorrect breathing

Being overtired often leads to incorrect breathing, which in turn can lead to feeling even more tired. Our breathing is ‘autonomous’. This means it happens on its own, so you don’t have to think about it in order to breathe. That’s great, because your night’s sleep would look a lot differently if this wasn’t the case. If you don’t think about your breathing, the respiratory centre in your brain takes care of this task.

The centre will consider the acidity and the amount of oxygen in your blood. The respiratory centre is influenced by stress and emotions. If you’re stressed, you’ll sigh a lot. If you’re scared or tense you’ll hold your breath. Once you recover from the scare, you’ll breathe a sigh. So if you’re highly stressed, anxious or experience emotional events, the respiratory centre is stimulated and you will start to breathe more quickly. Similarly your breathing will slow back down once your stress factors are resolved. This vicious cycle can only be broken by actively working on it.

Hyperventilating

When breathing incorrectly becomes a chronic condition, you could experience chronic hyperventilation. Fatigue often leads to quicker and shallower breathing, which means you inhale too much oxygen and exhale too much CO2.

This explains the feeling of light-headedness many people who hyperventilate experience. Stress and fatigue are often the causes of this condition. People often notice chronic hyperventilation much too late. We see people during coaching sessions who breathe 25 to 30 times a minute! It’s a pattern that creeps in unnoticed. Unfortunately it’s a pattern that consumes a lot of energy and is therefore a major reason for overtiredness.

Read: Hyperventilation and incorrect breathing: how do you deal wit this?

Hyperventilating

Sleeping poorly

Overtiredness can lead to trouble falling asleep. Once you’re in bed you start tossing and turning and pondering, or you awake too early in a scare. It’s also possible you wake up in the middle of the night and are no longer able to fall asleep.

Overtiredness caused by sleeping problems can be divided into two categories: internal and external factors. Internal factors take place inside the body. A head full of thoughts, too much stress, but also physical complaints including pain can cause a disturbed sleep. Think for external factors about things like noise, a tossing and turning partner or a sick child. These issues you can’t do anything about.

Difficulty concentrating

When you’re tired it’s often no longer possible to concentrate. You have no more room inside your head and it feels like your head consists of only cotton. You can simply not absorb anything anymore. The chemical responsible for this is called BDNF. You of course first have to make sure you produce less cortisol, because otherwise you’ll be fighting a running battle. The next step is making sure you have the right ‘nutrients’ to start recovery. BDNF is one of those essential substances that can promote the recovery of your nerve cells.

The following video discusses overtiredness and concentration problems:

Dreaming about peace

Once you’re overtired, you dream about intensely relaxing holidays that completely restore your energy level. You long for total relaxation and having to do absolutely nothing. Your only interests are relaxing, eating and drinking and clearing your head. Although a holiday is often a temporary solution to short-lived overtiredness, it’s wise to take structural steps if you notice you’re thinking about rest a lot. This requires effective steps in terms of behaviour and vision (we will talk more about this later on in this article).

Racking your brain

You can no longer think clearly if you’re overtired. The result? Endlessly racking your brain! Everything seems dark and black, and it’s difficult to see the good things in life. Overtiredness leads to unrealistic conceptions.

You’re no longer able to keep a healthy distance from daily events. You become overwhelmed and the negative side starts to dominate. Overtiredness can even cause depression this way. People therefore sometimes say that racking your brain is the wrong side of fantasising. It wears you out, gets you depressed and most of all doesn’t lead to anything.

Losing weight

The body tries to compensate the lack of energy by consuming additional energy. This leads to weight loss. Welcomed by some, but often unhealthy. The weight loss means you don’t receive sufficient nutrients, which actually causes you to become malnourished.

Another reason for weight loss is that the overtired body primes the muscles and gets them ready for action. Energy in the form of glycogen is stored in the muscles. This is a type of energy that can be made available super quickly (for instance in case of an emergency).

A depleted glycogen supply is characterised by a feeling of hunger, trembling sensations and feeling shaky. To athletes it feels like hitting the wall. Muscles will start to feel difficult and painful. The stockpiles of glycogen in the muscles are depleted because the fatigue continuously stimulates the muscles to be ready for action. The results are simple: a huge energy demand, which leads to weight loss if not met. In order to break this vicious cycle it’s important to consume proper foods that support the gastrointestinal tract.

losing of Gaining weight

Gaining weight

Gaining weight from being overtired is caused by people trying to replenish the energy supplies in the wrong way. Overtiredness often causes a craving for sugars. Sugars, if not used, are stored in the form of fat.

Studies on animals and humans show a relation between increased cortisol levels, a feeling of hunger, a craving for food that’s rich in carbohydrates (sugars), and/or fat, and weight gain. The biggest negative effect of cortisol is that the fat can move from the fat deposits inside the body to deep inside the belly (the infamous belly fat). This leads to ‘love handles’ around the waist in women and a ‘beer belly’ in men. So it’s actually quite straightforward how overtiredness can lead to weight gain.

Decreased performance

Work and sports performance suffer if you’re overtired. The body is empty and is unable to supply extra energy to achieve major feats. You simply ran out. When you’re tired you shouldn’t expect your body to just keep going. Whatever you or your environment tells yourself that needs to be done, listen to your body and make sure you have a healthy balance between work and rest.

From overtiredness to being overworked and burned out

If you’re not careful, overtiredness can lead to being overworked. Overtiredness is your body telling you to take it down a notch. If you ignore these signals and you just keep going, you’ll quickly end up in a chronic stressful situation or even being burned out.

Depression

If you’re overtiredness you could risk ending up in a vicious cycle. You can no longer manage to do certain things because you’re tired, so you start lagging behind and you feel like you can’t do anything anymore. Depressive feelings arise because at some point you’ll feel worthless and inferior.

burnout and tired

Overtired? This is what you can do!

If you want to stop feeling overtired all the time, it’s wise to strongly consider a number of things. In order to master overtiredness it’s important to exercise on a regular basis, eat healthy, properly unwind and sleep well, but it’s also smart to take a good look in the mirror. We’ll explain this below:

Fixing overtiredness: Exercise

By working out you naturally improve your stamina. Physical activity also starts the production of endorphin, lowering your cortisol level. Simply put, exercise leads to less stress. Working out or playing sports also positively affects the body.

It strengthens the heart and the blood vessels, improve muscle strength, and so on. By getting a move on you ‘streamline’ your body, so everything you do will consume less energy. Your sleep will also improve.

Fixing overtiredness: Diet

By adopting a healthy diet your body will receive the proper nutrients. There are numerous amazing food plans and websites out there. We actually prefer what’s normal. Just make sure you eat healthy food that nourishes the body. So you need to consume the nutrients your body has used. This replenishing is called nourishing. Proper food is like wood on a wood burner: good wood will burn for a long time and yield a lot of heat. Poor wood just leads to a lot of smoke and barely any heat.

Fixing overtiredness: Resting

Another way to fix the feeling of overtiredness is by resting. Resting in the form of sleeping, but also in the form of relaxing activities. A healthy sleep hygiene will ensure you wake up well-rested and strong. While you’re asleep you process the events of the previous day(s), so you won’t have to ponder about these as much. Relaxation allows you to keep your thoughts clear and therefore means you will be able to have a good night’s sleep again (you’re not always ‘on’).

Fixing overtiredness: Behaviour

In order to fix overtiredness it’s good to take a look in the mirror. The way you see the world is crucial for how tired you get. You’ll easily become overtired if you worry about everything. If you can choose what you want to worry about, you might get tired, but never become overtired.

It’s therefore important to always maintain control. If you lose control, you will lack autonomy. This is the primary reason people end up burned out. Out of the factors listed in this article, the behavioural factor is the most difficult one to adjust. The body is however often a reflection of your head. Whatever is going on inside your head will be noticed in your body. If you can’t sort things out in your head, you will sleep poorly, you’ll become more irritable, start lagging behind, and you’ll be susceptible to overtiredness or getting burned out. A coach can help you make positive changes in this.

Verstoorde werkrelatie werknemer

About Milltain

Milltain supports, with a team of experienced trainers, organizations in the prevention of stress and the (re) finding of work happiness in the workplace. Our training courses are aimed at managers within companies. A burnout quickly costs the organization € 70,000.

In addition to financial suffering, human suffering is great. Not only for the employee but also for close colleagues who have to deal with the blows. Before you know it you are in a negative vicious circle.

Do you want an effective approach to long-term absenteeism and increasing work pleasure? (instead of extinguishing continuous fires).

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About the author
My name is Ruud Meulenberg. Owner and founder of Milltain and Meulenberg Training & Coaching.
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