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I’m Always Tired. Is Something Wrong with Me?

Feeling tired is normal, especially if you have a busy life. But if your fatigue lasts more than a few weeks, you need to find out why.

Stress, poor diet, lack of quality sleep, a sedentary lifestyle and depression can all wreak havoc with your body’s ability to rest and recharge. You could also be suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis) is a complex illness that we are still learning about. Typically when you are tired, you can find relief through a good night’s rest. But with chronic fatigue syndrome, those feelings of exhaustion linger, regardless of how much you sleep. Look for these symptoms:

  • Your exhaustion lasts longer than six months, interfering with your ability to work, go to class and perform daily chores
  • Post-exertional malaise, with symptoms becoming worse with even mild physical exercise and lasting for hours, days or weeks
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Virus-like symptoms, including headaches, a sore throat and tender lymph nodes
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Difficulty thinking or remembering (brain fog)
  • You feel worse when moving from a sitting to standing position

It’s unclear what causes chronic fatigue syndrome, though it sometimes follows an infection or severe emotional distress. Other possible causes include an unhealthy balance in the gut microbiome, immune system problems and not getting enough oxygen and blood to muscle tissue.

Could It Be Something Else?

Constant feelings of exhaustion can have multiple causes. Typically, your doctor will first consider diet and lifestyle factors.

Are you eating a healthy diet, with fruits and vegetables, while limiting red meat? Consuming too much caffeine can cause you to crash midway through your day with exhaustion. Are you exercising at least 20 minutes a day? Are you getting seven or eight hours of sleep at night?

There’s also your emotional health. Depression, anxiety and stress can force your body into a constant state of tension, leading to both mental and physical exhaustion.

Other potential causes include iron deficiency anemia, thyroid issues, low vitamin levels and a wide range of other medical conditions, including fibromyalgia and kidney disease.

Treating Fatigue

If fatigue is affecting your quality of life or making it difficult to work, you should speak to your primary care doctor. As with many conditions, a healthy diet and adequate exercise will go a long way toward increasing your energy levels.

You may also find relief by achieving a healthy weight, getting your stress under control (with yoga or meditation, for example) and avoiding alcohol.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome. Treatment revolves around managing the symptoms so that you can resume your normal life. These strategies include:

Sleep: The first option often focuses on making sure you are getting good rest from your sleep. You may benefit from a regular sleep routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. Other strategies include limiting your naps to 30 minutes or less, using your bedroom only for sleep or sex and avoiding large meals, alcohol and caffeine before bed.

Medication: Various medications are available to treat your symptoms. These include over-the-counter drugs for managing pain. Antidepressants may help with sleep, pain and fatigue. Antivirals may be used if you have an infection.

Activity management: Paying more attention to your rest and activity patterns can help with post-exertional malaise. The goal of this pacing is to figure out how much you can exert yourself before trigging an increase in your symptoms. Understanding your limitations will help you plan your daily activities to get the most out of your energy reserves.

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