What is Fatigue and What Can You Do about It?

First of all, when addressing fatigue, we need to rule out any type of virus or other physical illness and your doctor can assess that. Many factors can cause fatigue and self-assessment is not advisable. Fatigue can appear as both physical and mental symptoms.

There is chronic fatigue (also called M.E., more on that later) which requires careful investigation by a medical professional, and there is temporary fatigue which can happen as a result of a stressful time or other factors like lack of sleep.

fatigue  fəˈtiːg/noun: extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.

This is the main dictionary definition of fatigue. Symptoms can vary from feeling constantly tired, to having troubles sleeping and getting aches and pains in the body.

Fatigue is not a recent phenomenon: as you can see from this graph, fatigue has been plaguing human beings for centuries. Maybe the definition of fatigue has evolved over the years, but my suspicion is that when artists in the 1700s-1800s talked about “ennui”, it was likely to be a condition verging on depression and fatigue. “Ennui” is defined as a sense of dissatisfaction and boredom; the term originated in the 1660–70s in the French language to mean  boredom.

Looking at the graph, and as it is to be expected, fatigue is mentioned several times in books published during the two World Wars, with a significant decline in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since then, fatigue has been mentioned more frequently, possibly because of economic conditions and quality of life having improved after the war.

You see, I had made the assumption that fatigue was a recent phenomenon. Modern life tends to make us stressed with the constant pressures of work and family and an “always on” mentality. It turns out that fatigue is potentially one of those human conditions that have accompanied us for centuries.

What can you do when you are suffering from fatigue?

You can combat temporary fatigue mainly through a healthy diet and exercise.

For example, you could try the following:

  • gentle exercise including yoga and walking
  • have more water throughout the day, as dehydration can cause fatigue
  • ensure you get enough sleep at night (try switching off all electric devices at least an hour before bed)
  • cut down on stimulants like caffeine
  • increase your intake of antioxidants like berries and citrus fruit
  • get regular massage treatments – choose something soothing and relaxing like manual lymphatic drainage, myofascial release or Swedish massage

Chronic Fatigue or M.E.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is a chronic condition characterised by constant fatigue.

Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing a sense of fatigue that you cannot shift even with plenty of rest and sleep.

This condition can affect anyone, from children to adults, and is characterized by muscle pain and constant tiredness. Although there is currently no clear explanation of how this condition develops, contributing factors can be:

  • a viral infection
  • a compromised immune system
  • a hormones imbalance
  • an extremely stressful situation
  • anaemia
  • insomnia
  • sleep apnea
  • thyroid problems

If you are suffering from fatigue, try changing your lifestyle at first; if that is not helping, speak to a medical professional before the condition becomes chronic.

Image courtesy of marin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net