The Undeniable Link Between Stress And FatigueAngelique Laaks
A little stress goes a long way. Acute stress (stress that is short-lived and occasional) is actually good for us. It primes our brains for improved performance and pushes us to new heights of alertness. It also boosts cognitive and behavioural function. Chronic stress, on the other hand, has completely the opposite effect, causing brain fog, irritability, insomnia and fatigue.
It’s important to understand the difference between fatigue that’s physically induced, and that which results from stress. Physical exhaustion stems directly from something you’ve done. Perhaps you work in a physically challenging job, or you’re in training for a particularly strenuous sports event. It’s normal in these circumstances to feel tired, and it’s a choice we make. Usually, the feelings of exhaustion pass with enough rest and proper nutrition.
Stress-induced fatigue, on the other hand, is not a conscious choice. It’s mental, not physical – the result of thoughts and feelings, instead of physical exertion. It is usually linked to a chronic state of worry or anxiety over a certain situation, or situations, in your life. Whereas short-term stress is usually bearable, if painful, chronic stress takes a definite toll on your body. The danger of chronic stress is that it hurts us slowly, doing long-term damage that we don’t often see until the problem becomes severe. Stress puts a strain on your heart, immune system and digestion. It also causes debilitating tiredness or fatigue.
What Happens In Our Bodies When We’re Stressed?
In times of stress, our bodies go into what’s known as “enhanced emergency readiness mode.” This causes us to release stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, into our bloodstream. These travel quickly to those parts of our bodies needed to deal with whatever stress we’re facing.
One of the ways in which these hormones prepare us is to quickly convert glycogen (the stored form of glucose) into blood sugar so that we have plenty of energy to deal with the stressful situation. This is an ancient response that used to serve us well thousands of years ago when we were faced with very real physical dangers on an almost daily basis. Today, it can help us tackle an important test or exam more effectively, or cope with a busy day.
As long as we are in a state of stress, our bodies will continue to stay in stress-response mode. But we’re not designed to cope with continual stress. The injection of adrenaline and cortisol is supposed to help us get out of trouble in the short term. The problem with being highly stressed all the time is that being in a permanent state of emergency stress response is very bad for us.
What Is Stress-Related Fatigue?
We all feel tired every now and then. In fact, most of us feel tired every day when we come home from work. It’s our body’s way of making sure we get to bed in good time and sleep. Stress-related fatigue is very different.
One of the negative consequences of chronic stress is that it uses up our energy resources far more quickly than normal. As our body depletes its energy stores, we feel more and more exhausted. Stress-related fatigue, therefore, is when you continually feel as though you have absolutely no energy or motivation. It often becomes severe enough to negatively impact your job and home life.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Moodiness or irritability
- Becoming easily agitated
- Aching or weak muscles
- Loss of appetite
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty making decisions
What Can You Do?
Learning and practising relaxation techniques can really help to lower stress levels, and in turn, lessen your feelings of fatigue. Just 15 minutes of yoga or meditation a day, for example, can have a marked effect on your stress levels, helping you to relax and focus on taking care of you.
Eating healthily, exercising, and supplementing your diet with the nutrients you need for optimal health and wellness can also help.
Sleep is also hugely important. Even though sleeping isn’t easy when you’re stressed, you should try to make the effort to go to bed, and wake up, at the same time every day and night. This routine helps to break unhealthy sleeping habits.
You’ll find a wealth of really useful information here on how your diet, exercise and skincare routine can help reduce the effects of stress in your life. And if you’d like to make an appointment with our Natural Health Consultant Yvonne Hutchins, please contact us.