Do you wake up every morning just as tired as you were when you went to bed? Do you feel so mentally and physically exhausted that it’s difficult to make yourself do anything at all? If you’re suffering from constant fatigue, it’s a sign that your body’s normal systems are being disrupted.
There’s no reason to try to push through or ignore it. If you’ve tried to get more sleep, reduce stress and change your lifestyle— but you’re still relentlessly tired — your fatigue deserves to be taken seriously. Fatigue tends to snowball, gradually worsening, until you feel like a hamster stuck on an exercise wheel — exhausted and losing steam but not getting anywhere.
The Effects of Constant Fatigue — It’s More Than Being Tired
Unfortunately, women often ignore their increasing fatigue until it leads to other symptoms. By that time, the side effects of fatigue may become nearly constant. They include:
- Feeling exhausted (mentally and physically)
- Being tired even after sleep
- Inability to bounce back from illness
- Joint pain
- Poor short-term memory, confusion, irritability
- Food cravings (particularly for sweets/carbs)
- Getting a “second wind” after 6:00 PM that interferes with your ability to sleep later on
The key is not to dismiss your mild symptoms of fatigue when you first notice them. Instead, take the first step and figure out the cause of your fatigue.
What Are Common Underlying Causes of Fatigue?
I always pay close attention when any woman tells me she’s exhausted — even if it’s her only symptom. Fatigue is debilitating and discouraging because it can interfere with every aspect of your life — even the fun things.
For women, fatigue is often related to an underlying issue in the endocrine system. What’s more, one endocrine imbalance may be affected by another — such as over stressed adrenal glands intensifying symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
There may be other contributing factors as well, including: chronic inflammation, food allergies and chemical sensitivities, Lyme disease or the other factors. And fatigue can also result from the combination of several of these factors. Working with a functional medicine practitioner can help you get to the root of your fatigue.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is distinct from the types of fatigue we discuss here. CFS refers to severe, continued tiredness that is not relieved by rest and does not appear to be directly caused by other medical conditions. For more information, read our article, “Chronic Fatigue – Get Your Energy Back!” and our many other articles in our Insomnia and Fatigue section.
When Fatigue Takes Over: One Woman’s Experience
Daniela, 33, somehow manages to keep up with her hectic life. She’s always busy in her job as an office manager, coordinating the activities of her two young sons, and training for a 5K race. But lately, she can’t seem to fall asleep at night and wakes up to scribble “to do” lists. And during the day, she’s having trouble focusing.
What’s Causing Daniela’s Fatigue?
When women who are always on the go suffer from fatigue, I look for an underlying adrenal imbalance.
Adrenal imbalance is caused by constant, long-term stress — even “good” stress, such as exercise or other activities you enjoy.
Stress puts your adrenal glands on alert and they release cortisol in response. This constant “on” position overworks your adrenal glands — resulting in fatigue and other symptoms, including anxiety, hair loss, and weight gain.
High cortisol levels also directly affect your ability to sleep. Normally, cortisol is highest in the morning and then declines as you get nearer bedtime. For women with fatigue, this curve is often reversed. High levels of cortisol at night mean your circadian rhythm is awry.
Some women with adrenal imbalance feel exhausted during the day but may get a second wind at night, or they sleep soundly for several hours only to wake up at 3:00 AM with their minds racing.
What Can Daniela Do?
Cutting stress from your life is often difficult to do — but it’s one of the most valuable fatigue reducers. And, if you can’t eliminate stress, you can try to reduce its effects by thinking about how you might approach recurring stressful events differently.
I might also suggest Daniela cut back on her exercise routine, as well as taking a look at what and when she is eating. Both of these steps support healthy adrenal function.
If you think stress may be causing your fatigue, take our Adrenal Health Quiz to learn more.
What’s Your Experience with Fatigue?
Fatigue is your body’s way of calling for support. You have many genuine options to choose from, beginning with the least invasive natural approaches that can effectively resolve your symptoms and rebalance your body.
Fatigue — mild, moderate or severe — can be resolved completely for most women, and you can be one of them. Now, just imagine what you’ll do with all that energy!