What is fatigue and how is it different from simply being tired?

I particularly liked this definition: “Fatigue is a daily lack of energy; unusual or excessive whole-body tiredness not relieved by sleep.” And then there’s COVID fatigue. This can leave people feeling dull and finding it difficult to concentrate and recall memories. Fatigue is very common after viral infections, such as COVID and normally it settles after 2 or 3 weeks. However, in some people it can linger for weeks or months.

First of all, if you have an issue with fatigue, whatever you are doing, it’s important to listen to your body. Take notice of the messages it’s giving you rather than pushing through and ignoring the symptoms.

• Do you always have coffee in the morning?
• Are you constantly reaching for sweet treats to keep you going?
• Are crisps your go-to snack or is it chocolate?
• Stuck in a rut with food?
• Do you suffer with stress?
• Been to the doctor and they say you’re ok, but you know you’re not?

What is your body trying to tell you?

All of these are symptoms of fatigue. If you are feeling one or more of these then it’s time to take notice, don’t battle on, it will only get worse.

• Feeling tired or drained most of the time
• Your body feels like you’ve done a 5-mile run through treacle
• You just want to lie down, everything aches and feels heavy
• Constantly feeling overwhelmed
• Feeling lonely and lacking support even though people are there for you
• You struggle to stay positive
• Finding it hard to get motivated or focus on even the smallest of tasks
• Not managing stress in the way that you used to
• Even though you’re exhausted you can’t actually sleep

Everybody experiences fatigue in a different way, some people get headaches, others have gut issues, you might have hormone issues (men and women) or blood sugar problems, you may have been running on adrenaline and your body just can’t keep up with that any more. Whatever it is it’s vital to listen.

There are too many issues for me to mention here but the ideas below are there to support your body and give it a chance to recover. It is also important to talk to a professional and get help, particularly if you’ve tried everything and you’re not recovering the way you would like. Let’s chat.

What can you do to help yourself?

These are things you can do at any time of life whether you are feeling tired and on the edge or just need a bit of a reset because of a new job or a new relationship, a new baby, a new house etc.

1. Rest – Awareness is key. If your body is “jangly” you need to rest. This doesn’t mean you have to go to bed, even a 10-minute rest lying flat will calm your nervous system. If you can’t lie flat then find somewhere you can do some quiet breathing. If all else fails go to the toilet and take 5 minutes of time out.

2. Drink plenty of water – I know, this is super simple but absolutely vital. You only need to lose 1.5% of your body water to be dehydrated.

My suggestions are:

• A glass of water when you wake up

• A glass of water before each meal

• Another glass mid-morning and mid-afternoon

• Carry a water bottle with you when you’re out

• Always ask for water (as well as what you are drinking) when you are out

3. Eat regular meals that contain protein, vegetables and healthy carbohydrates in equal amounts – don’t let your blood sugar get too low as this can cause the body to produce stress hormones which will make you more tired later.

4. Keep alcohol to a minimum – if you are drinking, try to have alcohol with a meal, if not then have a protein-based snack with your drink. This slows down the release of sugar into your bloodstream which means you are less likely to have a drop in blood sugar later (see comment below about low blood sugar).

5. Get some blood tests – and if you are told they are normal, ask someone else to look at them!

6. Talk to someone who really ‘gets’ fatigue. That person could be me so let’s have that chat!