What’s going around this month….. Fatigue and Stress
Welcome to the December 2011 issue of the Health Matters Newsletter. The Health Matters Newsletter is published on a monthly basis on the Health Center home page, and is linked to the weekly Campus Report. The purpose of this newsletter is to share information, regarding pertinent medical issues and health and wellness suggestions with the students, faculty, and staff here at SUNY Fredonia. This month’s topic will be on fatigue and stress.
Nearly everyone struggles with being overtired or overworked from time to time. Usually you can identify the cause, and a likely remedy.
Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, lasts longer and is more intense. The symptoms develop over time, and continue to take away energy and mental capacity. Fatigue at this level impacts your emotional and psychological well-being, too.
Fatigue isn't the same thing as sleepiness, although it's often accompanied by a desire to sleep, and a lack of motivation to do anything else.
In some cases, fatigue is a symptom of an underlying medical problem that requires medical treatment. Most of the time, however, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines. Chances are you know what's causing your fatigue. And with a few simple lifestyle changes, it's likely that you have the power to put the vitality back in your life.
In general, most cases of fatigue may be attributed to three areas: lifestyle factors, psychological problems or medical conditions.
Feelings of fatigue often have an obvious cause, such as:
- Alcohol use or abuse
- Caffeine use
- Excessive physical activity
- Lack of sleep
- Medications, such as antihistamines, cough and cold remedies, prescription pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants
- Unhealthy eating habits
Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as:
Unrelenting exhaustion may be a sign of a medical condition or underlying illness, such as:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (symptoms need to be for at least six months)
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Anemia (Common among females due to heavy and/or prolonged menstrual cycles)
- Autoimmune disorders (thyroid disease, diabetes, lupis, etc)
Signs and Symptoms of Fatigue
- You feel drained of energy
- You may have a hard time doing normal activities such as school work.
- You may have low motivation and miss classes frequently.
- You may feel inadequate, and unable to keep up.
- You may experience little desire for sex.
Just a couple of questions you should ask yourself about your fatigue.
- How long have you been feeling fatigue?
- What has been occurring in your life surrounding these symptoms?
- Where you taking any medications?
- For a female, are symptoms worse right before or after each monthly menstrual period?
- Is pregnancy a possibility?
Treatment for fatigue depends on the cause. It is important to keep track of all of your symptoms both emotional and physical in order to effectively diagnose and treat.
What is stress?
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV.
But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
What are symptoms of stress?
Besides the obvious complaints of tenseness, anxiety and nervousness, our bodies can exhibit stress in fatigue, nail biting, hair twirling, a rise in blood pressure, an upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation. You might have difficulty sleeping or feel restless as well.
What can I do?
Change you attitude
- Get perspective! Ask yourself, "How important will this seem in a week, month, year or twenty years. " Remember that it is not the event itself that is stressful, but the way in which your perception of the event is and what you do about it.
- Be positive and don't put yourself down. Remember, nobody is perfect and luckily, you don't have to be.
- Be flexible. Real life situations involve unexpected interruptions.
Take care of yourself
- Balance physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.
- Be sure to get enough sleep
- Build a support system. Friends and family can be your strongest allies.
- Take routine breaks from schoolwork. It will keep you more alert and productive.
- Don't skip meals. Food provides energy to tackle stress
- Live within your means. Overspending can be very stressful.
- Listen to peaceful music to unwind.
- Meditation and relaxation exercises. Relaxation Techniques can combat the stress response by helping the body return to a balanced state and reverse some of the psychological effects of stress response ( i.e.: elevated blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. Examples include and are not limited to breathing exercises, body awareness, meditation, visualization and guided relaxation.
- Laugh! Go see a funny movie, a comedy show, or call up a silly friend.
- Be here now. The single task (or pleasure!) before you is all that you need to focus on now.
- Pamper yourself
- Exercise. Daily exercise, including stretching, breathing and aerobic exercises is important lifestyle habits to develop for relief of anxiety and stress.
Manage your time
- Use a daytimer to schedule all of your commitments and social events.
- Make a daily "to do " list
- Prioritize your duties
- Be selective. You can't do everything. Quality is more important then quantity
- Learn to take power naps. A 20 minute nap can reenergize you for hours.
- Budget your time. Study while on the bus, review between classes, read while eating.
- Don't be overcommitted. Learn to say "no"
- Set aside some time to have fun.
- Know your peak energy times and prioritize your activities when you know your energy is at its highest.
- Focus on one thing at a time.