24 Apr Anxiety and Fatigue
ANXIETY AND FATIGUE = STRESS
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety and fatigue are intricately linked. Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension and worried thoughts.
A stressful event such as sitting for an exam, causes your body to invoke it’s ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. This involves your hypothalamus and your pituitary and adrenal glands in the production and release of extra hormones. When this happens you may experience some or all of the following: 1
- quickened heart rate
- chest pain
- fast, shallow breathing
- dry mouth
- muscle tension
With these symptoms and rush of hormones, it is not surprising that you feel tired after the event.
Anxiety and Your Body
Anxiety can cause physical changes to occur, such as an increase in blood pressure and can cause you to lose sleep.
Anxiety and Sleep
When you’re anxious you tend to lose sleep either because you have trouble falling asleep when you first lie down, or because worrisome thoughts wake you up. If this is happening, of course you will feel very tired during the day.
The relationship between sleep and anxiety is circular. Anxiety can disrupt your sleep and the lack of sleep can eventually make you more anxious. Studies show that people with insomnia were 9.8 times more likely to be anxious than people without insomnia. 2 People who work night shifts are more susceptible to sleep problems because their circadian rhythm or sleep cycle is disrupted. This disturbed sleep pattern makes shift workers more vulnerable to anxiety disorders. 3
Anxiety and Fatigue
Fatigue is a severe expression of tiredness. It has been described as persistently feeling overtired, mentally or physically, with low energy and strength, a lack of motivation and a strong desire to sleep, that interferes with normal daily activities. It is reported that women feel fatigued more often than men.1,4
Fatigue can have causes that aren’t due to underlying disease. Examples include lack of sleep, heavy exertion, jet lag, a large meal or ageing. It can, however, be initialised or be a factor of the following physical conditions:4
- sleep disorders
Fatigue is also associated with some psychological conditions, including:
- work-related or financial stress
Adrenal fatigue is sometimes used to describe a feeling of tiredness that develops from chronic stress and anxiety and involves depletion of the adrenal glands.
Long-Term Health Effects Of Anxiety
Exposure to long-term stress and anxiety affects your brain and body.6 It can:
- harm your memory
- affect your judgement
- lead to mood disorders
- suppress your immune system
- cause heart problems
- disrupt your gastrointestinal system
Research7 has shown that fatigue is associated with anxiety, depression and general psychological distress. Chronic fatigue syndrome is defined as the presence of impairing fatigue for six months or more, associated with pain and other secondary symptoms and for which no medical or psychiatric causes can be found. Studies also showed that when chronic fatigue is associated with an existing mood or anxiety state greater functional impairment occurs.7
What Can You Do To Counteract Tiredness?
- have a consistent sleep routine including a scheduled, regular bedtime and wake up time; limited caffeine and a cool, quiet, dark bedroom with no electronic devices in it. Turn off your screens an hour before bed.
- exercise regularly – this reduces anxiety and promotes healthy and restorative sleep..8
- use relaxation techniques like meditation and mindfulness to quiet your mind, regulate your breathing and lower the amount of stress hormone present in your bloodstream.9
- promote healthy dietary habits – foods high in saturated fat and sugar are associated with higher anxiety levels.10
- Seek professional help if you still aren’t sleeping
- to identify your anxiety triggers and to help develop anxiety coping skills
- to discuss whether your condition needs medication
Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations like public speaking, sitting for an exam or attending a job interview. It is often responsible for a night of disturbed or no sleep, causing feelings of tiredness and fatigue the next day. Usually a good night’s sleep after the event will restore you to normal health.
However, if your feelings of anxiety persist or become excessive and are interfering with your normal daily life or if your sleep continues to be disturbed, it is time to seek professional help to establish the reasons behind this dis-ease.
Prepared for Kerri Abbott by Amanda Spooner