We’re all tired. Aren’t we? It certainly seems like most people I talk to tell me how tired they are – how they struggle to get through their day, how they barely have enough energy to work, let alone to parent, exercise, and socialize in the way that they want to. And if we’re all tired, then isn’t it normal?
Because this is such a common struggle I hear about in my community, I invited Dr. Lisa Watson, a naturopathic doctor specializing in women’s health (and a Healthy Home Healthy Hormones Certified Practitioner) to share her advice and tips on overcoming fatigue.
It may seem like we’re all tired, and maybe a lot of us are. But it doesn’t make it normal. Fatigue is one of the most common complaints that people have when they go to their doctor, and the impacts of fatigue are far-reaching. Decreased quality of life, poor work performance, strained personal relationships, and poor lifestyle choices are all common consequences of fatigue.
Fatigue of the Sexes
Did you know that men and women experience fatigue differently? Most men when they report fatigue describe feeling tired, whereas women are more likely to report feeling anxious or depressed or overwhelmed.
No matter who is feeling the fatigue, men or women, mums or dads, sons or daughters, we all should look at the five key factors contributing to fatigue and be sure we are taking the opportunities to fine tune our factors to overcome our fatigue.
S.H.I.N.E. Through Your Fatigue
The five fundamental factors impacting your fatigue are easy to remember using the SHINE acronym. Each of these factors contribute to your energy – if any one of them is out of balance, fatigue can result. So take an inventory on your life and see which factors you need to fine tune.
Sleep – adults need a minimum of 7 hours of quality sleep each night to allow for rest and recovery. Consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep can slow your reaction time, impact decision making, decrease learning and memory, while also reducing your daytime energy.
Hormones – there are several different hormones that contribute to fatigue. Thyroid hormones are one of your main energy-boosting hormones and even slight imbalances can cause major fatigue. Other hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and DHEA are also part of our energy production cascade. Prolonged stress can lead to fatigue by influencing the daily production of these hormones. Hormone imbalances are one of the most commonly overlooked causes of fatigue in both men and women.
Inflammation – when your immune system is working hard, like when it is fighting off a cold or flu, your energy drops because your brain tries to reserve energy for the important work of the immune system. Inflammation causes a similar state. Whether the inflammation is from joint pain, muscle strain, or from gut dysfunction, the result is the same. When you’re dealing with inflammation you’re more likely to be fatigued.
Nutrition – one of the causes and consequences of low energy, is poor nutrition. Specific nutrients are necessary for energy production, like iron, vitamin B12 and protein, but all of the macro- and micronutrients are needed in balance to truly optimize energy. A blood test is useful to identify iron or B12 deficiency, but for the other nutrients a dietary tracking app may be useful in helping to identify possible nutritional holes.
Emotions and Exercise – the final factor in overcoming fatigue is looking at both your emotions and your exercise. Anxiety and depression may be a manifestation of fatigue, or vice versa. Many studies have found that people who report being less satisfied in their life also report higher levels of fatigue. So take some time to reflect on your current emotional health and consider if the fatigue may be an indication of some deeper emotional work to be done.
And finally, exercise. The great catch 22 – you don’t have enough energy to exercise, but if you don’t exercise you don’t feel energized. It’s a real struggle. But for most people, starting with a small commitment to exercise, a 20 minute walk every day for example, is enough to have a real positive impact on your energy. And from that first small step, you can build up towards a greater goal of more exercise, and limitless energy.
Fired Up and Fatigue-Free
I like to share the SHINE approach to energy with all of my patients who have concerns about low energy. Whether you identified one factor that is impacting your energy, or you have some fine-tuning to do in each of the five factors, now is your time to SHINE.
Take the first steps – whether it is committing to 7 hours of sleep per night, tracking your diet for gaps in nutrition, or taking those first steps towards daily exercise – today. If you suspect it may be inflammation, hormones or significant nutrient deficiencies, consider working with your naturopathic doctor or functional medicine doctor to get appropriate testing and put together a plan that will get you feeling fired up and fatigue free.
Because fatigue can have a significant impact on your ability to function day-to-day and can prevent you from achieving your healthy home goals, this is a topic Dr. Watson is going to explore with me in more detail as a bonus in my online program, Your Healthy Home. Learn more about this life-changing program here.
Dr. Lisa Watson was voted best naturopathic doctor in Toronto by NOW Magazine. She works with women who want more – more energy, more happiness, more balance, more regular periods – and sometimes less – less painful periods, less PMS, less heavy periods, less stress, less anxiety or depression. You can learn more from her at www.drlisawatson.com.
Boekhorst JA, Signh P, Burke R. Work Intensity, emotional exhaustion, and life satisfaction. Pers Review. 2017;46(5):891-907.
Rosenthal TC, Majeroni BA, Pretorius R, Malik K. Fatigue: An Overview. Am Fam Physician. 2008;78(10):1173-1179