Anxiety and Exhaustion: Wired and Tired
Thursday, March 2 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Anxiety and exhaustion frequently go hand in hand. Feeling anxious day after day is exhausting, and when we’re so worn out, anxiety worsens because managing it becomes more difficult. The fatigue of anxiety often feels different than the exhaustion of depression. Whereas depression can zap people of energy and motivation and make it difficult to be up and about, anxiety can put people on almost constant alert, leading to a sensation often described as tired and wired. Increasing awareness of anxiety and exhaustion can help you take measures to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Anxiety has multiple symptoms and the effects of anxiety are many. Symptoms are signs in the body and brain that we’re experiencing anxiety and effects are ways in which anxiety interferes in our lives; symptoms and effects can overlap (Anxiety Symptoms: Recognizing Signs of Anxiety). A few symptoms and effects include:
- Digestive problems
- Breathing difficulties, including breathing that is too shallow
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing thoughts (worries, fears, and what-ifs)
- Difficulty sleeping
Together, these manifestations of anxiety swirl into the perfect storm to create what can be crushing exhaustion.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Exhaustion?
Anxiety and exhaustion commonly occur together because of the very nature of anxiety. More than a simple label, anxiety is a force that invades our entire being. We experience anxiety on many levels and doing so can make us feel keyed up and eventually worn out. Being worn out, though, doesn’t diminish anxiety. Our mind is spent, our body is fatigued, and our anxiety is keyed up in full force. As a result, we are truly tired and wired.
Living with worries and fears, whether real threats or dangers perceived by our thoughts and emotions, affects our whole being. With so much of our energy consumed by anxiety, we can be depleted of the energy needed to function in our lives.
Keep Anxiety from Exhausting You
The obvious approach to taking care of yourself to diminish fatigue is to increase the amount and quality of your sleep (The [Dysfunctional] Relationship Between Sleep and Anxiety). Often, this isn’t enough to counter the sweeping tired-yet-wired experience caused by anxiety. Enough quality sleep is an important component of a plan to reclaim your vigor, but to truly enhance your sense of vitality, other steps are needed, too.
- Think in terms of reclaiming your energy in moments throughout the day. At first, it might be hard to feel lasting oomph, but it is possible to create energy for meaningful moments.
- Breathe. One of the biggest culprits in perpetuating anxiety is shallow breathing that is too rapid. Pay attention to your breathing, and take slow, deep, invigorating breaths (Diaphragmatic Breathing for Anxiety Sufferers).
- Nourish your body. Eat healthy, protein-rich foods throughout the day; grazing, or eating small portions frequently, provides a steadier stream of energy than consuming just three large meals. Replace sodas and energy drinks with water, flavored water, and tea.
- Renew and refresh by taking breaks. If possible, step outside and take in fresh air. Move. Climbing stairs, doing jumping jacks, and running in place all provide bursts of energy because they get the heart pumping and lower the stress hormone cortisol.
- Nurture joy. Life can be heavy and busy. Every day, make time (even 10 minutes) to engage in something you love.
It would be great if there were a quick-fix to end anxiety-induced exhaustion. While there isn’t a quick-fix that works and lasts, there is something better. By using the above suggestions plus other strategies that you develop, you are replacing anxiety with vitality. You don’t have to be forever tired and wired; you can diminish both anxiety and exhaustion.