Anxiety and Fatigue: Must I Be So Tired All the Time?
Tuesday, September 28 2010 Kate White
We have ways to describe anxiety and fatigue: Bone-weary, bushed, all in, dazed, dopey, depleted, drugged. Washed-up, worn-out, dozy, dreamy. Soporific, sluggish, torpid, tuckered, done. One of the hardest parts of living with anxiety is how tired you get. Anxiety can cause extreme fatigue. In fact, the fatigue of anxiety, that lack of energy, is often the first tip that something's really not okay.
You hear a lot of people today, worrying about lack of sleep. Quite rightly: More stress, longer hours, most spent under fluorescent lights that induce derealization, confusing our body clocks. The body usually 'gets it' and adjusts energy levels based on the amount of ambient light. Usually. If you're dealing with the symptoms of anxiety as well, it's harder. When the body doesn't know if it's time to stop or go (anxiety is big on mixed signals) then fatigue and insomnia may just settle in with a long-term lease.
That being said, people tend to overestimate the time they spend trying to get some rest, and underestimate the total amount they sleep. Yes, that's from a study. No, I can't cite it. I read about it a few years ago whilst nursing some lovely ladies with dementia, depression and such.
Manage Fatigue from Anxiety with a Broader Approach
None of us have unlimited resources, though a lot of anxiety, depression and bipolar sufferers have a surprising amount of energy. Anxiety is energy, for that matter. It's just not that useful when it comes in the form of panic attacks or negative thinking and worry.
Anxiety disorders wreak merry mayhem with your ability to recover from things like a poor night's sleep. Maybe you don't necessarily need more sleep. Maybe it takes a broader approach to control anxiety.
So, what are you doing to treat anxiety? Breaking free from anxiety is about somewhat nebulous things: mindfulness, the absence or presence of joy or peace, support, and those anxiety coping skills I'm always on about.
Don't know any coping skills? Here's one:
Think of a cup. That cup contains what I'll go ahead and call my daily allowance of useful energy.
- Is there enough to get me through the day?
- How will I use it, and how strict do I need to be?
You don't want a dried-out cup by midday. I like leftovers, because I'm not that sure tomorrow won't be harder, that I won't stumble or have a panic attack. Planning your day based on your energy level gives you an honest idea of what you can do in the following hours without overpromising or accepting challenges that will take too much out of you.
Let's face it, nobody lives without anxiety. Even Mother Theresa had moments of uncertainty and doubt. It really is okay to take a break, to try to find that space to let go and relax. Just as we underestimate how much we sleep, I know I underestimate how much I have to do in a day, week, year. I also underestimate how much anxiety affects me, and how much effort it takes to manage anxiety and fatigue.
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