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Fighting fatigue

A young woman at a desk rubs sleep from her eyes. A busy schedule can leave you overtired, regardless of the activity.
A busy schedule can leave you overtired, regardless of the activity.

Feeling tired? See if these causes of chronic fatigue could be affecting you.

Undiagnosed illness

A discussion with your doctor may uncover symptoms of fatigue-triggering physical conditions such as sleep apnea, thyroid disease or diabetes. Exhaustion can also be a sign of depression, so talk with your primary care physician about a depression screening.

Are you SAD?

If you feel noticeably more fatigued as winter edges closer, the culprit may be seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that’s related to months of weaker sunlight and shorter, colder days. SAD can cause fatigue as well as depressed feelings, loss of interest in activities and difficulty concentrating. You may find yourself oversleeping and gaining weight.

If this sounds like you, visit your doctor. Treatment can include sitting in front of a special lamp, which is believed to boost serotonin levels in the brain, improving mood. Some doctors recommend vitamin D supplements and others prescribe antidepressants to relieve symptoms of SAD.

You can help relieve symptoms of SAD by exercising for at least 30 minutes, three days a week, and going outside for short periods when the sun is shining.

A sedentary lifestyle

Too much rest results in deconditioning. That means your muscles become weaker and your metabolism becomes less effective, so your body is not as efficient at getting oxygen to your tissues. Recent studies have shown a positive influence from exercise therapy for people with chronic fatigue. A daily brisk walk at lunch can make a big difference. Roughly 20 to 30 minutes of moderate activity a day can help curb insomnia, boost feel-good endorphins and improve cognitive function.


If you’re draggy and foggy, thirst may be to blame. Studies show that even mild dehydration can reduce mental clarity and cause fatigue, which may be related to reduced blood volume. Men should drink about 15 cups and women 11 cups of water (or other no-calorie/low-calorie fluid) per day, according to Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also a good way to hydrate.

The snack cycle

Tired bodies crave carbs that promise quick energy. But processed/packaged snacks are likely to cause a crash when your body quickly processes the sugar and your glucose levels dip. If you’re the snacking type, pack small, nutritious snacks — raw carrots, almonds, low-fat cheese — that can feed the urge and prevent a trip to the vending machine.

Doing too much

A packed calendar can poop you out, even when it’s peppered with fun stuff. Take time to reset with proven relaxers such as reading, meditating, deep breathing and yoga.

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