5 Ways to Recognize Exhaustion
Do you ever feel tired at moments where you know you typically shouldn’t be? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there at some stage. Exhaustion can leave you vulnerable to forgetting important deadlines/events, or even feeling irritable.
Sleep, despite its numerous health benefits, is one of the most under-appreciated facets of health. Going without sleep is coupled with a wave of health consequences, including inflammation1.New research even found a relationship between exhausted immune cells and IBS symptoms2 (to clarify the relevance of immune cells and sleep – bursts of short duration sleep can take a toll on your immune system).
If you have cracked lips or are experiencing frequent headaches, you might be dehydrated. Keeping hydrated is integral in keeping optimal health and overall performance throughout the day – dehydration can lead to you to feel exhausted as you push through the day without actually giving your body what it needs (water)! As we all know, our body is predominantly made of water, and thus lacking water can really take a toll on maintaining energy levels (not to mention the toll it takes on all of the other body systems)!
If you aren’t sure whether you’re getting enough water, you can tell be your urine – it should be clear. Aim to drink 2L per day.
Sometimes we forget how much sleep we actually need. No Felicia, 5 hours of sleep is not enough. Trying to live life at your optimum, while only supplying minimal sleep, is the equivalent of filling up 5L of petrol and going on a lonnnnnnng road trip. Obviously, the car will turn off really soon and you’ll be left stranded, potentially damaging your car! It’s the same with the body.
The body is amazing – it uses sleep to help stabilise chemical imbalances, rejuvenate brain areas that control mood and behaviour, and it also helps consolidate knowledge and memories you’ve gathered throughout your day. Lots of this happens during REM (rapid eye movement; the part of sleep where you dream most) sleep. We can often feel sluggish upon waking (and throughout the day) when our REM sleep is disturbed. Make sure you get through enough sleep cycles in one night, so aim for 8 – 9 hours of sleep to experience the benefits.
My workouts? Can I even call them that?
Exhaustion affects all parts of your life – even your workouts. It seems so obvious when you think about it, but you’d be surprised with how many people don’t realise that they aren’t getting the most out of their workouts simply because they’re exhausted! Working out requires mental focus above all (you wouldn’t be able to lift anything if you aren’t focussed, despite how ‘strong’ you might be) – with that being said, if you’re lacking on sleep, you’re consequently limiting yourself in the gym. Ensure you maintain a healthy diet and sleep schedule to workout at your best!
When we are stressed, if we ignore it and opt for not dealing with the issue, it gets worse with time. This is typical for stress that is related to your job, because it can be tricky to ‘deal’ with job stress as many of us are dependent on this for financial reasons! Nonetheless, there is a growing body of research that suggests that when you experience high job stress, you can consequently experience emotional exhaustion that is significantly related to engaging in a deviant behaviour3. In this context, deviant behaviour can be understood as “an intentional
employee behavior that is harmful to the legitimate interests of an organization” – which simply translates to “not doing your job properly”. This means that you could be at a higher chance of getting dismissed from your job simply because you’re experiencing such a high level of stress and emotional exhaustion. To avoid this from happening, speak to your manager or coworkers on ways they can help you reduce your stress-levels at work – perhaps you could start one hour later, two days per week, for example?
My one piece of advice would be to not avoid dealing with your stress as this could result in exhaustion-induced insomnia, which will create a viscous cycle of stress and exhaustion feeding off eachother, resulting in increased sleeplessness. You can try meditation or yoga, apps like Headspace, or if you are feeling overly stressed you can contact eheadspace or lifeline for support.
‘The Junk Food & Co.’ is your New Go-To, Daily Brunch Hangout
When we are really exhausted, we can begin to crave high fat and high carb foods, as exhaustion typically corresponds with cortisol (the stress hormone). As your body is always fighting in its best interest, it will seek ways to feel better – always. So when your body has elevated cortisol, it will typically try to increase its serotonin (a feel-good, calming hormone). Your body can achieve its serotonin-hit by ‘comfort eating’, even though many of the foods that encompass ‘comfort food’ don’t actually supply your body with any good nutrition, let alone solid sources of real serotonin. What’s even more unfortunate is that once we eat highly processed junk food, our blood sugar and insulin levels dramatically rise, causing your brain to trigger yet another sugary, fatty, and calorie-full craving! The cycle is endless..
The goal to prevent this from happening is to eat wholefoods (and low GI foods) so that you can stabilize your blood sugar levels – and usually these foods are also natural serotonin-boosters (e.g. nuts/seeds, legumes bananas, salmon, and plant-based milk)!
The bottom line really is that we need to place an emphasis on eating the right foods and getting enough quality sleep every single night so that we can avoid exhaustion. I hope this short list helped you identify if you might be experiencing exhaustion and what you can do about it!
1Irwin, M. R., Olmstead, R., & Carroll, J. E. (2016). Sleep disturbance, sleep duration, and inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies and experimental sleep deprivation. Biological psychiatry, 80(1), 40-52.
2Mavrangelos, C., Campaniello, M. A., Andrews, J. M., Bampton, P. A., & Hughes, P. A. (2017). Longitudinal analysis indicates symptom severity influences immune profile in irritable bowel syndrome. Gut, gutjnl-2017.
3Golparvar, M., Kamkar, M., & Javadian, Z. (2012). Moderating effects of job stress in emotional exhaustion and feeling of energy relationships with positive and negative behaviors: Job stress multiple functions approach. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 4(4), 99.