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Managing Your Fatigue [even when you are sleeping enough]



Are you tired often?


Fatigue, lethargy, burnout, exhaustion, plain ole sleepiness?


These are just a few of the feelings we see in our line of work.


There are a couple of common go to’s that people like to blame their fatigue and exhaustion on...

Sleep (or lack thereof)

  • Metabolism “damage”

  • Job/professional stress

  • Hormones

While some, if not all, CAN play a role, there’s often a whole lot more to the picture...which offers a wide range of solutions as well. If you’re one who can relate to this level of fatigue and exhaustion, I’m sure you have tried to sleep more, so when someone just says “oh sleep more and drink less caffeine”, you’ve already done that!!! While sleep CAN and probably should be adjusted and looked at, there’s a LOT more to the picture.

  1. Are you eating enough??

  2. What does the quality of your intake look like?

  3. What does your training look like? What does your lifestyle/stress management look like?

  4. Where/what areas in your life get rest??? (this goes beyond sleep!)

Hopefully by the end of this blog, you’ll have an idea as to what is the source...or sources...for your exhaustion and fatigue and in turn, maybe even have a couple of solutions on hand to try!


Stress & The Body’s Response


We’ve talked about the body’s stress response a lot, so we’re not going to spend a ton of time here. We’ll go ahead and break down some of the general processes that’s going on in your body as a review, or in case you’re new, then spend time actually sharing ways to navigate stress & your fatigue. Below, we’ve gone ahead and linked a couple of articles we’ve written in the past on stress, cortisol and recovery if you’d like to learn more.


Stress is handled via two systems in your body, both within the autonomic nervous system. Just in the name alone, “autonomic” can be interpreted as automatic, meaning your body responds this way on its own. It’s not exactly a learned behavior, although your behavior response to stress absolutely can be habitual and learned. There are two systems: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.


The sympathetic nervous system is your immediate response to any acute...and chronic but we’ll get to that...stress. You’ve likely heard it called the “fight or flight response”. You’ve heard the bear analogy, probably, but we like to make this a bit more realistic. Imagine you wake up usually around 6:30am for work, when the sun is still set and the sky is dark. Now imagine that you wake up on your own to no alarm on a Monday morning, with the birds chirping and the sun shining through your window. You look at your clock and it reads 8:06am. You’ve got a big meeting at 8:15am. Your heart is racing, you’re moving faster than you expected you could, you no longer have any hunger, you sure as heck aren’t thinking about having to pee. You sprint through getting on clothes and you speed your way to work. That is your sympathetic nervous system. The main hormones here are adrenaline/epinephrine and cortisol. Your body is equipped to use resources that help you handle stress. Your blood flow is diverted from non-stress essential processes like digestion and your gut to instead your heart, your lungs and your muscles, so you can either fight or flee from whatever stress is in front of you.


The parasympathetic nervous system is the flip side to that. It’s the aftermath of whatever acute stress you experienced, also known as the rest and digest system. Let’s take that example again and say you got to work on time and got through your meeting and you sit down for the first time in 2 hours after panicking and running around like a psycho. Your heart rate slows. You start to get thirsty. You may even feel some hunger coming on. Maybe you have to finally use the bathroom. These are all normal processes that occur during the aftermath of stress. Our main hormones at play here are melatonin and acetylcholine, which help your body and mind recover from whatever stress you experienced.


In a perfect world, these two systems are balanced. You experience stress and then you recover from it. In today’s world, that’s far from it. You experience stress then you just keep experiencing it...and the aftermath never really comes. Meaning you never really recover.


What triggers a stressful event?

  • Work

  • Finances

  • Relationships

  • Traffic

  • Mental health

  • Exercise (even in a good way, exercise is a stressor)

  • Undereating

  • Poor diet (low micronutrient diet specifically)

  • Poor/deficient sleep

  • Obesity/Inactivity

These are things that we would guess 90% or more of the population experience on a daily basis.


We get a LOT of people coming to us in a fatigued state...from a combination of all of these things.


And 9x out of 10...sleep just isn’t enough.


We get a lot of people who start sleeping and STILL are tired, fatigued and exhausted.


What’s the solution?? We have to look at MORE than just sleep.


Source of Your Stress


First is addressing the ultimate question, where is your stress coming from??


Without knowing where your stress is coming from, it’s going to be hard to apply any real solution to combat that stress. If you’re sleeping 9 hours, but not eating enough, overtraining, hate your job, and eat a low nutrient dense diet, chances are while the sleep is fantastic for you (don’t STOP doing that), it’s not going to solve the root problem which is that your body is just under-fueled and struggle bussing.


Here are a couple of potential sources for your stress. One thing to note is that we would bet a lot of money that it’s a combination of a couple...or even all...of these.


Nutrition


Nutrition is a big area we see stress build up, without really even knowing it.


First aspect of nutrition is asking yourself if you’re eating enough. Multiply your bodyweight, or target bodyweight if you have 50+lbs to lose, by 10 to determine a rough estimate of your resting metabolic rate. You should be striving to never eat below that number. Unfortunately, we find MANY people are. Take that same bodyweight and now multiply it by 12-14 to get a rough estimate of your TDEE (meaning the number of calories you need to eat to maintain your current activity). Now compare to your current intake (average over a week to account for weekday and weekend variations). How do the two compare?


Second aspect of nutrition is the quality of your food intake. How much of your diet is comprised whole foods and how much processed foods? While we’re not against processed foods (they’re not inherently bad for you), you do need micronutrients that come from meat, plants, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Do you eat more than 3 servings of fruits/vegetables? 3+ servings of protein?


Third aspect of nutrition is your dieting “history”, if you will? Have you been dieting in the past? For how long? How much success have you had or not had? If you’ve dieted for more than 8 months in a year, 2-3+ years in a row, or have yo-yoed without much success, then your body is probably under-fueled, exhausted, and needs time at maintenance to support your metabolic health.


Fourth and final aspect is body composition. Obesity and lack of muscle mass to support one’s lifestyle is absolutely a stressor. In obesity, we see a number of cellular processes get hijacked: insulin sensitivity, glucose processing & regulation, leptin biology, and more. Addressing this & either losing weight or building muscle should be a priority, with time. We will also note that society’s definition of obesity is absolutely skewed. All of our Clar-e-ty staff is deemed “obese or overweight” by BMI standards. This is a very nuanced conversation, so please understand that we know that and address clients in these situations with compassion and understanding.


Exercise


Overtraining and undertraining are both stressors. Overtraining includes taking no rest days, not following a progressively cycled programming, and experiencing frequent exhaustion, injuries, and setbacks. You should be following some sort of strength training program to support muscle and bone growth/health & should also just ENJOY your training!!!


Undertraining is a bit different, but not doing something can be just as stressing/taxing as overdoing it. Undertraining, or even not training at all, can lean to poor mental health, physical health, injury, illness, and more. Even if it’s just walks, something is better than nothing!


We mentioned even the good exercise is a stressor, so are you feeding yourself before and after a workout? Are you eating carbohydrates and protein to support muscle protein synthesis and glycogen recovery?


Work


Does your work stress you out, so much so that it affects daily life? Do you hate your job? Not feel fulfilled? Does it affect your relationships around you or your habits? Are you so tired from a day at work that you can’t even have the energy to go workout or spend time with friends?


Does your work also not support your standard of living? Are you in debt? Finances absolutely can affect your stress and fatigue! One important thing to note is that you can love your job and still feel stressed from it! Being a small business, especially during a pandemic, we feel immense stress a lot, but we love what we do and feel fulfilled from it.


Mental Health

Mental health can be an added stress if it’s not addressed as well. Are you anxious, feeling depressed, hopeless, obsessive, etc.?


Work with a mental health professional through a variety of approaches that work best for you. That could include talk therapy and even medications.


Mental health, while not in our scope specifically, is absolutely still relevant to this conversation and should be considered in situations of fatigue and exhaustion.


Lifestyle Stress


Lifestyle stress can also play a role.

  • Are you sleeping enough with a high quality of unbroken sleep or is it not enough or broken up?

  • Do you surround yourself with likeminded people who enjoy your company and support you?

  • Do you have any mindfulness practice or self-care?

  • Do you have any hobbies you enjoy?

  • Do you spend time outside in nature?

All of these categories could be causing you stress.

In fact, maybe just reading this is also causing a little stress, don’t worry!! You don’t have to address everything right now. A little bit will go a long way and we’ll talk about that in the next section!


Other Types of Rest/Recovery


Now that we’ve tackled sources, let’s talk about how to actually “rest and recover” your body.


Physical Rest


Physical rest includes any of the things that will rest your physical body.


This includes:

  • Eating enough quantity and quality to support your body

  • Training to support healthy lean body mass

  • Moving your body for physical and mental recovery (yoga, walks, stretching)

  • Sleeping 8+ hours/night

  • Taking rest days

  • Getting outside

  • Netflix/relax time

  • Avoiding stimulation (like sounds, etc. – be okay with silence!!!)

It includes so much more, but we don’t want to be overwhelming.


One aspect is the conversation of stimulation. This includes sounds, sights, smells, etc. We live in a high paced world where we honestly are trained to avoid silence at all costs. A TV has to be on at all times, noise is needed to go to sleep, music is needed in cars during drives. Screens and TVs are used as distractions. We would recommend finding some time to avoid stimulation and to get okay with a bit of silence every now and then.


Emotional/Mental Rest


Mental and emotional rest are absolutely essential, especially if you are in a high stressed place in life...be it your job, finances, relationships, and more.


Some ideas here could include:

  • Doing hobbies you enjoy that wind you down

  • Meditation

  • Journaling

  • Walks/time in nature

  • Silence (see above)

  • Therapy/counseling

  • Exercising

  • Time with people

  • Self-care habits

Note that some of these coincide with the physical rest of your body and that’s okay 😊


Social Rest


Socializing can be essential for you...and also can be exhausting!! It is important to find a balance for YOU.


Do you spend time with likeminded people? If not, where can you find a community that does provide this for you? We recommend starting with a gym environment, which is why we love our CrossFit community. From several gyms in the Charleston area that we work with, Lowcountry Barbell Club, Starboard CrossFit, and Iron Bridge CrossFit, we have met some amazing people and seen strong and supportive communities all around.


What does a supportive group of people look like? They accept you for you, they don’t pressure you to drink/indulge if you don’t to, they provide safe and supportive environments, they support your progress, etc. If you want a lame Friday night so you can go hard in the gym on Saturday morning, they’re going to allow that rather than call you lame.


Now what about too much?? Most of our Clar-e-ty staff spends most of their day around people, from working with clients to interacting on social media to coaching at a gym...or several gyms. By the time we get home or in the car, most of the drive is silent because stimulation is just overwhelming. That might be a time where spending time at home becomes a priority.


We find people who work in isolating jobs should make a priority to spend time with people and vice versa, people who work in high people-traffic jobs maybe find time for themselves. This is obviously very individual. Some of you are introverts and others are extroverts, so do what works for you!


Where To Start


Are you overwhelmed and not sure where to start??? Don’t worry, we got you!!


We recommend that you take a week and simply gain awareness in how, if at all, stress affects you and how you rest your body.


We recommend doing this roughly an hour or 2 before bed, because too close could wind you up a bit...but jot down what stressed you that day, do you feel hungry or satiated, tired or rested, and what you did, if anything to support your body.


Then set a goal to do 1-2 of these above mentioned habits, in an order that feels productive for you!!


If you just had a baby, hey we get it, sleep is NOT your priority, so maybe you aim to get outside with your little one for 20 minutes a day and eat enough to support a recovering postpartum body.


If you can't leave your job, we get it, you're going to be stressed here!! Maybe your goal is to download and use a budgeting app if finances are tight and go for a 10 minute walk after work to wind down so you can have a relaxing evening!


Rinse and repeat these habits adding 1-2 every couple of weeks once the habits feel set :)


 



Resources and Coaching:

Online Coaching here.

[Free] Nutrition Guide here.

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