We all feel a little tired from time to time, right? With busy lives and even busier social calendars, who doesn't long to "catch up" over the weekend, right?
Wrong. A full life doesn't mean you should be exhausted. If it takes you longer than twenty minutes to fall asleep, you’re waking up in the middle of the night, or you’re sleeping too much, your body could be signaling that something is wrong.
It’s not just you. Dr. Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW, lead faculty for Behavioral Science at Northeastern University, says that stress and anxiety are significant concerns all around the world. “By the year 2030, the World Health Organization is projecting that stress-related and lifestyle illness will trump communicable disease. The pressures of life are extending over our thresholds for coping.”
When exhaustion becomes the norm and your day-to-day is more draining than invigorating, you might need a lot more than extra sleep. Constant tiredness is a major symptom of burnout, anxiety, and stress. As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, these health experts share 3 signs to help you find out what's going on and what you should do about it.
01. The issue: Self-care isn’t improving things.
In busy seasons of life—be it a week, a month or a year—we can fall off the self-care wagon. You should be regularly eating healthy, turning off electronic devices one hour before bed, and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. Eileen T. Crehan, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, says, “Finding small ways to support yourself throughout the week can help," like taking a break with a cup of green tea or parking further away and mindfully walking to the store.
Dr. Crehan also says, “it's counterintuitive, but adding something meaningful has been shown to make us feel more energized.” That could be praying, meditating, reading, or engaging in a creative pursuit. If you’ve tried these for at least 2 weeks and you still don't feel revitalized, don’t write your tiredness off. Talk to your doctor asap.
02. You’ve lost interest in things you used to enjoy.
You used to love running, but you don’t feel like lacing up your sneakers lately. Or you used to enjoy grabbing brunch with a friend on the weekends, but recently, you’ve been oversleeping and can’t seem to get yourself out on time. Danielle Frascella, M.S., CRC, LPC, cites a loss of interest in hobbies and/or relationships as a sign of poor mental health.
When you're tired and experience persistent feelings of “anxiety, exhaustion, or sadness . . . accompanied by the any of the following factors: decreased energy, increased fatigue, increased irritability, . . . significant changes in appetite, significant changes in patterns of sleep,” Frascella advises seeking a licensed therapist or counselor for support. To find a mental health professional near you, search PsychologyToday.com or call your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.
03. You’re releasing stress in unproductive ways.
While chronic tiredness doesn't necessarily mean you're depressed, Dr. Crehan says, “If you are feeling low or sad most of the day. . . . definitely reach out either to your [doctor] or a mental health specialist.” Your stress can manifest as restlessness, insomnia, fixating on past failures or self-blame. Address these immediately, either by contacting your PCP or the Therapist Referral Network.
Even if it isn't a long-term concern, “most women (and men actually!) will experience depressive symptoms during their lifetime,” notes Dr. Crehan. Therapist Julia Hogan, LPC, writes for Verily, “Depression is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mental illness when it comes to the way women and men experience and respond to it.” The tricky thing is that you can experience a range of symptoms, some of which may not look like anxiety or depression: an angry outburst, trouble concentrating, backaches, and headaches.
If your chronic tiredness isn’t coming from a grueling work week or a strenuous gym session, look out for these 3 signs to determine whether you need help coping. Stigmas about mental illness and services (like more affordable, specialized care) are changing for the better. Mental health is a critical part of overall wellness, so take good care of yours.
Photo Credit: Erin Woody Photography