You haven't even reached your desk in the morning and you feel tired. Even a few phone calls make you want to hit the sack. Sound familiar?
You could be suffering from overstimulation - the modern scourge of society which is preventing us from succeeding in our careers, health and relationships.
Learning to listen to your body, says Liz Tucker, a health expert who runs monthly workshops called 'Focus on Fatigue', is vital to understanding how to cope with a busy life.
Fatigue, she says, is like a car running out of fuel. When most of us fall ill, or get a flat tyre, we don't bother to maintain ourselves and we limp on. This, she claims, can lead to severe problems such as weight gain, diabetes, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome and even heart disease.
Instead Tucker believes the key to a happy, healthy life is learning how to understand how our bodies work on a day-to-day basis.
Fatigue is caused by the overuse of our stress responses - the chemical reaction which triggers adrenalin and cortisol - designed to get us up in the morning, have sex, eat food and carry out tasks. Too much stimulation can be harmful to our bodies - and not enough can in turn make us depressed, lethargic and sluggish.
'Understanding that the stress response should be used in short, sharp bursts followed by short periods of relaxation - vital to repair our body in preparation for the next burst of stress response, means we can cope with life more effectively and prevent ourselves from getting ill,' she says. 'The danger is letting your body run out of fuel and falling ill.'
How to spot if you have fatigue
You may constantly moan about feeling tired. But has your problem developed into eneral fatigue? Here is how to spot the warning signs and how to boost your energy levels.
You feel tired after a few simple tasks
Any task - however small - involves a chemical reaction which triggers adrenalin to create energy which, in turn, produces toxins in our body. Stress responses are designed to be short term, but if we carry out tasks over a long period without a break, we build up toxins and our bodies can't find time or energy to flush them out. As a result we can feel tired and fed up. When adrenalin kick starts our bodies into response, we tend to breathe quickly and shallowly. Breathing deeply helps us switch off stress responses which trigger adrenalin and cortisol. This also gives our bodies a chance to flush out any waste products. After each task such as a phone call or writing a letter, breathe deeply. Short bursts of relaxation during the day brings a fresh supply of oxygen to our bloodstream which prepares us for the next burst of adrenalin rush.
Your skin is bad and you're prone to colds and asthma
Too much stress triggers adrenalin and cortisol to flood our bodies. If we don't relax, this can lead to toxic build up and lead to too much acid in our bodies. Acid overload can burn our cells and allow bacteria and viruses to spread around our body. This, in turn, suppresses the immune system which can lead to skin problems and make us prone to conditions such as asthma and eczema.
You're exercising but you're not losing weight
If your work involves high levels of stimulation, too much exercise can be the worst thing to do if you want to lose weight. This is because too much adrenalin in our body caused by high stress levels creates fluid retention. High levels of fluid retention can put our blood pressure up which can slow down our metabolic rate. So, although you're doing regular exercise, you're not losing weight.
Alternate working out at the gym with brisk walking, yoga or tai chi classes. This gives your body a chance to switch off chemicals such as adrenalin and cortisol and allows the body to repair itself in preparation for the next stress response.
Being more tearful than usual - or swinging from oversensitivity to undersenitivity is a good indication that you are entering the early stages of stress and are more likely to get ill, says Tucker.
If you are feeling like this, take the chance to watch television or go to the cinema with friends. This will force you to relax and allow your body to get rid of wastes produced by excess adrenalin during the day.
You rely on drugs as a quick fix
You think going to the doctor takes too long, so you nip to the chemist for some convenient drugs to suppress your headache, blurred vision or stomach cramps. But, says Tucker, rather than addressing the cause of the problem, taking quick fix remedies postpones your symptoms. An onslaught of colds can eventually lead to more debilitating illnesses such as glandular fever and could lead to more serious problems such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
You can't tolerate certain foods
High levels of stress can also affect our digestive system. If we don't relax, this can lead to toxic build up and allow acid to spread around our body. This can damage the cell walls of our digestive system which can lead to candida and thrush. Too much acid in our bodies also means our food doesn't get broken down properly in our gut. Many nutrients - vital for cell repair - are not absorbed properly which can lead to food intolerances such as IBS, bloating and leaky gut syndrome, a condition similar to IBS.
If you notice bloating, Liz Tucker suggests reducing certain food groups such as wheat and dairy for a short period of time, such as two weeks. If the complaint doesn't clear up reintroduce dairy and wheat to your diet. If the complaint clears up go and see a nutritionist as if you are giving up wheat and dairy it's important to replace the nutrients they contain with other foods and supplements.
The most important way to combat bloating is to drink lots of water, she claims. Eight to ten glasses a day (this is roughly equivalent to three mouthfuls every half hour) will keep your fluid levels topped up and allow your body to beat the bloat.
You crave stimulants
When the body is overactive, it craves overstimulation from certain foods to give us instant adrenalin, says Tucker. These tend to be high fat, salty and sugary foods such as chocolate, crisps, caffeine, alcohol, yeast and drugs. Eating too much sugar means glucose floods the body throwing our blood sugar levels out of balance. Insulin rushes in to stabilise our sugar content which means our energy levels plummet. Contrary to popular thought, caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes are actually relaxants. Our body reacts to relaxants by releasing more adrenalin. However, a dip in stimulation usually results in us craving more of these foods, which forms a vicious cycle and can lead to addiction.
How to cheat fatigue
Fatigue is a sign that we are running out of fuel and need to repair ourselves. Here, we look at four ways which can help you cheat tiredness and stress.
Balance work, home and leisure
Most of us are very organised at work, but when it comes to our home life we haven't got a clue. The key, says Tucker, is to schedule your chores such as ironing and washing. Equally important is to fit in seeing friends as this makes us happy, producing adrenalin - the natural feel good hormone.
Inform your brain
Believe it or not, once you've told your brain that you're going to eat, complete a chore or exercise, it will stop nagging you to do these things. Worrying about completing the constant onslaught of tasks that awaits us each day will stop us from being irritable and frustrated - symptoms that trigger adrenalin and make us tired.
Informing your brain of when you intend to eat, exercise or visit your mother will help lower stress levels because you will have dealt with any niggling thoughts. So if you are worrying that you haven't completed a chore, make a mental note that you are going to do it and when. To reinforce your mental note you may want to write down when and where you are going to do the chore.
Have long-term goals
Achieving goals makes us fulfilled, even if they are fraught with obstacles along the way. Giving up can lead to understimulation which can make us just as tired as overstimulation. Not getting enough adrenalin - the body's own feel good hormone - can make us feel depressed and sluggish. Tuckers claims there are ways of reducing such obstacles which can make up give up by planning and research. For example, if you want a job, read about the company, create an interview situation with friends and learn to deal with your nerves. There is plenty you can do to reduce the risk of failure and help realise your goals.
Everyone suffers from low confidence or self-esteem at some point in their life. Feeling vunerable leaves you open for attack - which can leave you feeling stressed, and in turn, tired. Tucker suggests that if you are going for a job or meeting someone for the first time, pretend to be someone you admire. Being positive, paying compliments and putting up a protective shield will help you get better results. Once you've established yourself in your job or circle of friends, you can let your true self shine through.
Liz Tucker teaches stress and fatigue workshops at Champneys health farm in Hertfordshire every month. A two night stay including course, meals and room, costs 510 pounds. Body image workshops are also taught at Greyshott health farm in Surrey, from 450 pounds for a two night stay. Call 01428 602020 for more details.
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Ref: Medical newsletter
Taming stressful thoughts