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Tiredness and Anxiety: What You Can Do About Your Fatigue

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10th, 2020

Tiredness and Anxiety: What You Can Do About Your Fatigue

Anxiety is naturally tiring because it causes ups and downs in your energy levels, which can leave you feeling incredibly drained. Some people feel tired throughout the whole day, while others feel tired only after an anxiety attack. Others feel extreme fatigue, finding they need to take frequent naps in order to regenerate, or feeling as though they can't focus on life because of their tiredness.

Feeling tired is a natural bodily reaction that is often caused by stress and anxiety. In this article, we'll explore the origins of tiredness related to anxiety - and what can be done to fight it.

Causes of Tiredness

Tiredness is natural in life, especially if you are not getting enough sleep; but if you have anxiety, you may end up feeling more exhausted than what is normally expected.

There are many possible reasons to explain why your anxiety is causing tiredness. The most common reasons include:

  • Post-Anxiety Crash The main reason has to do with the crash you feel after your adrenaline runs out. The official name for this phenomenon is adrenal fatigue. Anxiety is like being on high alert. Your body is preparing you to fight or flee; and so the body is flooded with energy in order to respond to a threat. Then, when that adrenaline runs it course, your body goes through a crash that can leave you feeling drained.
  • Post Muscle Tension Anxiety causes profound muscle tension all throughout the day, and often this causes a similar "drained" feeling in which your body feels tired.
  • Mental Tiredness Some of that tiredness is entirely mental, simply because your brain - like a muscle - can also run out of strength. Anxiety is linked to ongoing, stressful thoughts and an overactive brain. Anxiety taxes our cognitive capacities, leading to a drain on our ability to think and react. It also increases our emotional load (due to the distressing thoughts), which means we are both emotionally and mentally drained. So it should come as no surprise that all those thoughts make your body tired to the point where it wants you to rest.
  • Coping Becoming tired is sometimes a coping mechanism that your body uses to prevent you from experiencing severe stress. Tiredness motivates you to take a break and rest, rather than exposing yourself to even more anxiety, which could become even more overwhelming.
  • Inappropriate Naps Do you often nap during the day? Napping can help you overcome fatigue and reduce anxiety, making it a useful habit in many ways. But too much napping makes it harder to sleep at night, which in turn may increase anxiety. Naps should ideally be less than 20 minutes to avoid sleep difficulties at night.
  • Sleep Issues Many people with severe stress and anxiety also develop very serious problems sleeping, such as difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal wakings (waking up at night without realizing it) and reduced overall quality of sleep. All of this contributes to an overall lack of sleep, which causes tiredness in and of itself.
  • Depression Finally, anxiety can cause temporary or full depression, especially after an anxiety attack. Depression is linked to a huge loss of energy; and that makes it very hard to stay alert throughout the day. If you struggle with depression, it may also be worth speaking with someone to see if you qualify for a diagnosis of major depression for which treatment might be necessary.

All of these are contributing factors, explaining why tiredness may be linked to anxiety, and they don't even include hormonal and neural changes that occur during times of severe stress.

What You Can Do To Stop Tiredness

Stopping tiredness is difficult because it's your body's way of resting when it feels it needs to rest. Coffee would be one way, but ideally you don't want to drink coffee because this can make anxiety symptoms worse and make it harder to sleep restfully at night. .

The following are some approved ways to address tiredness:

  • Taking SHORT Naps - Long naps can be problematic for your sleep needs, but short, 20-minute or less naps can help your body regain some much-needed energy.
  • Sleep Hygiene - The National Sleep Foundation recommends “sleep hygiene” tactics to make it easier to get rest, including avoiding any caffeinated food and drink near bedtime, exercising during the day to promote sleep quality, avoiding heavy and rich food before bed, and getting adequate exposure to natural light.
  • Engage in Relaxation Strategies - Utilizing relaxation strategies can be valuable for reducing tiredness. Using ideas like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can reduce stress during the day so you are less drained overall.

Finally, the most important change to make is to prioritize reducing your anxiety. Tiredness is much easier to prevent than it is to stop. That's why you need to take steps to start controlling your anxiety better. The less intense your anxiety is, the less tired you should feel.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

Ask Doctor a Question

Question:

Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient

Answer:

You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

Ask Doctor a Question

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