Today’s world is shrouded with stress and uncertainty—climate change, a global pandemic, financial instability, and political turmoil can all take their toll on anyone. So, it’s only natural to feel tired or bogged down occasionally. However, you still shouldn’t ignore when your body is signaling that you need to slow down or that something is wrong on a deeper level.

Fatigue is more than just occasional burnout or feeling tired at the end of a long day. Fatigue is a complex symptom that can cause you to feel weak, anxious, unfocused, and persistently tired. There are numerous possible causes for fatigue, and some can be serious health conditions. So, it’s important to recognize the signs and seek care as soon as possible. Continue reading to assess whether you’re dealing with simple tiredness or more serious fatigue that should be discussed with your primary care physician.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is not just another way of saying you’re feeling tired. Although you will probably feel tired if you’re struggling with fatigue, there’s more to it than simple sleepiness. You may feel sluggish, as if you’re fighting your body to get through your day. You may have sore or tired muscles, general physical discomfort, changes in your mood, and a lack of desire to do things you normally would want to do. Fatigue may also worsen through time, as you may find that you experience more disturbed sleep or have trouble getting to sleep despite feeling so tired.

If fatigue is disrupting your daily routine at work or school, or you’ve been experiencing fatigue for a period of six months or longer, you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms. While occasional fatigue due to external stress or acute illnesses is normal, constant fatigue is not.

What causes fatigue?

One of the reasons it’s so important to talk to your doctor about fatigue is that there are so many different potential causes. Nutrient deficiencies, depression, sleep disorders, thyroid disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases are just some of the possible diagnoses behind ongoing fatigue. When you visit your primary care physician, they will ask a series of questions to get to know more about your diet, sleeping habits, work life, home life, and other elements of your lifestyle. They may also order blood work that can measure your hormones, blood sugar, thyroid function, and other key physical functions in your body.

How is fatigue treated?

Because there are so many potential causes for fatigue, your treatment plan may vary. However, there are many steps you can take to adjust your lifestyle for an energy and wellness boost. Simple steps like drinking more water, cutting back on alcohol, and getting more exercise can have a big impact. Additionally, you may benefit from adjusting your sleep schedule and improving your sleep hygiene.

Many people who are struggling with fatigue are simply not getting enough sleep each night. Along with striving for 7-9 hours of sleep, you should also allow yourself some wind-down time each night during which you aren’t looking at screens like your phone or television. Nutrition is another area to consider when addressing constant fatigue—diets that primarily consist of processed foods may lack the nutrients you need and leave you feeling zapped for energy. Focus on eating more protein, whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, and good fats like those in avocados and olive oil.

You don’t have to struggle with fatigue, even if you don’t currently have a primary care physician or have a tight schedule that doesn’t allow you to get to the doctor’s office. MeMD offers virtual healthcare visits that can easily fit into your schedule, so you can get back to living your life.

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