Tired of Being Tired? Best Fatigue Buster is Balance

By Susan Maltby


Women who are too weary for words need a wake-up call to get more rest. “My doctor says I’m doing too much,” says Karen Wander, a 45-year-old Burbank, CA mother of three. Recently, at her annual physical exam, Wander talked to her doctor about fatigue. “I’m always tired’ says Wander. Besides fulfilling her duties as a wife and mother, she attends college and works 20 hours a week as a teacher’s assistant. “Trying to get the kids to their activities and studying and keeping your house up only works in a 21-hour day,” says Wander. “But that leaves you with only three hours of sleep.”


Why Am I SO Tired?


Science hasn’t yet discovered a way to bypass the space-time continuum and add more hours to our day. The most common and most obvious cause of fatigue is lack of sleep. Annette Besnilian, a registered dietitian and associate director of the Marilyn Magaram health center at California State University, Northridge, explains that women need to get more sleep. “As a parent I know how often children interfere with our ability to get a good night’s sleep,” Besnilian says. “Most people need at least six hours of sleep to function, but eight hours is best.”


yle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Cutting back on your zzz’s puts your health and safety at risk. Consider that the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear power plant accidents were attributed to errors made by fatigued night-shift workers. Besides lack of sleep, fatigue can have a multitude of other causes. “There are so many factors,” explains Besnilian. “Women could be worn out from a busy lifestyle, too much multi-tasking, illness, or even poor fitness and nutrition.”

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Should I Be Worried?

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yle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Being tired has become a fact of life for many women who face demanding and ever-expanding roles. If you have a busy schedule and a lack of rest, it’s normal to be tired. However, extreme tiredness and exhaustion may be a sign of more serious health problems. Women are more susceptible to thyroid dysfunction and certain immune disorders that can cause severe fatigue. “We urge women to have an annual physical exam,” Besnilian says. Besides fatigue, symptoms such as pale skin, weak and brittle hair and nails, and poor concentration may indicate underlying serious health conditions. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects more than three times as many women than men, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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yle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"> “A standard hemoglobin blood test could detect iron deficiency anemia,” Besnilian says. “ Your doctor may be able to diagnose other causes behind a serious lack of energy.”

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yle="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">Dr. Cathy Carlson Rink, an expert in women and children’s health, recommends at least 15 milligrams of iron daily. For pregnant women, increase the amount to 30 milligrams. “Fatigue is the most common symptom of iron deficiency,” Rink says. “At least 25 percent of women in North America are iron-deficient,” explains Rink. “By discovering and correcting iron deficiency with diet changes and proper supplements, women can gradually restore iron levels and bring about a resurgence of energy”.

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Fight Fatigue

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Being tired isn’t good for you. If you’re tired, consider it your body’s way of warning you that you need to set limits. It’s a vicious circle, but it takes time to make time. Like most busy moms, Karen Wander found herself devoting most of her time to her children. “I had to limit each of the kids to one activity per week to make it work,” Wander says. “I had to give up Girl Scouts and church activities. I don’t have time to go to the gym anymore,” she says. “You’d think that all the running around I do is enough exercise but it’s not.” Health expert Besnilian stresses the importance of getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a week. “You can jump around and play with the kids and make it fun,” says Besnilian. “Exercise speeds up metabolism and creates more energy. Walking is the very best way to be active.”


If your fuel tank is low you won’t have any “get-up-and-go.” Experts agree that proper nutrition is crucial for meeting daily energy demands. “Skipping breakfast is easy if you’re in a hurry but it’s the worst thing you could do,” says Besnilian. Choose healthy grab-and-go snacks. Ensure at least 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Plan and schedule meals ahead of time to ensure that you are meeting your body’s nutritional energy needs.


Tips To Exorcise Exhaustion


  1. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is a major health hazard. Besides causing a drain on overall physical well-being, sleepiness increases your risk of accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths each year.

  2. Take a brisk walk in the fresh air. Just 10 to 20 minutes is enough to clear the cobwebs from your mind and revive your circulation.

  3. Avoid dehydration. When your body is overburdened by lack of water, every organ system has to work overtime to meet your daily energy needs. Perk up with ice-cold water, juice, or low-fat milk to replenish calcium and protein reserves.

  4. Less is more.  An endless “to do” list will suck the energy out of anyone’s day. Break down each day’s activities into smaller goals to build a stronger sense of accomplishment. Find more efficient ways to manage time and get your life unstuck from energy-robbing ruts.

  5. Turn off the TV.  When you need to wind down at the end of a busy day, find a television alternative. TV may be a tempting way to tune out but it can increase fatigue by over-stimulating your tired nervous system. Think about how often you get hooked into a program and wind up glued to the tube way past your bedtime.

  6. Revitalize with vitamins. Iron deficiency is a major cause of anemia and fatigue in women. Eat right and choose a daily supplement that ensures adequate daily amounts of iron.

It can be a challenge, but ultimately, women’s most important responsibility is to make their own health their top priority. “Women are the nurturers,” Wander says. “We are raised to take care of everyone else, but it’s most important for us to take care of ourselves first.”

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in 0pt">Check out the following resources for more information and ideas to help change lifestyle patterns that leave us too tired too often.

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On the Web

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in 0pt">*National Sleep Foundation -   - Nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety through understanding sleep and sleep disorders. Their Web site offers helpful sleep-related information and links.

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in 0pt">*National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke - – Offers comprehensive overview of the sleep process and its effects on the body. Includes sections on how much sleep we need, the benefits of sleep, dreaming and REM sleep.

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in 0pt">* Here you’ll find a wealth of natural remedies and resources to help restore a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit. This is a quick and easy guide to natural health and alternative medicine with a complete list of natural sleep aids and drug-free stress management techniques.



Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear intoVibrance, Strength & Love
, by Judith Orloff MD, Three Rivers Press, 2005


How To Feel Great All The Time; A Lifelong Plan for Unlimited Energy and Radiant Good Health, by Valerie Saxion, Bronze Bow Publishing 2003


The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, Free Press, 2003.

From Fatigued to Fantastic!: A Proven Program to Regain Vibrant Health,
by Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, Avery Publishing Group 2001.


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