Feeling occasionally tired is a wholly natural part of life. Strict deadlines, homeschooling your children, long commutes, recovering from an illness—all can induce fatigue and make you feel downright sluggish.
And yet, chronic exhaustion is a different case—and can be straight-up debilitating. If you’re struggling to muster the energy to complete activities and tasks that once brought you a sense of joy and accomplishment, know that something more insidious and critical may be underlying it.
Let’s jump in to discover possible exhaustion causes—and find out about the natural remedies to solve it.
Symptoms of exhaustion
Tiredness is to be expected after a certain amount of time of being awake, or, say, a drawn-out meeting. Exhaustion, however, is, medically speaking, daily fatigue that keeps you from achieving what you set out to do and impacting the quality of your life. Symptoms of it include:
- A lack of desire to engage in your usual activities
- An urge to sleep
- Difficulty rising in the morning
- Persistent dearth of energy
Sound familiar? Read on.
Exhaustion Causes to Consider
The pandemic and various “ailments” that arrived with it, from political unrest to economic uncertainty and isolation, partly explains why fatigue has risen in recent years, with Time Magazine reporting that searches for exhaustion have been at “historical highs.” At the same time, medical, social and psychological challenges might be the genuine culprits.
Hypothyroidism is a discomfiting condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t generate enough of the thyroid hormone, which is key to everything from metabolism to heart rate. Typically affecting elderly women—but with an ability to impact anyone—it can lead to weight gain, a blue mood, parched skin and, yes, lethargy.
Feel not just exhausted but also lightheaded and dizzy? Ensure you get checked for anemia—a health issue in which your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, which leads to reduced oxygen in your blood and may be accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and consistent exhaustion.
Often due to either blood loss, or an incapacity to properly absorb iron, it’s common in women with heavy periods and can make everyday feel like a real challenge. A common sign that a person has iron deficiency anemia is the urge and craving to chew on ice. If you’re experiencing this, be sure to see your doctor for a blood test to assess for anemia.
Viral infections might also be the root cause of your ongoing exhaustion. Epstein-Barr (EBV)—the virus behind the ultra-fatiguing mononucleosis—is frequently marked by exhaustion, as well as an inflamed throat and general weakness. Other viral infections, such as HIV, Rubella and, of course, COVID, can all give rise to enervation as well. Some people with long-haul COVID symptoms experience extreme fatigue long after they have fought off the infection.
The Standard American Diet—which is jam-packed with sugar and processed foods—ultimately deprives your body of the essential nutrients it needs to have that go get-em energy. Indeed, research demonstrates that a poor diet can affect your gut microbiome and result in increased fatigue. Meanwhile, other foods, such as gluten and dairy, or any food you have an immune reaction to, may lead to fatigue and can cause long-standing exhaustion.
Depression, grief, and/or anxiety
Psychological challenges can take as much of a toll on your levels of energy as physical medical issues like chronic pain, as there’s an inextricable link between your mind, body and facility to function. In fact, exhaustion is one of the primary symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, grief and anxiety. Whether your current psychological state could be due to any number of reasons—from being in a career you abhor to an unsatisfying or even abusive relationship to the loss of a loved one—it’s vital to seek out the care of a professional. Ditto for all of the medical issues listed above, as your doctor can ascertain if there’s a deeper cause for your exhaustion.
Lastly, your exhaustion may be due to simply doing too much! In this modern era, it’s all too easy to feel—and get—pulled in seemingly a thousand directions. Clients, work, partners, social events, exercise classes, children, social media, the news, domestic tasks—all can accumulate over time and leave you feeling completely, well, pooped.
What can I do about exhaustion—and naturally?
All that said, exhaustion needn’t be a life sentence. After determining whether your fatigue is rooted in a more serious issue or an inadequate diet, do know there are several solutions.
Live your life purpose
Few things are more depleting than living an existence that doesn’t quite feel like…yours. It may be a city that no longer suits you, a partner who no longer excites and pleases you, a job that leaves you feeling uninspired—basically anything. Whatever the source, examine where you can make changes. Are you engaged in your favorite hobbies? Is your living environment soothing? Are you pursuing your true passions?
Answering these questions can help you wake up to your current situation, take stock of what is working in your life and what isn’t, and push you to make choices that are better suited to who and what you are now. Making positive changes in your life could possibly help alleviate your exhaustion.
Curb your caffeine consumption
You may frequently reach for a cup of joe when you want to boost your energy, but it may be working against you. Caffeine offers a high but with it comes an inevitable low. Further, drinking caffeine too late in the day can lead to insomnia and sleep disturbances, thereby only worsening your exhaustion.
…and your alcohol intake
A glass of wine to unwind at night may seem innocuous and yet alcohol also interrupts sleep patterns and may lead to day-time mood swings (to say nothing of the lassitude that comes with a hangover). It can also contribute to blood sugar imbalances, and when blood sugar drops, fatigue and feelings of exhaustion are sure to follow.
Practice a mightily-healthy lifestyle
The importance of sound sleep, proper nutrition, hydration, and exercise cannot be overstated. Nail these pillars of wellness, with true devotion, and your exhaustion may just dissipate.
Eat greens on the daily
Potassium-rich spinach is fundamental to energy metabolism, while other leafy greens—kale, collards and more—are classically known to beat fatigue.
While nothing can replace a well-rounded, healthy diet, supplements can supply energy-enhancing properties. Ginseng, for example, is a timeworn remedy for feeling rundown, while adaptogens can ease the effects of stress and the fatigue that arrives with it. Magnesium, meanwhile, which is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions, also organically fosters greater energy.†
Most of all? Be sure to surround yourself with happy, loving, supportive people. Isolation and loneliness can lead to a “what’s the purpose?” feeling—and there’s nothing more wonderful in the world than the company of friends and family.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.