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Solving Stress Symptoms Series...Fighting Fatigue

Do you struggle getting out of bed in the morning? Do you feel more exhausted when your alarm goes off in the morning than when you went to bed? Do you rely on caffeine and other pick-me-ups to get you through the day? Unfortunately, this feeling of constantly being exhausted is common among people dealing with ongoing stress.

There are many reasons for this, most revolving around the fact that ongoing stress is a lot for our body to handle, so eventually it can no longer function ideally, leaving you feeling drained. The good news is there are things you can do to help your body to recover from the stress. These strategies focus on getting to the root causes of your fatigue, to resolve your issue in the long run. Common reasons why stress can cause fatigue include:

Nutrient Deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies are common when you are stressed out. Not only is your body using up certain nutrients faster than normal, but also your body is usually not absorbing nutrients as effectively as it can. Three common nutrient deficiencies caused by stress that is linked to fatigue are magnesium, vitamin B9 (folate), and vitamin B12.

Magnesium Deficiency. Other symptoms of a magnesium deficiency are muscle twitches and cramps, headaches, anxiety, mood challenges, blood sugar imbalances and sleep issues among others. You can naturally increase your magnesium intake by upping your intake of leafy greens, nuts and seeds (eg. almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, hazel nuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds), beans (eg. black beans, lima beans, edamame), avocado, bananas and dark chocolate. Or you can opt for a supplement.

Vitamin B9 (Folate) Deficiency. Other symptoms of B9 (folate) deficiencies include weakness, headache, numbness in your extremities, irritability, shortness of breathe and diarrhea. Some foods that are great sources of B vitamins include leafy greens (eg. spinach, collard greens), broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers legume and beans (eg. black beans, chickpeas, edamame, kidney beans, lentils), seafood (eg. salmon, sardines, tuna, oyster, clams and mussels)and eggs. Or you can opt for a B complex supplement.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Other symptoms of B12 deficiencies include weakness, headaches, numbness in your extremities, problems with balance, memory issues and cognitive declines. Some foods that are great sources of vitamin B12 include beef, liver, chicken, fish and shellfish (eg. trout, salmon, tuna, sardines, clams), eggs, dairy products (eg. milk, yogurt and cheese), nutritional yeast and fortified products (eg. cereal, non-dairy milk).

Blood Sugar Imbalances. Stress can cause a blood sugar roller coaster in your body, and blood sugar imbalances can unfortunately lead to headaches. These dips leave you feeling exhausted, irritable and hangry. Luckily you can manage these dips simply by modifying your eating. To better manage your blood sugar, you can eat snacks or meals regularly (about 2-4 hours), ensuring you are getting adequate protein and fat with every snack and meal, and minimize refined sugars.

Adrenal Gland Issues. Our adrenal glands are responsible for releasing cortisol, our body’s stress hormone, so when we are stressed out, it's understandable that our adrenal glands are feeling overworked and in need of a little TLC. When our adrenal glands are taxed, it leads to our cortisol levels being off. Cortisol is not only our stress hormone, it's also the hormone that regulates our energy levels and sleep patterns. Our cortisol is meant to be highest in the morning to help us hop out of bed with lots of energy, and it slowly drops throughout the day. When we are dealing with stress, our cortisol patterns tend to be all out of whack and we tend to feel exhausted when we are meant to feel refreshed and we feel wired when we are meant to feel tired. To help bring your cortisol levels back within an ideal range and help your adrenal glands start functioning ideally again, you can:

Expose yourself to sunlight first things after you wake up and limit your exposure to light after the sun goes down.

Stick to a consistent bedtime, ideally before 10pm, and wake up time.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other things known to impact sleep quality.

Switch to gentler forms of exercise such as walking, biking, or yoga.

Add in additional self care practises that you find restful and restorative.

Thyroid Gland Issues. Similar to our adrenal glands, our thyroid can get taxed over time when we are under a lot of stress. Ongoing stress often results in lower levels of thyroid hormones, like T3 and T4, leading to the thyroid to become less active. This sluggish thyroid can leave you feeling drained and can cause your metabolism to drop, which in turn can cause weight gain. The good thing is, a lot of the strategies to support your adrenals, also work to give your thyroid a little extra love.

I know it seems like a lot of work and potentially a lot of trial and error to figure out which one of these is the root cause of your fatigue, but it will be worth it when you are bounding out of bed in the morning and won’t need an extra coffee to make it through the afternoon. Beyond feeling drained, it means you are getting your body back into balance, which means it might resolve other stress-induced symptoms.

This post is part of a series that focuses on addressing the frustrating symptoms most frequently caused by stress. Each will focus on addressing the symptoms at the root, instead of simply masking it for the time being. So stay tuned.

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