What Can Be Done About That “Always Tired” Feeling
DO YOU feel tired most of the time? Dr. Frank S. Caprio, a prominent psychiatrist, writes: “Nervous fatigue is so common today that it has been referred to as the Great American Disease. Most patients who consult a doctor complain of chronic tiredness.”
So great is the problem of always feeling tired that some years ago Science Digest observed: “Every year doctors prescribe at least 3500 tons of amphetamine stimulants just to help their patients get through the day.”
If you are one of those who are ‘tired all the time,’ do you know the reason? What causes fatigue?
A Baffling Question
The difficulty of answering this question may surprise you. The World Book Encyclopedia notes: “Doctors do not know exactly what causes fatigue. They do not know why a person feels tired after muscular exertion or mental effort.”
Yet the answer may seem quite obvious to you. It is commonly thought that when a person works, he uses up energy, and waste products, such as lactic acid, accumulate in his blood. As a result, he becomes tired. Yet the matter is not all that simple, although there is certain truth in the above view.
That waste materials in the blood apparently are a factor in producing fatigue is shown by the fact that injections of blood of a fatigued animal into one that is rested will produce fatigue in the rested animal. Yet The Encyclopedia Americana comments:
“Under normal conditions . . . the muscle is kept supplied with sufficient nutrient material and the waste products are reconverted to supply new energy so long as the blood supply of the muscle is intact. It is therefore unlikely that these chemical changes are of critical significance in normal fatigue, except possibly in very heavy muscular work. For normal kinds of sedentary work, chemical changes in the muscles play a minor part.”
Common experience also runs counter to the view that fatigue is due simply to expenditure of energy and chemical changes in the muscles. Consider, for example, the worker who feels fatigue after hours of work, but then his fatigue suddenly leaves him. You probably have had that experience.
Perhaps you can remember being tired after hours of work. But then you were invited to do something that you really enjoyed, such as play a game or go for a hike in the woods with friends. Even though this required perhaps more energy than the work you were doing, almost at once your tiredness vanished!
You probably have had similar experiences that make the question of fatigue baffling. For example, you may have discovered that you are less tired when doing work you enjoy than when doing even easier work that you do not enjoy. Many persons, in fact, get tired while hardly exerting themselves at all. Even the thought of having to do certain things makes some persons tired! Such true-life experiences caused the journal Today’s Education to conclude: “There is something wrong with the common assumption about what causes fatigue or even about what fatigue is.”
The book Fatigue and Impairment in Man, after presenting extensive research on the subject, explained: “Fatigue . . . bears no consistent relation to expenditure of physical energy.”
If feelings of fatigue are not due simply to the using up of energy, what causes that tired feeling? Various factors are known to be involved.
Expending physical energy is one of the factors. Fatigue normally results from vigorous work or play. Our bodies were designed to experience a tired feeling as a result of such activity. Ordinarily it is a pleasant sensation, a welcomed one. Because of it, “the worker’s sleep is sweet.”—Eccl. 5:12, The Bible in Living English.
Interestingly, though, studies show that those who do the most strenuous work seldom complain of fatigue. They expect to feel tired. So they eat, they rest, they sleep, and their tiredness leaves. They are refreshed. But what if one continually pushes one’s body day and night, failing to give it proper food and rest?
That “always tired” feeling may result. What is the solution? Will taking vitamins help to combat fatigue?
That depends upon what is responsible for one’s tiredness. Is it due to lack of nutrition? If so, vitamins may help. But perhaps in more cases than not, at least in homes where nutritious food is readily available, a person receives sufficient nutrition from the food he eats. If this is true, vitamins will probably not improve that “always tired” feeling.
What, then, about taking pep pills, amphetamines? True, these may dispel tiredness temporarily, perking one up and giving one a sense of well-being. But they do not replenish the body. Rather, they contribute to its further depletion. According to the American Medical Association, “amphetamines are not a magic source of extra mental or physical energy. They serve only to push the user to a greater expenditure of his own resources, sometimes to a hazardous point of fatigue that often is not recognized.”
So be realistic. If you have that “always tired” feeling because of pushing yourself too long in work, play or late entertainment such as TV viewing, recognize what you need. Get more rest and sleep. The importance of getting sufficient sleep was highlighted by Dr. Philip M. Tiller, Jr., of Louisiana State University’s School of Medicine. His investigations found that women who get seven hours or less of sleep a night report seven times the amount of nagging fatigue that those do who get eight hours of sleep or more.
But what if circumstances do not permit getting sufficient sleep at night? Or what if one simply lacks stamina, and ordinarily develops fatigue during the day?
Many have found the solution to be a short daytime nap. For some people, experts say, a half-hour nap is equivalent to the three hours of sleep just before waking in the morning. In his book Live at Peace with Your Nerves, Dr. Walter C. Alvarez encouraged after-lunch nap taking, saying: “Even ten minutes will suffice.” If lack of sleep is causing you to feel fatigued, you might try a daily nap. By working at it, some persons have learned to drop off to sleep quickly.
A Factor Wisely to Consider
However, sometimes a person may discover that no amount of sleep or rest relieves his “always tired” feeling. A 194-pound, nearly six-foot-tall college athlete found this to be the case. He had been practicing hard and staying up late. So he figured that by getting more sleep he would soon shake his fatigued feeling. But it remained. A checkup with the doctor revealed that he had infectious mononucleosis.
Thus another factor in fatigue may be disease. If this is the case, rest is not necessarily the answer. The fatigue will not disappear or improve until the illness causing the fatigue is improved or cured. Some of the more common diseases of which fatigue is a symptom include diabetes, anemia, hepatitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza. But fatigue can be the first generalized symptom of almost any organic disease, including some heart disorders and cancer. So if extra sleep does not relieve your “always tired” feeling, it would be wise to have a physical checkup.
But you may be getting plenty of rest and doctors may find no evidence of disease, yet that “always tired” feeling persists. Why? What is the cause?
Emotional or Mental Factors
Your feeling of fatigue is probably due to emotional or mental stress. This is responsible for nearly 80 percent of chronic fatigue, according to Dr. Stewart Bartle of New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Contrary to what some may think, this tired feeling is not imaginary. Dr. Joseph D. Wassersug explained: “Fatigue, whether it is due to disease, physical exertion or emotional stress, produces the same sensation of weariness.”
Some doctors may treat this weariness with amphetamine pills. But these drugs can be harmful, and, besides, they only treat the symptoms. Better it is to find out what is responsible for the emotional stress and correct it.
Surprisingly, boredom is responsible in perhaps the majority of cases of chronic fatigue. Persons tire quickly when they lose interest in their work or other activities. Dr. T. G. Klumpp, an authority on diseases of old age, noted:
“Fatigue in older people . . . is seen more commonly among those who don’t have enough to do. Too often such men and women feel that their life work is done, and their fatigue, therefore, has its origin in boredom, loss of incentive and interest. Over and over again, when a crisis arises or something of deep interest comes along, these individuals miraculously lose their fatigue.”
This is true, too, of persons of practically all ages. When there is a revival of true interest in life through purposeful activity, fatigue astonishingly vanishes. A study made by the efficiency expert Dr. L. Gilbreth illustrated this. The industrial workers studied were all in good health, did much the same kind of work, under much the same physical circumstances, yet they varied greatly in the tiredness they felt at the end of the day. The lively ones were those looking forward to some sort of activity during the evening or the next day.
So if your tiredness is due to boredom, try to develop interest in your work or in other activities. Many of Jehovah’s witnesses report that, although feeling tired after a day’s work, their tiredness leaves when they become absorbed in an evening Bible discussion.
Mind’s Powerful Effect on the Body
It is a mystery how much our mind affects our body. Almost any negative emotion can drain us, causing fatigue. For example, one doctor noted: “Hating somebody all day is more tiring than laboring in the fields from sunrise to sunset.” A true-life example of a businessman illustrates this. Dr. Peter J. Steincrohn, in his book Live Longer—And Enjoy It!, explained: “I suggested he either stop hating the man or stop seeing him. He set out to accomplish the former (because that was less expensive), and succeeded so well that within a few weeks his tiredness had disappeared.”
Feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety or worry are all principal causes of fatigue. A person need not lift a finger all day, yet may be totally exhausted from worrying or brooding over some problem. If harboring such negative feelings becomes a habit, that “always tired” feeling results. What can be done about it?
First, decide what you can do about the matter bothering you. If, for example, you have erred in some way, do what you can to correct the matter. If it is of a serious nature, go to the persons involved and ask their forgiveness. When King David sinned, he said: “When I kept silent my bones wore out through my groaning all day long.” How fatigued he felt! He was bone weary! But when he confessed his error to God, and did what he could to straighten out the matter, he experienced relief.—Ps. 32:3-5.
Follow that example. Do not allow your emotions to keep you worn out. Seek God’s help, as King David encouraged: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you.” (Ps. 55:22) Get your mind off yourself and your problems by taking an interest in others. Do what you can to help them. You will be amazed at how refreshed you will feel.
Working behind a desk all day can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, and can lead to that “always tired” feeling. But surprising as it may seem, physical exercise can refresh one. Science News Letter said: “For a long time, doctors used to treat fatigue by having the patient cut out something, no matter how little he was doing. . . . Now physicians know better. . . . Exercise is the answer, but it should be fun and not drudgery. After an emotionally exhausting day behind a desk, a little exercise can work wonders.”
Yes, fatigue is baffling. Actually, we have much more energy than we probably think we have. It is there, but we need to adjust ourselves mentally to use it. To illustrate, Dr. Stewart G. Wolf of the University of Oklahoma conducted a study in which subjects were told to hold weights in their extended arms as long as they could. Then they were given dummy pills, which the subjects believed contained a powerful antifatigue medication. “This,” said Wolf, “resulted in nearly doubling their endurance.”
It is comforting to realize that we evidently have resources of energy that many of us do not use. By learning to tap that energy, and by not letting it leak away needlessly, we should, if we have normally good health, be able to avoid feeling ‘tired all the time.’