Community Psychiatry’s Leela Magavi, M.D. was featured in Verywell Mind discussing mental illness associated with chronic fatigue and how to cope.
Everyone goes through periods of occasional sleepiness and low energy. But if you’re not finding relief through sleep or rest, it’s time to address why you’re experiencing excessive tiredness. It might be related to a medical issue or a mental health condition like depression.
Fatigue, sleepiness, and feeling tired all the time are common when dealing with depression. “Depression itself can cause fatigue, apathy, and listlessness due to the nature of the disease,” said Leela R. Magavi, MD, a psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry.
Signs of depression related to fatigue include:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep
- Difficulty waking in the morning
- Sleeping too long
Once you’re up and moving, you may also feel sluggish and unmotivated throughout the day. If your days and nights include more periods of restlessness and sleepiness than they do bouts of energy, it’s time to make some small changes.
See Your Personal Physician
If extreme tiredness is getting in the way of your daily routine, the first thing you should do is see your doctor. They can rule out health-related conditions such as anemia, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, or certain medications that may cause excessive sleepiness. They can also talk with you about a referral to a mental health professional.
Set an Achievable Exercise and Mindfulness Goal Each Day
Taking on a goal that is too complex or requires too many steps can feel overwhelming, especially when you are feeling tired. To help with small steps, Magavi recommends scheduling an achievable exercise and mindfulness goal for each day. That’s because scheduling in advance and creating routines transform healthy behaviors into positive habits.
This could be as simple as a mindful walk on a busy day that only takes 15 to 20 minutes. But make sure it is something you will enjoy doing. “It’s important to individualize the activity to avoid overexertion or demoralization,” Magavi said.
Journal Your Daily Activities
At the end of the day, Magavi recommends journaling successes and reviewing these frequently to help gain further motivation for the remainder of the week.
“Each success releases neurochemicals such as dopamine, which positively reinforce healthy behavior,” she said.
For example, if you write down a goal to walk with weights for twenty minutes and cross this out when completed, Magavi said this will release some positive neurochemicals.
“The next day, if demotivation strikes, it is helpful to think about the success from the prior day and attempt to repeat it again,” she adds.
Move Your Body
Participating in exercise and physical activities you enjoy can help boost your mood and your energy levels. That said, finding the motivation to move your body when you feel tired can be challenging. The first step is to find one thing you like that requires you to move. Then, set a goal to do this one time a day—even if it is for 10 minutes.
For those who struggle with self-motivation, as we all do from time-to-time, Magavi says accountability is key. If this sounds familiar, calling a friend and scheduling a time to exercise each day could prove beneficial. Walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, playing a recreational sport like golf or tennis, and even working in the yard are all excellent ways to incorporate exercise into your day and help boost your energy.
Not sure where to start? Magavi recommends a routine of deep, diaphragmatic breathing coupled with Pilates, squats, walking, or running, which helps you concurrently engage in mindfulness and exercise.
Practice Mindfulness Meditation and Relaxation
Mindfulness meditation, relaxation, and breathing exercises can help calm your mind and body, which may allow you to feel more energetic. Plus, it only takes a few minutes each day to feel a difference. Use this time to be aware of what’s going on in your mind and body.
Start with five minutes a day and work your way up to mindful moments several times a day. To help you get started, listen to a guided meditation, or recorded breathing exercises. Once you feel comfortable with the practice, you will find that you have more focus and awareness throughout the day.
Focus on Fresh Air and Light
Brightening your environment with light can do wonders for your mood and energy. Open all the blinds in your house. Get outdoors and take a walk. If the weather is not cooperating or you are unable to leave the house, sit by a window while reading or working on a computer.
You may also want to consider purchasing a light box (10,000 lux), which allows you to do light therapy. This is one of the treatment modalities for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). A doctor or mental health expert can recommend an individualized treatment plan to follow while using light therapy.
To treat SAD with light therapy, the National Institute of Mental Health recommends sitting in front of a light box for 30 to 45 minutes, first thing in the morning. Most people use a light box from fall to spring.
Adjust Your Expectations
Expecting to jump out of bed each morning full of energy may cause you to feel more stress and anxiety. Instead of expecting perfection, understand that some days may be easier than others. If you can bring your expectations down just a bit, you may experience more success.
To do this, choose one small thing you can do today that can help boost your energy. For example, walk up and down the driveway, do 10 minutes of restorative yoga, listen to a 10-minute guided meditation, or go outside and breathe in fresh air. Make sure to write down your goal and check it off once you accomplish it.
Troubleshoot Your Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe healthy sleep habits or behaviors you can practice that may help improve your ability to fall asleep and remain sleeping through the night.2 Following good sleep hygiene can improve the quality and quantity of sleep you get each night. It also plays a significant role in your physical and mental health.
To help improve your sleep hygiene, make sure to follow a nightly routine that allows time for relaxing activities. Finding ways to unwind before bed may allow you to quiet your mind, relax your body, and get a better night of sleep. Also, aim to get up and go to bed around the same time each day. Limit or eliminate electronics in the evening hours and shut down all screens at least 60 minutes before bed.
Talk to a Mental Health Professional
Feeling tired all the time can be a sign of a mental health issue like depression. If your sleepiness becomes excessive and difficult to manage, ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional. Talking with a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist who can treat the underlying issue may help you feel better. They can also work with you to develop strategies to boost your energy.
Click here to read the entire article on Verywell Mind.