“I’m always tired.” How often have you heard that complaint from a friend, or even said it yourself? It’s so frequent, in fact, that in many cases a feeling of constant fatigue is accepted as simply a routine part of life.
Housewives, particularly, can be victims of a kind of fatigue that is chronic and debilitating. A medical survey has shown that among women a constant feeling of being tired is now one of the most common medical complaints.
Chronic fatigue is often accompanied by headache, back pain, digestive disturbances, and colds. It can contribute to a washed-out appearance, bad temper, and domestic problems.
In most cases, every aspect of living becomes more difficult. Nothing is anticipated with pleasure. Life is just a bind.
The reasons behind a constant feeling of tiredness are not always easy to explain.
In general, doctors recommend a thorough physical examination as the first step toward determining the cause of chronic fatigue, which can be an early symptom of a more serious illness. If this is the case, it should disappear as the condition responds to medical treatment.
How can you tell whether your tiredness is serious enough for you to seek medical advice?
A possible clue to fatigue caused by an illness, says one specialist, is whether you feel refreshed on waking in the morning.
Fatigue caused by disease is usually not present at the beginning of the day but grows more intense with the passing hours.
Anemia, lack of red blood cells, is one of a number of causes of chronic fatigue.
It’s very common in women, particularly in their late 30s or 40s. They lose more blood each month than they should and don’t make it up the following month. This is one of the commonest causes of tiredness.
A below-par feeling can be a temporary condition resulting from drugs taken to cure an illness.
Any lung disease or respiratory tract infection, heart disease, kidney complaint can cause fatigue too. Diabetes is fairly common in the US, particularly in the 40-odd age group, and this will also cause fatigue.
In the case of chronic disease, the germs which cause it, produce poisons that spread through the system and these cause the feeling of tiredness.
Most doctors agree, however, that physical reasons do not usually account for the typical housewife’s complaint of being tired all the time, and that by far the largest proportion is caused by mental or emotional stress.
If you’re suffering from a psychological disorder particularly depression fatigue will most likely be a symptom. Tension from such problems as noise and the competition of modern life can also make you feel constantly tired.
But if you’re a woman at home with house and family to run, the most likely emotional cause of tiredness is boredom, accompanied perhaps by loneliness and frustration.
Chronic fatigue is often an outward sign of inner (probably unrecognized) conflict about what the woman suffering it wants out of life and where she is going.
She may have got up and cooked breakfast, seen husband and children off for the day, bearing with them the lunches she cut the night before.
She may have washed, swept, dusted, polished, ironed, sewed, mended, and cooked and not spent an idle moment. Yet she doesn’t have a sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction at a job well done.
She can be left with a frustrated feeling that there should be more to life than acting as an unpaid maid-of-all-work. She is resentful (“I hate them all”), yet guilty (“I love them all”) about her resentment. The more guilty she feels, the more her fatigue builds up.
Or perhaps the “‘trapped” mood sets in. It takes only an unappreciative attitude on the part of husband or children, or both, to plunge the spirits.
The wife is not the only one prey to the “trapped” feeling. The husband has had the disappointments and frustrations of a job he has to hold to support the family.
How do you tackle this sort of situation? First, it helps to realize that there is nothing wrong with feeling the way you do, that you’re not the only one who does – it’s a complaint you share with thousands of others.
If you believe your weariness is due to the “trapped wife” syndrome, it’s up to you to enlarge your horizon. Try to find ways of doing so. Take up a course at night, when your husband is home to mind the children. Join a daytime discussion group. If you can’t find one to join, start one among your own circle of friends.
Much fatigue is closely related to apathy, listlessness, due to an absence of joy or pleasurable excitement.
Everyone has fits of “What’s the good of it all?”, a weariness of spirit that can result in feelings of utter tiredness. This sort of fatigue can be cured in a flash – by “something nice” happening, even so small a nice thing as a compliment.
Constant fatigue is often the lot of the housewife who also has an outside job, and who lives in a constant rush.
Her tiredness may originally be more real than imaginary: nerves get frazzled, things get out of hand. But this can be aggravated by inner conflict – is her time fairly divided between work and her family?
In the US, around 60 percent of the cases of chronic fatigue are self-induced. For instance, there’s the housewife who looks at the pile of washing that has to be done and suddenly gets tired.
Then there are the women who are always eating aspirin tablets or headache powders. They can get run down and then get anemic and constantly feel tired. That is very, very common in the US.
If you are constantly feeling tired, try examining your feelings more. Many complaints of chronic tiredness are related to hidden anger, fear, guilt, and hostility. Ask yourself questions such as “What do I really want?” or “What am I really angry about?” and try to face up to them honestly.
Don’t turn to pep pills to solve your problem. They can only provide temporary relief at best, won’t solve the basic conflict and could even be harmful.
Or suppose there is no conflict: perhaps a working wife is trying to do too much. She should look for shortcuts, for more help from her family. She should examine her budget and see whether she can afford to send laundry out, to pay for even a half-day’s house-cleaning.
But though it has no organic cause, the type of fatigue from which so many housewives suffer is not imaginary. It’s a psychological kickback from the woman having to do a job she’s not very interested in. This tiredness is very real to people.
In contrast to fatigue caused by organic disease, chronic tiredness due to emotional factors is likely to appear as soon as you wake up and continue throughout the day.
In most cases of common, emotion-based fatigue, neither rest nor sleep will help. Yet if someone suggests doing something interesting, a game of tennis perhaps, or going to a movie, you find the energy to do it.
The solution, therefore, is to find something to do that absorbs you and helps you forget your other problems.
If you don’t get enough exercise, you’ll get tired more easily too. Your system will be sluggish and everything will seem more of an effort. Regular physical exercise will improve your circulation and increase your strength and endurance.
But to get the most benefit, from physical activity, it should also be something you enjoy swimming, walking, tennis, golf, gardening.
If you’re very overweight, you can expect to feel tired. An extremely fat person gets tired just from carrying around the extra weight.
Chain-smokers too will find their energy increases if they cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke each day.
Fatigue is also present when women go through bodily changes which are part of menopause, pregnancy, or old age. In these instances, sleep usually restores low energy levels.
Sleep will also renew anyone whose fatigue is due to physical exertion or inadequate rest. This “real” fatigue can be a problem for a woman who has small children at home and no household help.
If you are suffering from chronic fatigue, have had a physical check-up and been told there is nothing organically wrong, here are some suggestions for you to try to combat your problem:
- Try resting and sleeping more. If that does not work, examine your emotional life.
- Stop racing around. It tends to reduce the amount of energy you have.
- Exercise regularly.
- Create an “energy budget” with priorities of things to be done, but include periods of rest.
- Check your environment for too much noise, bad lighting, poor ventilation, and oppressive heat or cold.
- When you feel yourself becoming irritable, the first sign of fatigue, take a breather, or time off to do something you enjoy.
- Don’t do the same thing at the same time and in the same way every day. Try breaking your routine or changing its pace. You’ll also break the monotony.