If you’re feeling fatigued just reading this, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
From waking up tired to feeling beyond exhausted from the simplest of tasks and spending countless days of your life thinking ‘maybe my iron is low’, the vast majority of us have been there.
Thankfully, though, there are solutions to the problem. The first step is getting to the bottom of what’s causing the fatigue, so that you can get the right advice to find the best solution for you.
Here’s everything you need to know about fatigue and how to get on top of it.
How common is fatigue?
Put simply, fatigue – not to be confused with chronic fatigue – is a lot more common than you might think.
“Some studies have found that of anyone sitting in a general practitioner’s waiting room, about one in four has experienced fatigue within the last month. So it’s pretty common,” Dr Ginni Mansberg tells Mamamia.
The problem is, though, like pain, measuring fatigue levels between two people can be a difficult business.
“Your level of fatigue or what you experience correlates really poorly with any objective that we find,” Mansberg says. “It’s not like we can consistently say if you feel these things you’re more likely to have that problem because people experience fatigue very differently.”
What are some of the causes of fatigue?
“If fatigue’s been going on for a few weeks but before that you felt fine, it’s very likely to be a virus,” Mansberg says, “But if it’s been going on for at a least a month now, I would look at your lifestyle. It’s amazing how many people say they’re exhausted but don’t accredit the feeling to sleep deprivation. They think the sleep is another thing that they have to deal with.”
Other possible causes include an over or under active thyroid, depression, and for women, particularly those experiencing heavy periods, low iron. One in five women aged 35 to 49 experiences heavy periods, which is why campaigns like Wear White Again, which encourages women to talk to their doctors about these issues, are so important.
What's the big picture?
"A person's subjective symptoms are impacted a lot around what else is happening in their life," Mansberg says, explaining, "how stressed they are, how supported they feel, how much sleep they're getting."
In other words, it can often be a number of small things that traditionally you wouldn't link with one another, but put together a more holistic image comes into view.
Listen: Dr Ginni Mansberg talks to Mamamia about women's bodies and all of our greatest misconceptions. Post continues...
Along with seeing your GP as soon as possible, assessing your lifestyle is one of the first things to do when feeling fatigued, particularly if you're a woman.
"Women do more," Mansberg says. Between working, caring for children, getting things done around the house, spending time with family and friends, it's not unusual to feel worn out. And as Mansberg points out: "When can you ever say, I have nothing to do?"
How do you manage fatigue?
If you've already made a doctor's appointment there are a few things you can keep an eye on to discuss when you get there. For starters, Mansberg says, check your sleep.
"You can't continuously take sleep out of your sleep account and not make any big deposits and not think that your body is going to run out of steam. It does," she says.
Other small changes that can help enormously include assessing your diet and how much junk food you're consuming, and engaging in some small form of exercise - be it a stroll around the block after dinner or getting off at an earlier train station on your way home.
"We're not talking about joining the gym or doing a hot yoga class," Mansberg says. "We're just talking about going for a walk. And it really only needs to be about 150 minutes per week."
How long can it take to turn around?
Like most things in life, everyone's experience with fatigue is different.
If you're someone who is, for example, going through menopause, experiencing financial pressures at home, not sleeping well and eating badly - patients she says she would see around four of a day - managing your fatigue will take time.
"In those instances, it's so multifactorial," she says.
At the other end of the spectrum, though, if you are experiencing heavy periods and have low iron as a result, you should be feeling substantially better and wearing white again within a number of weeks of visiting a doctor. Because in that instance, managing your period and replacing lost iron is all that is needed.
The best thing you can do, Mansberg says, is take note of everything happening around you and plan a visit to your GP sooner rather than later and start to make a plan to find out what's happening and beat that fatigue in the butt.
How do you manage fatigue?
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Wear White Again.
The Wear White Again campaign encourages women with heavy periods to ask questions and seek answers.
One in five women experience heavy periods, medically known as menorrhagia, typically defined by unusually heavy bleeding lasting more than 7 days or when you need to change protection more than every 1–2 hours. Research shows that close to 75% of women who suffer from menorrhagia do not bring it up with their doctor, even though many report being sleep deprived, depressed and anxious because of it. Break the silence and know your options. Talk to your doctor and learn more at www.wearwhiteagain.com.au.