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Fighting Fatigue? Get a Better Life

Take Stock, Set Priorities, Take Care of Yourself
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feeling tired, zapped of energy? You're not the Lone Ranger.

Doctors see it all the time: "Women with four kids, a full-time job, and they get up at 5 to get everybody ready for the day. Their lives are very hectic, they only get four hours of sleep. They expect their bodies to do more than is realistic for one person," says Sharon Horesh, MD, primary care specialist with the Emory Clinic in Atlanta.

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Fatigue has many origins. For women, anemia brought on by heavy menstrual cycles may cause fatigue. An underactive thyroid also causes fatigue. A cold, sinus infection, or virus can drag you out -- even for three or four weeks.

But all too often, you're not taking care of yourself. It's as simple, and as difficult, as that.

"The first thing I ask is, 'What time do you go to bed? When do you wake up? What's your day like?'" Horesh tells WebMD. As trite as it may sound, you need to sleep more, eat healthy, take care of yourself -- "commonsense things," she says. "It's not a medical problem, it's a lifestyle issue."

Look at Your Options

First step, take stock of your life. If you can't juggle it all, get some perspective. "Decide whether you're putting yourself under unnecessary stress," says Inyanga Mack, MD, professor of primary and community medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Phiadelphia.

"Some people can successfully carve out a year or two to achieve a goal. But others push themselves to meet unrealistic demands that are not really necessary," Mack tells WebMD.

Assess your priorities, rank their importance, then make some decisions. "Maybe a therapist can help," she says. "Maybe you need to look for help with childcare or financial problems. Maybe you need to make better spending decisions so you're not stressed financially. Some people buy a truck first, then figure out how pay for it."

You do have options, Mack says. "If you're a young woman with young children, trying to finish school, trying to work, you don't have somebody to take care of the kids, can't afford to stop working, and are working a low-pay job -- you're not actually trying to do something extravagant. They are wonderful goals, but you may need more time to do it. You may need to take fewer classes during the semester."

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