How to Manage Chronic Fatigue and Anxiety
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Anxiety can leave us feeling perpetually wound and on edge. In fact, it is common to picture someone with anxiety as super high strung and irritable, ready to pounce. In reality, living with an anxiety disorder can be absolutely draining. Chronic fatigue and anxiety, therefore, often go hand-in-hand.
If you find yourself on fumes much of the time, it is important to consult first with a physician. The symptoms of chronic fatigue can be caused by a medical condition all on its own, such as chronic fatigue syndrome. However, fatigue may also be a symptom of a medical condition, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, or a side effect from a medication. These possible explanations for the chronic fatigue and anxiety should be ruled out first through a physical examination. If no health condition is present, however, the fatigue and stress being experienced may be due to an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.
About Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is the most common of the anxiety disorders. Nearly 7 million adults, or 3.1% of the adult population, struggle each year with GAD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The symptoms of GAD include:
- Excessive worry
- Feelings of fear or dread
- Trouble concentrating
- Racing heart
- Chest pain
- Sleep disturbances
- Short-term memory problems
GAD is just one type of anxiety disorder. Within the spectrum of anxiety fall several more types, including:
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Specific phobia
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Selective mutism
Other mental health disorders that share traits with anxiety disorder include obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Chronic Fatigue?
Living with anxiety, regardless of the specific type within the spectrum of anxiety disorders, can be utterly exhausting. Anxiety churns so much energy on worry and fear, constantly elevating the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This leads to physical and mental fatigue.
When the body is in the fight or flight mode it activates the stress response. This is how human beings are hardwired, fulfilling an innate survival instinct in response to a perceived threat. Someone struggling with an anxiety disorder can experience this stress response over and over in a given day, depleting the body’s energy reserves and resulting in the state of fatigue.
What are the Signs of Chronic Fatigue and Anxiety?
These piggyback disorders tend to manifest in a variety of ways that can lead to impairment in daily functioning. This is due to the unrelenting fear response that never allows the individual to replenish their emotional reserves. The term that applies to this condition is “stress-response hyperstimulation.” Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack understands this. While in the grip of a panic attack event the body is experiencing a collection of involuntary responses, such as hyperventilating, racing heartbeat, nausea, sweating, chest pain, and headache which all require expended energy. After the panic attack has passed, the person feels emotionally and physically spent.
Some of the signs of the connection between anxiety and chronic fatigue include:
- Sleep disturbances. Someone with an anxiety disorder may find themselves struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, or feeling exhausted even after getting plenty of sleep. Tossing and turning while worrying about work, finances, children, or relationships can keep your body in an emotionally hyper-aroused state, leading to symptoms of chronic fatigue.
- Loss of Appetite. The body needs a certain number of calories and consistent good nutrition to function optimally. When in constant stress mode you may experience a diminished appetite, which then in turn causes you to feel fatigued. Lack of appetite as a result of anxiety can lead to chronic fatigue symptoms.
- Brain fog. When we are emotionally taxed beyond our ability to manage the situation or demands of daily life we may find ourselves shutting down. Brain fog is a classic symptom of an anxiety disorder, due to the over-exposure to stress and issues that feel overwhelming.
- Burnout. Mental burnout is very common in this fast-paced society. When the individual feels overwhelmed and overworked, they may find themselves nodding off at work or needing to take naps. Chronically elevated anxiety may be a contributing factor to the burnout and fatigue.
- Mood swings. Mood swings are a common symptom of anxiety disorders. Moodiness can zap energy as well as lead to other interpersonal drama, all of it causing emotional strife and stress. This can contribute to the symptoms of chronic fatigue.
- Even caffeine doesn’t help. One sign that anxiety may be stealing your energy and leaving you chronically fatigued is when you do not get a boost from an energy drink or a cup of coffee as you had in the past.
Using Holistic Therapies to Help Manage Chronic Fatigue and Anxiety
Stress can have a powerful impact on our physical and mental wellness, potentially contributing to health complications and mental health disorders. Relying on some stress-reducing holistic therapies can help calm the mind and reduce both anxiety and fatigue. Some effective stress-reducing techniques include:
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness involves practicing a type of meditation where the individual trains the mind to focus on the here and now, to remain in the moment. By reining in distracting or disturbing thoughts, it is possible to redirect attention to the body’s sensations, such as breathing, as well as what you hear, touch, or see. This can help diminish anxiety, thus reducing fatigue.
- Yoga. Yoga classes are offered in a variety of disciplines, so experiment with the different types of yoga at a local gym or via YouTube videos or apps. Yoga can benefit the individual in achieving deep mental and physical relaxation while also controlling anxiety levels, which can help reduce feelings of chronic fatigue.
- Massage. Therapeutic massage can be beneficial for releasing symptoms of anxiety in the body by releasing the toxins that stress causes. Massage also relieves muscle tension caused by stress and worry by decreasing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. At the same time, a relaxation massage can produce the feel-good hormones, neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
- Guided imagery meditation. Another excellent form of meditation that helps combat anxiety is guided imagery. These recordings, apps, or YouTube videos offer a guided journey using visual descriptions or prompts that help lead the individual toward achieving relaxation and inner calm.
Evidence-Based Therapy for Anxiety Disorder
Individuals struggling with anxiety disorder may find that outpatient psychiatric services provide adequate tools to help manage the disorder effectively. However, for those who notice their anxiety disorder worsening over time, including further impairment in daily functioning, a residential anxiety treatment program may be the most appropriate treatment option.
A residential anxiety treatment program is beneficial for many reasons. By residing at the treatment center for a specified period of time, the individual is able to separate from the usual triggers that elicit the stress response and focus their energy on learning how to better manage these responses. A much more focused treatment approach allows for a deeper look into the issues that may be impacting the anxiety. Upon intake, a thorough evaluation of the anxiety disorder will provide important information, such as a detailed medical and psychiatric history and a review of medications, which allows the psychiatrist to diagnose the specific features of the anxiety disorder. Using this as a template, a customized treatment plan is designed.
A comprehensive treatment approach includes a variety of therapeutic elements throughout the day, including:
- Evidence-based psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help individuals who struggle with anxiety by helping them identify irrational thoughts that may fuel the stress response. Exposure therapy and other trauma-focused psychotherapies can help individuals confront past traumatic experiences that could be contributing to the anxiety disorder.
- Medication. Some individuals may benefit from medications that help minimize anxiety, such as benzodiazepines and mood stabilizers.
- Group support. Small support groups made up of others struggling with anxiety and led by a licensed therapist can help participants process the past traumas or recent situations that provoke anxiety.
- Family therapy. Family-focused group allows family members to learn more about their loved one’s struggle with anxiety and how to be supportive of their efforts to manage it going forward.
- Holistic therapies.Therapeutic activities that promote relaxation include mindfulness training, deep breathing exercises, yoga, aromatherapy, and art therapy.
The Role of Diet and Exercise in Managing Chronic Fatigue and Anxiety
Restoring overall health through diet and regular exercise is an essential aspect of managing anxiety. In addition to sticking with a healthy Mediterranean diet, there are actually certain foods that can help quell feelings of anxiety fatigue, including:
- Whole grains
- Salmon and other fatty fish
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Dark chocolate
- Chamomile tea
- Green tea
Getting regular physical activity is another positive lifestyle tweak in combating anxiety and fatigue. Cardio-focused activities, such as walking, running, swimming, cycling, and dance can help reduce cortisol levels while releasing endorphins and stimulating dopamine. Together these biochemical responses help regulate emotions while improving sleep quality and elevating mood.
Elevation Behavioral Health Los Angeles Residential Anxiety Treatment
Elevation Behavioral Health provides upscale residential mental health treatment, addressing the full spectrum of anxiety disorders. The intimate size of our holistic and evidence-based program provides a more attentive clinical staff that will partner with you, guiding you toward healing and recovery from this challenging condition. Our personalized treatment plans allow our clinical team to target the specific features of an individual’s anxiety disorder. For more information on how to overcome anxiety, please contact our team at (888) 561-0868.