Health Care and Exhaustion

- September 03, 2013
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When you are completely worn out physically, or mentally, you come to a state of exhaustion. Being “tired to the bone” is a common expression, and it usually means you are so tired you have a hard time doing another thing in your daily routine. If you get so incapacitated during your daily activities that you find it almost impossible to accomplish just one more task, then it’s time to take a break.

Americans have more sleep loss and longer work schedules than residents of most other industrialized countries, and both factors can lead to physical and emotional collapse, according to a study by the University of Chicago and reported in the Chicago Tribune. Experts say chronic stress can trigger a cascade of negative health effects.

When you're stressed, for example, the body's "flight or fight" response causes a surge in adrenaline, which can result in valves in the upper digestive tract staying open. When this happens, food and digestive enzymes can travel the wrong way, resulting in reflux, heartburn and other stomach problems. Sleep loss and fatigue also lead to problems with people's circadian rhythm, which can promote inflammation throughout the body and cause gastrointestinal issues.

In some cases, fatigue is a sign of an underlying disease, including cancer, low thyroid, anemia or other metabolic abnormalities, such as adrenal insufficiency. Exhaustion is commonly seen with depression and is a possible side effect of many prescription drugs, including beta blockers, muscle relaxants and mood stabilizers, according to the study. Plus, fatigue caused by dehydration, infection, drug or alcohol abuse, or lack of sleep — either due to insomnia or just burning the candle at both ends — is treatable in the outpatient realm. Exhaustion can also lead to low serotonin, which causes depression, anxiety and insomnia. But it's not accurate if the real diagnosis is drug or alcohol intoxication or overdose.

“Busy," "stressed," and "tired" are intimately connected. They describe the ethos of current times -- and its inevitable aftermath. You try to balance work, family, friends, and various self-improvement programs. You take in a steady stream of information from the people, screens, phones, and sounds that surround you every day. You may not sleep enough. You likely multitask like crazy, striving to get more done in less time. A recent CDC study found that 16 percent of women ages 18 to 44 reported feeling “very tired,” “exhausted,” or otherwise worn out most days, compared with 9 percent of men in the same age range.

For a while, maybe even years, it's easy to feel like you can handle this frantic pace -- or even thrive at it. But ultimately, it works against you. "Stress is pervasive in our society, and it's only getting worse," says integrative-medicine expert Woodson Merrell, M.D., author of "The Source: Unleash Your Natural Energy, Power Up Your Health, and Feel 10 Years Younger."

"And people do not necessarily have the coping skills to deal with it, even when they think they do." You often don't realize how much of your days are spent dealing with stressful situations, and on a physiological level, the effects of stress add up. "You don't start every day with a clean slate," he says. "You start the day with all the stress you've accumulated in your life, and you add to that." At this website, , there are 10 tips listed to help you deal with exhaustion.

Children also get exhausted. According to the National Institutes of Health, a good night's sleep, along with healthy eating and exercise, is the crucial third leg in a child's health triangle. Long overlooked, lack of sleep is now considered a key contributor to children's behavior problems and physical well-being. Studies have shown that kids who don't sleep enough are inattentive, restless, irritable, and more likely to injure themselves. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that one in three kids is sleep-deprived on any given day.

Sleeping well means more than putting in the hours, and the quality of sleep matters as well. Good sleep is uninterrupted, allowing your child to cycle through its five stages. By 6 months, a baby's sleep pattern resembles an adult's: the child progresses into deeper sleep for nearly 90 minutes and then enters a lighter rapid eye movement (REM) phase, when dreaming occurs.

And our kids aren't just resting when they're off in the land of Nod. During the deeper phases of sleep, energy is restored, damaged tissue is repaired, and growth hormones are released, according to Rafael Pelayo, M.D., head of the pediatric sleep service at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Much more detail on this subject can be found at this website: .

There are other types of exhaustion that are separate topics for discussion, but have equally devastating effects on the body and mind, such as heat exhaustion. According to this website, , heat exhaustion is one of those critical health care situations. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body gets too hot. The hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls thirst and hunger, also controls the body's core temperature. Normally, the body cools itself by sweating.

When you are exposed to high temperatures for a long time (working outdoors in the summer, for example) and don't replace the fluids you lose, the body systems that regulate temperature become overwhelmed. As a result, your body produces more heat than it can release. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention because it can progress to heat stroke, a life threatening illness.

And, mental exhaustion can be its own topic. If constant stress has you feeling disillusioned, helpless, and completely worn out, you may be suffering from burnout. When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care—let alone do something about your situation. The unhappiness and detachment burnout causes can threaten your job, your relationships, and your health. But burnout can be healed. You can regain your balance by reassessing priorities, making time for yourself, and seeking support. More details about mental exhaustion can be found at this site: .

Regardless of the type, exhaustion is a serious health issue. Don’t push yourself to the ultimate collapse of your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual end. Take time for yourself. Make plans to remove yourself from stressful, time consuming projects and routines that zap your strength, energy, and ability to function at a normal pace. If you don’t, you risk more traumatic issues; and some of that can be seriously problematic from not only a medical point of view, but also your mental state of well being can be significantly affected.

Until next time.
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