Can Stress Cause Fatigue?
It was November 2016 when my wife and I decided to bring our daughters, aged 6 and 8, to see the “real” Santa in Lapland. We had made this day trip with our son a few years prior to this, and I remembered feeling exhausted after it which was understandable, after all, it was a 30-hour round trip with little time for resting, let alone sleeping. This was on my mind as we made arrangements to bring our two daughters on the same trip. My recollection of the events leading up to, and including, our day trip answers the question “can stress cause fatigue?”
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that stress contributed to my fatigue. The opposite is also true, being fatigued contributes to stress. When you have to decide between taking your kids on a “once in a lifetime” trip to see Santa and thereafter crashing for 4 days, or, staying at home and not crashing, well I guess I’m gonna crash. When I say “crash”, I mean I’d be 20 hours asleep in bed and 4 hours existing on the couch, unable to wash myself, cook or even hold a conversation. The mental and emotional stress of this has profound effects on the body.
What Is Stress?
Our bodies experience stress when responding to mental and emotionally arousing events in our environment. The stress we experience can come from many sources, such as grief, loss, work, parenting, physical illness, natural disasters, family arguments and the list goes on. Whatever the cause, stress is a symptom multiplier. Here are a list of some signs and symptoms for stress: fatigue, headaches, aches and pains, stomach and digestive issues, rapid heartbeat, sleep problems and loss of sexual desire. Bearing this in mind, getting a handle on stress is paramount to our recovery.
Stress is all too common these days. The world is full with people working two jobs, getting the-kids off to school, mortgages/rent, bills etc., that we forget to take care of ourselves. We are not machines, and yet we all know that machines need regular servicing. So I ask, “would it not be foolish to expect our bodies to perform well when we fail to take care of ourselves?”
Well, I have to say “I was one of these people”, and I paid the price.
The week before we left for Lapland I was brought down by a viral infection. My ears and body ached, I had hot and cold sweats, it was like I had a mother flu. I didn’t realize it at the time but the stress of the up coming trip was on my mind and, I believe, triggered my flu like symptoms.
The day before we left I was almost back to “normal”, bear in mind though that “normal” to me at this stage of my illness was probably only about 20 to 30% of my former capacity. Luckily, my wife loves to pack and I was spared the stress of this. One would ask “why stress over packing for a trip?”, well the answer is simple, my memory and concentration were so poor that I worried I’d forget something important. Triple checking and rechecking passports, flight tickets, money etc., because of the awful feeling of forgetting something.
We made it through airport security and down to our departure gate and I recall been so relieved to find a seat, and this was only the beginning of our trip. In my mind rose the question “how am I gonna get through the next 24 hours, or so”? My thoughts were predominantly negative and I struggled to be happy and excited for the kids.
Finally, we arrived in Lapland. The beautiful winter wonderland scenery, companied with the excitement of the children and the general happy atmosphere, gave my spirits a much-needed lift. Mentally, I felt better, and looking back, I see I had more energy as a result.
We had a great time over the next few hours throwing snowballs, taking reindeer and husky rides, and of course, visiting Santa himself. After all the excitement had subsided and we were on our way back to the airport I slowly began to shut down. I spoke only when necessary, could hardly keep my head up, as I despaired over how I was going to make the long walk through the terminals, back to the car and home to bed. By now the fatigue was adding to my stress, and my stress was adding to my fatigue.
I don’t remember much of the trip home but I will never forget how I felt, both physically and mentally. The aftermath was a four-day sleeping binge. This was one of the lowest times in my life. A time that I am grateful to have behind me. A time I never wish to return to.
How To Combat Stress With CFS
One of the few ways in which you can combat stress is to exercise, but what do you do in the case of chronic fatigue syndrome? You simply cannot exercise. Any over exertion makes us worse, and for me this was so frustrating, because I used to be so active. You can imagine the inner conflict this causes, adding to your stress. It’s like being stranded in an ocean, surrounded by water, yet you can’t take a drink. Similarly, doctors told me to train, walk or swim and I tried to follow their guidance, but I simply got worse with every attempt.
Having had an interest in martial arts from childhood I was always open to meditation, although I had never given it any serious thought I figured it was worth a shot, I needed to do something to reduce my stress level, thus reduce my fatigue. I was pleasantly surprised.
Just like anything new, it takes practice. You won’t get abs doing sit ups for 5 minutes, or become a Shaolin master either. But you don’t need to be a master to reap the benefits of meditation. YouTube is full of free meditations to help you get started.
At a later date I will be dedicating a blog to meditations, as it plays an important role in my recovery. I will share the specific ones that helped me the most, the different types of meditation and the benefits to be had.
Siobhan’s Simple Effective Tip – (the secret to relieving toxic stress in two minutes!)
We all know exercise reduces stress and gives us a feeling of space, freedom and accomplishment. What some of us don’t know is the reason we feel this relief is that Dopamine (produced during exercise) reduces Cortisol – often referred to as the “stress hormone”- by diluting its presence in our bodies! The problem is we are all so busy and overwhelmed with our daily tasks – work, family, friends’ birthdays, and all the little hiccups in between – that we barely have time to rest never mind exercise. If you suffer with Chronic Fatigue, the likelihood of you even being able to think about exercise is pretty slim.
So, today I want to share with you a very easy way to relieve your toxic stress and leave you feeling more confident and competent in two short minutes. Seems crazy right!? But it is actually really simple. Here’s how it works.
Step 1. Stand up and raise your arms high in the air, as if you just won a race. The moment you do this, you brain receives the message that you are happy and safe. When your body posture is completely open the brain believes there is no danger because you are not protecting your vital organs by crossing your arms! Thus, cultivating calm energy throughout your body.
Step 2. Hold this posture for 2 minutes. This might sound easy but you should feel slight tingling sensation in your fingers & as you approach the end of the two minutes your arms should start to feel very heavy. This causes your body and mind to yearn for the relief of letting your arm drop.
Step 3. Let Go and drop your arms shaking them out and taking a long deep breath as you sigh in relief. Once you release our arms, a kick of dopamine shoots straight up to your brain making you feel happy and relieved. Any stress you were feeling will have dissipated through the natural dilution process once the dopamine in released. Now, you can go back to calmly and confidently managing your tasks.
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