There can be much misunderstanding and confusion over the real meaning behind symptoms of ‘chronic fatigue’, and what actually causes various kinds and types of debilitating exhaustion.
There can also be much confusion over the difference between the labels of ‘ME’ (myalgic encephalomyelitis), ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ (CFS), ‘post viral fatigue’, burnout, ‘adrenal fatigue’ and more, all conditions which leave one with the experience of overwhelming and seemingly inexplicable tiredness.
So I hope this blog will go a way to explaining the differences.
What I am about to share comes from 20 years of research into this topic, as a result of my own personal experience of adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome and burnout, plus working with hundreds of clients since 2006 with these conditions.
Before we get into the 7 unhealthy types of fatigue, we must first look at what normal healthy tiredness is…
Normal healthy tiredness is the tiredness that our body sends us at the end of the day to tell us it’s time for bed!
This type of tiredness will come on for most adults around 9-10pm, (although this will vary from person to person), and is the body’s natural clock telling us it’s time to go to bed so our body can rest and rejuvenate itself for the next day.
The amount of sleep each adult needs will vary. An average amount is 6-8 hours, for some it could be less, for others more, but the point is, we should wake in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to bounce out of bed for the new day.
Waking tired and sluggish is a sign we have not rested well overnight, and there are usually many reasons for this, which is not the scope or topic of this blog.
The main point here is to point out that this tiredness is healthy and normal, and chronic fatigue-type tiredness is nothing like normal healthy tiredness, as you will soon see.
So let’s now look at the different types of tiredness which can and will eventually lead to chronic exhaustion.
You will notice below how the different types of tiredness will are labelled as a ‘end-result’. This is because we live in a world of ’cause and effect’ where ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. And many people are unaware of the difference!
Just as if we break the laws of society there will be consequences, so too in the land of health. If we break the laws of health, we will experience illness. It’s just nature’s way of telling us we have gone off track and need to get back on track.
So let’s get straight into it – the 7 types of fatigue which will, or will not, lead to debilitating fatigue conditions…
Hyped tiredness comes from getting over-excited.
In Chinese medicine, over-excitement is actually classified as a negative and damaging emotion along with fear, anxiety, sadness, anger and other harmful emotions (harmful in the respect they deplete or disrupt our energy flow).
When we get over-excited, this affects the energy (or Qi) of our heart. Which is why Qigong masters will teach it is healthier to not get over-excited. This does not mean we do not experience joy, it just means we recognize when we are getting ‘over-excited’ and curb this tendency.
Have you noticed that after getting over-excited, for example after receiving some really ‘exciting’ news such as winning lotto, hearing about a new job, making that big deal… a few hours later you may feel absolutely drained? This is the ‘effect’ of the ’cause’ of the heart getting over-excited. It is the other side of the coin, the yin (healing) of the yang (over-excitement). Everything in nature has to balance itself out, what goes up must come down. So if we feel a tiredness after getting excited, this is a natural re-balancing.
Whilst this type of hyped tiredness will not necessarily lead to chronic fatigue, it is something we need to watch for by noticing how our body responds after bouts of excitement.
The next one to watch for after this type of tiredness is…
Food sensitivity tiredness usually comes after eating a meal where the food has not been well tolerated by our gut. It often comes after eating carbs as opposed to protein or vegetables.
This is usually a sign that our gut has an imbalance, or ‘dsybiosis’, which is commonly referred to as ‘leaky gut syndrome’.
Most people will blame the tiredness on the food, and see the food as the ’cause’ of the problem, but actually this is not necessarily the case. What we need to do is to look at why is the gut out of balance in the first place, which is then leading it to not be able to tolerate the foods?
Whilst it may well be true that many of our modern-day foods are not healthy for us, (eg refined flour, sugar etc), it is also true that the healthier our body is, the more it can tolerate different foods, every ‘unhealthy’ ones.
But the question remains, what is it that has put the gut out of balance at a fundamental level?
In my experience, the real cause is not the food: it is the stress we put ourselves under, and in particular emotional stresses which create havoc with our digestive system.
Did you know that your digestive system has a dual function? On a physical level it has to digest your food, and on a meta-physical level it has to digest your life, and in particular your emotional life?
This is a big missing piece for many people. Which is why, whilst you take every supplement under the sun, and some may help, until you address the fundamental cause of the stress, your gut may find it difficult to restore complete balance, and how by addressing the absolute root causes, your gut may well recover without then need for supplements at all.
Emotional release tiredness happens after we have experienced an extreme emotional release, such as sadness, anger, grief, fear…
Have you noticed how after an anger outburst, or huge emotional release, you feel exhausted?
This is because we literally drain our energy when we have powerful emotional outbursts or experiences.
Whilst on the one hand it can be said it’s healthy to ‘let go’ of emotional baggage, in Chinese medicine it is not deemed healthy to have emotional releases because it literally harms the Qi (energy) of our internal organs.
Every time we experience extreme sadness or anger or fear, chemical changes are instigated inside our body, whereby different hormones are secreted, and these chemical changes can and do harm our fragile internal tissues. Believe it or not, people have literally burst their livers during an anger outburst!
In a natural effort to regain balance after a strong emotional release or outburst, we can feel tired as the body restores internal equilibrium.
Again, whilst this type of fatigue is not chronic-fatigue-type tiredness, it is not healthy and we need to train ourselves to deal with our emotions in healthier ways, which is completely possible.
Blocking or suppressing emotions is one THE biggest causes of physical tiredness that can occur, and the least recognized or understood by people until they are taught this information.
For me this was the turning point in my recovery from adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as depression (de-pressing emotions) and anxiety (an overload of emotions).
We are an energy being, quantum physics has proven this for some years now. Magnified a million times, each cell in your body has more space than physical matter!
Our thoughts are energy, our feelings are energy, our body is energy. We are energy! And when we hold in our emotional energy, because a law of physics says ENERGY CANNOT BE DESTROYED, once that emotional energy is generated inside the body, if it is not released or dealt with, it will get stored in the body until we do.
Most people have no idea of how much holding in emotions can and will create severe symptoms of chronic fatigue!
Learning to identify, clear, resolve, dissolve, speak, communicate, manage and master emotions is an absolute essential if you are experiencing symptoms of chronic fatigue or ME etc. This is what I teach people to do big time!
Another type of tiredness is…
Over-doing it tiredness is exactly what it says: it is tiredness that comes from constantly pushing ourselves and doing too much or more than is naturally healthy for us.
We work 60 hours a week, rushing from activity to activity, and then crash on the weekend as our body attempts to redress the imbalance.
Unfortunately as human beings we tend to forget our body is not a machine or designed to be ‘run into the ground’. It has needs, it needs to be cared for with love, respect and attention on a daily basis. Most people care for their car or house better than they care for their body… until it gets ill and they have to finally pay attention.
Our body needs BALANCE. It needs food, water, exercise, rest, fun, creativity, work, play, sleep, activity… in balance.
What it doesn’t need is to be driven like a work horse day after day, having many of its basic needs ignored or under-addressed.
Eating on the run, skipping meals, working 60 hours a week, not taking breaks, not sleeping enough, not exercising, eating junk food, drinking alcohol, smoking, spending hours sitting, not going outside for fresh air, back-to-backing appointments… these are all examples of not taking care of ourselves. What’s on your list?
The deeper question to recognize is WHY do we overdo it? WHY do we push ourselves so hard? With every client I have ever worked with who constantly pushes themselves too hard, the answer is always the same. NOT FEELING GOOD ENOUGH.
Deep down there is a hidden feeling of ‘If I don’t do more, or prove myself more, I won’t feel good enough, and people won’t accept or like me. I’ll be a failure and no-one will love with’.
This stems from whatever beliefs we set up in childhood, and these are the patterns that need to be worked on and cleared to effect true change.
Over-doing it tiredness is not healthy and is a sure sign you need to pay attention to your habits, because not doing so, along with holding in emotions, will start to lead to….
Adrenal Fatigue describes a physical condition whereby the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, exhaust themselves of adrenoline.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include inexplicable tiredness, foggy brain, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, salt and sugar cravings, decreased sex drive, mild depression, increased PMS, poor memory, inability to handle stress, insomnia, gut issues, food intolerances, general lethargy, decreased zest for life and more.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome was a term first brought to the world by naturopathic doctor James Wilson, and is a very real syndrome involving a complex group of symptoms which all track back to severe exhaustion and depletion of the adrenal glands.
The adrenals are mostly known for creating two vital hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which are necessary for managing stress.
Initially, in the first stage of adrenal fatigue, the adrenals will over-produce stress hormones, but if the life stressors (which can be many fold) continue, eventually the adrenals will become ‘exhausted’ and under-produce, which in turn can be a precursor to a host of other conditions such as metabolic syndrome, under- or overactive thyroid, Addison’s Disease, Hashimotos and more. Many of the chronic conditions which we experience often rest on a bedrock of severe adrenal depletion.
There are several stages that the adrenals go through before they finally become exhausted, which I will not go into in this article. But suffice it to say this is a fairly serious condition which we must take seriously, because it means our energy reserves are severely depleted, and we will feel exhausted.
If you want to check out if your adrenals may be fatigued, you can take this adrenal self-assessment here.
If we do not deal with our adrenal fatigue and over-doing it fatigue we are likely to start experiencing…
Burnout tiredness is the tiredness we feel after we have been over-doing it and pushing ourselves relentlessly for far too long. Eventually the body just says ‘enough is enough – I cannot go on like this any more. I cannot take being driven like a work horse, or you ignoring my needs – I’m absolutely exhausted’.
Burnout will mean we will feel like we just cannot go on another day. Our temper will be frayed, we cannot stand loud noises, we can hardly get out of bed in the morning, we have just reached the end of our tether. And yet we keep going!
But finally after our body can no longer take any more we will find ourselves with…
Chronic fatigue (CFS), post-viral fatigued and ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) are the final end results of all the above.
Finally we find ourselves unable to get out of bed or doing any thing considered ‘normal’ in our everyday life. We have no energy for work, play or even rest.
We find ourselves having to quit our job, unable to look after or play with the kids, travel, pursue hobbies, read a book, type a letter, take a shower, hold a conversation, lift a cup, cook a meal, go for a walk, go to the gym… activities which we took for granted before.
We get to a point where our life is disrupted beyond recognition. This is the place where most people get to before they finally recognize (re-cognize) that they are ill, even though the writing has been on the wall for some months or years.
This type of tiredness does not ‘happen overnight’ although the ‘waking up and not being able to get out of bed’ can happen overnight. It is the body’s final way of saying ‘that’s it, I’m taking you out, you WILL get the message I have been trying to get through to you that you need to change your ways, because if you don’t I will send you something even more serious’.
Finally we come to a point where we must take notice because we are too debilitated not to. Finally we stop and start asking questions.
This is the point I came to 20 years ago. I walked into work one day and quit my job on the spot. I could not go on one day longer. It was the start of a very long journey back to health, where I was unable to work for 10 years. I lost everything financially in that journey – house, car, savings…
My wish for people is that they learn to recognize the ‘signs on the wall’ and avoid having to take such a journey. Fortunately, I am able to help people short-cut this experience by months and years, either by helping them before they reach the end of the road, or help them to reverse the end-results in a much shorter time than they could ever do by themselves. Which I am able to do.
This type of tiredness must be mentioned here too.
The tiredness experienced after a viral infection, where afterwards we find we cannot get ourselves together or regain our energy, is known as ‘post viral fatigue’.
Often people can think their CFS or ME etc is a result of the virus.
This may not be the case, and in my experience working with hundreds of clients, is not the actual real cause of the tiredness.
Normally what we will find is the the stressors and all above mentioned fatigues were going on for months and years before the post viral fatigue set in. It’s just that the virus was the LAST STRAW for our body, and it finally collapsed, and allowed a virus in.
This is one of the most misunderstand concept around post-viral fatigue.
You can understand this in this brief video:
And let me mention one further type of (sort of) healthy tiredness…
As part of our recovery from exhaustion, burnout, chronic fatigue, ME, post viral fatigue, we are going to go through a period of ‘healing tiredness’. This is a natural part of the re-balancing of yin and yang.
If we have spent years pushing ourselves far too hard, our body needs time to rest and recuperate. Just as your body needs to rest after a very stressful or busy day, and you will feel tired the day after over-doing it, magnify this hundreds of times for the number of hours or days you have spent overdoing it, and there is quite a shortfall to catch up on!
The trick and challenge is to learn the difference between when your body needs rest and recuperation, and when it doesn’t because the tiredness is due to suppressed emotional energy.
This is one of the trickiest things to learn, and is one of the main things I help people with through personal coaching.
So… I hope this information will prompt you to re-assess your tiredness and work out the different contributing factors which may be creating it.
Be warned – the emotional suppression tiredness is the trickiest one to notice, because often we have no idea we have been suppressing our emotions!
Emotional Health Transformation Program - how to reduce physical symptoms by clearing the stress and emotions which create them
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