Anxiety and exhaustion go hand-in-hand.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, or apprehension. It can be brought on by a stressful event or by the way you think about an event. Sometimes people feel anxious even when there doesn’t seem to be an external trigger at all.
When you perceive a threat, your hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands release a torrent of hormones to prepare you to fight, flee, or freeze. In response, you might feel any or all of these physical symptoms:
- quickened heart rate
- fast, shallow breathing
- dry mouth
- muscle tension
Reasons for Anxiety Fatigue
- Post-Anxiety Crash
One reason has to do with the crash you feel after your adrenaline runs out. The name for this phenomenon is adrenal fatigue. Anxiety is like being on high alert. Your body is preparing you to fight or flee; and so it is flooded with energy so that you can respond to a threat. Then, when that adrenaline runs its course, your body goes through a crash that can leave you feeling drained.
- Muscle Tension
Anxiety causes profound muscle tension throughout the day, and this often results in a similar drained feeling: your body feels tired. Many people who are anxious clench their jaw in their sleep, waking with headaches and facial pain.
- Mental Tiredness
Some of that tiredness is mental simply because your brain can run out of strength. Anxiety is linked to ongoing, stressful thoughts and an overactive brain. It taxes your cognitive capacities, leading to a drain on your ability to think and react. It also increases your emotional load, which means you can end up emotionally and mentally drained.
Becoming tired is sometimes a coping mechanism that your body uses to prevent you from experiencing severe stress. Tiredness motivates you to take a break and rest rather than exposing yourself to more anxiety, which could become even more overwhelming. Fatigue is an attempt by the body to reset itself.
Napping can help you overcome fatigue and reduce anxiety, making it a useful habit in many ways. But too much napping makes it harder to sleep at night, which in turn may increase your anxiety. Naps should ideally last less than 20-30 minutes to avoid sleep difficulties at night.
- Sleep Issues
Many people with stress and anxiety also develop serious problems sleeping, for instance, difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal waking, and reduced quality of sleep. All of this contributes to an overall lack of sleep, which causes tiredness.
Finally, anxiety can cause depression. Depression is linked to a huge loss of energy; and that makes it extremely hard to stay alert throughout the day.
- See also: Seven Subtle Signs of an Anxiety Disorder.
How to Manage Anxiety Fatigue
Protect your sleep fiercely: a cool, quiet, dark sleeping space, a regular bedtime, limited naps, and relaxation techniques are key, along with curbing your caffeine and powering down your screens an hour before bed. Even if you don’t get the ‘ideal’ amount of sleep each night, keep it consistent. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
- Get regular exercise
Exercise reduces anxiety sensitivity and promotes healthy and restorative sleep.
Relaxation techniques like meditation and mindfulness can help quiet your mind, regulate your breathing, and lower the amount of stress hormones in your bloodstream.
Balance and allocate energy to the highest priority tasks can help cope with limited energy. Learning to pace ourselves and to manage our energy can be frustrating; it’s difficult when we don’t have the energy to do the things that we want or need to do. But it is an essential part of managing anxiety without burning out.
Whole, unprocessed foods, such as lean proteins, fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and complex carbs, can give you sustained energy. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar are associated with higher anxiety levels.
A psychologist or counselor may be able to help you identify your anxiety triggers and develop coping skills that lead to less anxiety and greater relaxation.
Talk to your healthcare provider or mental health counselor about whether symptoms may benefit from treatment with anti-anxiety medication.