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Chronic Exhaustion

Let’s be honest here, it’s no surprise if you feel like you could be suffering from exhaustion. While we may have all been in #WFH mode — 2020 has been a stressful year.

We all juggle deadlines at work; there are those workouts we need to fit in; not to mention we still have family and friends that we need to see (even if it is just over Zoom). It’s no wonder you’re suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome or ‘burn out’ can be a complicated illness, mainly characterised by at least six months of extreme exhaustion that cannot simply be relieved by sleep. The disorder begins suddenly, often following a flulike infection or an episode of physical or psychological trauma, such as surgery, a traumatic accident or the death of a loved one. In other cases, chronic fatigue syndrome develops gradually. And now for some bad news: this form of burn out can lasts for many months or years, and only a small percentage of people recover full health. Yikes.

READ MORE: 10 Signs You’re Suffering From Mid-Year Burnout

“Someone with a large workloads will work longer hours. This leads to less time for workouts, making healthy eating decisions, getting enough sleep, neglect for relationships, which could even lead to drug abuse,” says Dr Anthony Koller, specialist psychiatrist at the Akeso Psychiatric Clinic Group. And burn out isn’t just relegated to poor energy levels: emotional exhaustion is one of the key elements of burn out.

READ MORE: Is It Possible to Suffer Burnout While Working from Home?

“Emotional exhaustion is the almost complete depletion of your emotional reserves,” says Dr Koller. It could get as bad as feeling that you’ve got nothing to give people emotionally. Think: not replying to texts, saying no to coffee-date catch-ups, or just not responding well to a conversation. And that’s depersonalisation, says Dr Koller. “Depersonalisation, refers to the uncharacteristically harsh, unemotional and indifferent way in which a person with burnout begins to treat their clients and or loved ones,” adds Dr Koller.

What to look out for

Chronic stress sucks – literally. It depletes your energy, destroys your desire to get to the gym, and even wipes out your libido. Here’s how burn out can mess with your mind and body:

Extreme Exhaustion 

Aside from the fact that your anxiety might be keeping you up at night, freaking out triggers your brain to release the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. However frequent stress can cause your brain to limit the amount of cortisol it sends into your bloodstream, which can make you feel like you’re dragging butt all day, every day.

Low libido

Yup, it’s a sex killer. Chronic stress can impact your body’s production of estrogen, which keeps your reproductive system in working order. When that happens you could feel a dip in your sex drive.

You can’t poop

Those knots in your stomach could be more than just an uneasy feeling. Chronic stress can impact the hormones released by your thyroid glands, which regulate your metabolism among other things. If these hormones get off track, it can lead to constipation.

You can break out

Anxiety wreaks havoc on your immune system, which can make eczema act up or cause skin infections like staph. And when hormones called androgens in your body spike, it can cause acne to flare up.

You’re forgetful 

Traumatic stress, meaning stress that occurs when you feel a threat to your life or a loved one’s life and feels like intense fear or helplessness, seriously impacts your hippocampus, the area of your brain where your memories are stored.

You can gain weight 

A study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology found that women who were constantly stressed out metabolised fat and sugar differently than those who weren’t anxiety-ridden.

It can make your hair fall out

Just as a spike in androgens can cause your skin to break out, it can also cause your hair to shed more than usual, usually three to six months after a super stressful situation.

The solution

This form of exhaustion doesn’t mean you’ll never be happy again. If you’re in the severe end, you may need a combination of rest and medication (chronic fatigue syndrome closely resembles severe depression). And, research shows that mindfulness practice really helps eliminating burn out, so try yoga or meditation. “Ultimately, burn out is a warning sign that there is a lack of fit between one’s working environment and oneself,” says Dr. Koller. If you’re out of sync with your environment, it may be time to re-look your career. Your other solutions: get more sleep, get active, and get help.

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