Over the last five years, the number of women coming into my office complaining of being drained or exhausted most of the time has dramatically increased. Few statistics have been compiled on the incidence of this important problem, but I would estimate that between 20 to 40 percent of women suffer from chronic fatigue.
Fatigue is usually defined as weariness after exertion or work. But a more useful definition coined by Dr. Holly Atkinson, author of WOMEN AND FATIGUE, says fatigue is a symptom of having too many demands placed on your body and mind. Fatigue is a vital warning signal that your body gives you that the load is simply too great. Long-term fatigue can weaken your immune system and makes you more susceptible to accidents or illness.
Some women fail to recognize how really tired they are. They start to accept chronic fatigue as a way of life.
Fatigue is a complex interplay of many factors. These include physical, emotional, psychological, social, economic, and cultural aspects.
Although some women are told fatigue is "all in your head," in at least 25 to 30 percent of cases, a medical condition is found that accounts for the fatigue. Another 25 percent of women have physical co-factors that are major contributing causes to fatigue. These physical co-factors can be easily missed or overlooked by a doctor. These include poor diet, eating disorders, use of tranquilizers and other sedatives, alcohol use, lack of regular exercise, and unfavourable working conditions.
Let's look at some of these co-factors of fatigue.
Are You Doing More Than Your Fair Share ?
Overwork is probably the leading cause of chronic fatigue in women. Women have always done more than their share of work but these days women are working harder than ever.
Studies show that a typical working woman spends anywhere from 15 to 50 hours a week performing household and child care duties on top of a forty hour work week. Another study reported that working women with preschool children put in an average 77 hour total work week. The same study showed that in the last ten years, men had increased the amount of time they spend doing housework by less than half an hour per week.
Women who are full-time homemakers spend about 100 hours a week at 12 different labours. Several studies have shown that modern conveniences have not eased the burden; instead they have increased it due to higher standards of housekeeping and new functions that women are now expected to perform.
Time Off Is As Important As A Healthy Lifestyle
The second area to take a good look at is how your lifestyle contributes to your fatigue.
Of fundamental importance to your energy level is the amount and quality of food that you put into your body. Too many women are eating inadequately, or on the run, with heavy ingestion of sugar and junk foods as well as fast foods. Too many others are dieting or agonizing about their weight. An estimated 50 percent of women suffer from some form of eating disorder and at least as many are dieting or will soon start dieting.
Coffee and black tea give a temporary energy boost, but in the long run make you more tired. Heavy smokers often experience fatigue as a side effect of smoking.
Regular exercise at some activity you enjoy, preferably outside, can produce a striking increase in your energy levels once you are in condition. Studies show that sedentary people complain of fatigue a lot more than those who are physically active.
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