While thinking of anxiety, so many scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning in the bed of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. And even if you’re not actually diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these kinds of situations, you can feel discomfort in your stomach. Your heartbeat starts racing, you start sweating, and your start chest tightness. Also, you might feel some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But the actual question is, does anxiety make you tired?
There is a high possibility you may feel fatigued after experiencing these symptoms. And of course, the sensation could lead you anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover. In this article on TerminalNets, I tell you about seven ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.
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Stress Hormone Overload
Many people do not know that anxiety can actually make them tired via overloading their bodies with stress hormones. And the “fight or flight” response is a common connection between anxiety and fatigue. In reality, this process is stand up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. The symptoms of anxiety trigger your body systems to go into high alert. It is a natural, involuntary reaction that has in the human brain for survival.
So, when humans lived with the imminent threat of being attacked by a dangerous predator, it made sense for your bodies to spring into action without much Initial thought. Such threats are rare in modern times, but your brain continues to react the same way it did thousands of years ago.
The hormones and chemicals that flood your bodies to prepare you for defenses can both affect and affect many of the body’s systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. The two most notable hormones are adrenaline and cortisol, which are to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, which helps increase heart rate and blood pressure in preparation for sprinting muscles and running. For the stress response, cortisol is released, boosting the brain’s use of glucose. It is one of your necessary fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue.
You can control baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathing techniques, meditation and/or aerobic exercise. What is more – It is easier to lean into these healthy routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.
Did you know anxiety can also make you tired? Because of your repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT, aka, repetitive negative thinking, involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past events) and worry (angst regarding the upcoming future).
Some famous researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can actually harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories. While your brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thus depleted.
Negative (thoughts/mindset) can also disrupt or prevent a healthy sleep routine, keeping your minds always racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. So, now you can actually reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts.
Instead of finding yourself stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What kind of activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you thankful for, no matter what is happening around you?
Anxiety and depression often go together. Research continues to show a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin. It is a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. There is also evidence that anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with your mood, digestion, and healthy sleep.
Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also found(produced) in the hypothalamus. Hypothalamus is an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small structure in a cone-shaped receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It plays a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to the myriad circulating hormones and nutrients that directly affect your mood and energy.
Dopamine is another well-known mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. Dopamine creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness. And when your body is operating normally – it is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). The symptoms of stress are one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby taking you to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.
Many studies found that dopamine levels in the brain can be controlled by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine. Both amino acids are present in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.
Elevated Blood Sugar Levels
Fatigue is well-known as one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). That are often found in diabetic patients with anxiety symptoms. Many people who experience hyperglycemia feel tired all the time, regardless of the amount or quality of their sleep, nutrition, or exercise. Although this association has shown a more prevalent and prolonged effect in diabetics, it also occurs with non-diabetics exposed to mental stress. In reality, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate with the addition of cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels. It really means that anxiety causes a double whammy of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.
Instead of for emotional foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the neighborhood or listen to music. You do not believe it that a gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.
It’s common for you and me to feel both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. It actually suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis. Simply put, what happens in your digestive system (and as a result of what you eat) affects the brain and vice versa.
The gut microbiota is a network population of GI tract microorganisms. So, when its balance is changed, the body can automatically develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline to begin with. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine) are also related to this.
GABA, aka, gamma-aminobutyric acid, receptors found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain stress reliever that makes you feel good by helping the body unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When your GABA activity is low, it takes you to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just some of the manifestations that show how gut bacteria actually influence behavior. All of these things actually contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.
But the good news for you is that – now, you can able to minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. A healthy diet can protect you from so many problems.
Most of the things we have already discussed are related to sleep problems, which is why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s always necessary for you to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. And much of it is cyclic. And if you don’t get enough quality sleep, you increase your risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Other things that increases is depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect your digestive health.
There is no doubt that sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired because of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these things—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. You can improve your energy levels by addressing each element discussed here. And taking a proactive approach to your sleep health is also beneficial.
You might not know that breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked. And this is also one of the ways anxiety symptoms can make you feel tired. Anxiety can take you to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath. While feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety. It’s an unhealthy cycle that often leads you to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into your upper chest and shoulders.
This is bad for you because this type of breathing reduces oxygen intake and utilization. And despite comprising only two percent of the body, your brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. You have to understand that oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. And when your breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.
You can end the anxiety-fatigue symptoms with focused breathing exercises. It’s essential for you to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress. It will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.
There are so many different styles of breathing exercises for your practice. But there’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” You have to breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. For a better result, you have to repeat this for a few minutes. It is helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, especially intentionally relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw.