Fatigue is feeling tired, drained of energy and exhausted. Fatigue makes it hard for you to do normal daily activities. Feelings of inadequacy, low motivation and little desire for sex can also be symptoms of fatigue.
There are many causes of fatigue.

Possible physical causes that need medical care include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome. The fatigue lasts for six months or more.
  • Lupus (the systemic type).
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Low thyroid.
  • Leukemia.
  • Having the AIDS virus.
  • Anemia.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.

Other physical causes include:

  • PMS. (See page 141).
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Crash dieting and eating poorly which results in vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • Migraine headaches.
  • Side effects from allergies or chemical sensitivities.
  • Living or working in hot, humid conditions.
  • Prolonged effects of the flu or a bad cold.

Possible emotional causes:

  • Burnout.
  • Boredom.
  • Change (facing a major life crisis or decision like divorce or retirement).
  • Depression and/or anxiety.


The first thing to do is find the cause(s) of the fatigue so you know what to treat. It is important to keep track of any other symptoms that take place with the fatigue, so both physical and emotional causes can be identified and dealt with. For example, iron supplements can help with the fatigue that results from iron-deficiency anemia.

Self-Care Tips

Depending on the reasons for your fatigue, the following things may help restore your energy levels:

Eat healthier – Both extreme overeating and crash dieting can tax the body and lead to exhaustion. Skipping an important meal like breakfast or indulging in high fat and/or rich, sugary snacks are practically guaranteed to leave some people pooped. On the other hand, iron-rich foods, whole-grain breads and cereals and raw fruits and vegetables contain the nutrients your body needs to maintain your energy level. It may help to eat 5-6 light meals a day, instead of 3 large ones.

Get more exercise – Expending more energy can actually give you more energy, especially if you work at a sedentary job. Exercise also acts as a tranquilizer, counteracting emotionally induced anxiety or weariness. If you’re feeling sluggish, try taking a brisk walk in the fresh air. It can renew your energy instantly.

Cool off – Working or playing in hot weather can drag you down, as can living or working in a warm, poorly ventilated environment. The solution to these problems is to rest in a cool, dry atmosphere as often as you can, drink plenty of liquids and open a window.

Rest and relax – You don’t need a book to tell you that getting a good night’s sleep can put the spring back in your stride. But did you know that daily relaxation breaks can also restore your energy? Schedule your day to allow relaxation breaks, then practice deep breathing, meditation or yoga.

Change your routine – Nothing makes you feel stale faster than doing the same things over and over. Try to do something novel and interesting one or more times a day. If, on the other hand, you’re on the go too much, set aside some time for peace and quiet.

Lighten your work load – Delegate tasks to others when you can, both at work and at home. Ask for help when you need it from family and friends or hire help if necessary.

Do something for yourself – Plan time to do things that meet only your needs, not just those of others.

Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol and don’t use illegal drugs – These can trigger fatigue.

Questions to Ask

Do any of these problems occur with the fatigue?

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of balance or weakness, especially in one part or one side of the body
  • Thoughts of suicide

Yes: Seek Emergency Care


Do you have any of these problems with the fatigue?

  • Loss of weight or appetite
  • Yellow skin and/or eyes (jaundice)
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Throwing up a lot
  • Feeling anxious, and not being able to calm down

Yes: See Doctor


Do you have two or more of these problems with fatigue?

  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Painful swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Excessive thirst and/or urination

Yes: See Doctor


Do you have or have you had any of these problems?

  • Arthritis or rheumatism for more than 3 months
  • Fingers that get pale, numb or uncomfortable in the cold
  • Mouth sores for more than two weeks
  • Low blood counts from anemia, low white cell count or low platelet count
  • A rash on your cheeks for more than one month
  • Skin rash after being in the sun
  • Pain for more than 2 days when taking deep breaths
  • Fainting episode
  • Seizure, convulsion or fit

Yes: See Doctor


Did you start to feel fatigued after taking medicine?
Yes: Call Doctor

For women: Did the fatigue come with the onset of menopause, follow menopause or could you be pregnant?
Yes: Call Doctor

Has the fatigue lasted for more than two weeks and kept you from doing your usual activities for no apparent reason?
Yes: Call Doctor

Provide Self-Care

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021