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What Is Compassion Fatigue? Here Are The Signs You’re Experiencing It.

The onslaught of bad news — from the abortion rights ruling to mass shootings to COVID — can lead to a unique type of burnout.

With COVID, mass shootings, monkeypox, the fall of abortion rights, racially fueled hate crimes and the exploding mental health crisis ― just to name a few ― it can really feel like we’re stuck in a black hole of bad news.

There is only so much trauma a person can take before it starts to chip away at their mental and physical health. When you’re exposed to constant stressors, as we’ve all been over the past few years, it’s natural to experience compassion fatigue, a type of empathy burnout that can occur after being excessively exposed to negative events.

Compassion fatigue looks a bit different from person to person but often leaves people feeling exhausted, detached, emotionally disconnected and helpless. For example, maybe you find yourself feeling less affected by horrific shootings, or perhaps you feel indifferent to protests on reproductive justice or unable to help people living in Ukraine. Compassion fatigue is real, and it’s no surprise that so many people are experiencing it after enduring an extreme amount of pain, rage, disbelief and worry on multiple fronts.

Compassion fatigue also doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks, sometimes months or years, to take hold. By the time most people recognize they’re struggling, it’s fully surfaced.

“Usually we’re gradually shifting into this state of becoming less and less capable of coping with the stress of new events, and therefore, when we get big news — like what happened with the most recent ruling on abortion — we might not really have the emotional reserve to cope with such big news,” Sheehan D. Fisher, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told HuffPost.

Here are a few signs you might be dealing with compassion fatigue:

A shift in your mood

Some people may start to notice a difference in their moods and feel more agitated or irritable on a daily basis. Those with compassion fatigue tend to develop a more pessimistic view of the world and begin to lack hope about the future.

There’s “just feeling generally unhappy or apathetic or having difficulty in maintaining compassion or empathy in a way that is typical for you,” explained Jessica Stern, a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone Health.

Compassion fatigue may also cause changes in cognitive function, affecting people’s ability to think clearly, make decisions and use good judgment, research shows.

Feeling fatigued or burned out

When you are repeatedly exposed to trauma and are chronically in a fight-or-flight state, it’s typical to experience intense exhaustion and fatigue, Stern said. In the beginning, compassion fatigue can feel like a roller coaster, with dips of intense stress and depletion.

But over time, depletion will take over and set in. “With time, you’re going to find that the ‘on moments’ are going to become diluted more and more and more, where you’re just going to feel the low end of that, which is exhaustion and fatigue,” Stern said.

This is more common in people who feel like they lack agency over what’s occurring in their life. “The more that they feel that they don’t have a way to fix the problem and that there’s just a problem that’s unresolvable, it’s more likely for them to start to feel fatigued by it because they don’t feel like there’s a way to make change that they have control of,” Fisher said.

Compassion fatigue can happen after weeks of exposure to tragedy or negative news.

compassion-fatigue-lr-knost

Becoming disengaged from things that once mattered

Compassion fatigue can cause people to avoid situations that may normally cause them to feel stress or even compassion, according to Fisher.

Because they have already met their limit of what they can handle emotionally, it can feel like a burden to put themselves in yet another situation that would bring on more stress. As a result, people may become disconnected from their social networks and lose touch with the activities that previously brought them joy.

Feeling desensitized or complacent

Over time, this disengagement can turn into complacency. People can become desensitized to negative events and lose the ability to feel empathetic or sympathetic. They may develop a more muted response to stressors because they’re so burned out from their ability to engage, Fisher said. Eventually they may completely shut down emotionally.

“What we worry about sometimes is people become so complacent that they walk away from dealing with problems in general,” Fisher said.

Here’s how to cope with compassion fatigue

Stern recommends first identifying where you feel depleted — whether that’s at work, at home, in your social life or with sleeping and eating. Notice what in your life might be contributing to your fatigue. Focus on the small things that you can control, Stern says. Start there and see if that helps, then begin to make bigger changes.

Although it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world, overexposure can be more harmful than helpful. In some cases, it can create the reverse result, and people may become inactive or disengaged with the problem, according to Fisher. “Limiting how much we are exposed to to make it functional for the goal is important,” Fisher said.

Self-care is also crucial and can include things like reaching out to your support system, exercising, resting and taking care of your physical health. All of that can help you cope with the stress of life events.

Fisher recommends approaching your recovery as you would a big lifestyle change. “They need to maintain a certain level of well-being and a certain level of self-insight into their emotional health to know how much they can take on, or not, and know when it’s safe to take on more,” Fisher said.

If you are able to make substantial changes and adjust the factors that have been contributing to your compassion fatigue, you will likely be able to recover quicker, Stern added.

It takes time to recover from compassion fatigue — a couple of weeks if not a couple of months, according to Stern. If you try these things and the fatigue persists or worsens, it’s worth talking to a therapist or psychiatrist who can assess whether you’re experience compassion fatigue or perhaps a more serious issue.

By Julia Ries        Jul 1, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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8 Ways to Stay Energized All Day

It’s no wonder so many of us struggle with energy issues. We go, go, go from morning to night, running on little but grit and caffeine. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “The reality is, you can get a real boost by making a few simple changes,” says Dr. Nada Milosavljevic, director of the integrative health program at Massachusetts General Hospital. That’s why we put together this complete guide to all-day energy: It’s packed with proven strategies that will keep you powered up as you plow through your to-do list. You’ll also learn about surprising energy drains (social media, we’re looking at you)—and how to keep them from stealing your mojo.

Keep allergies under control

People with hay fever often feel sluggish. “You spend so much time trying to breathe, you don’t have energy for anything else,” says New Jersey-based allergist Dr. Neeta Ogden, spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Your congestion might also keep you awake at night: French researchers found that more than 40 percent of seasonal-allergy sufferers reported they weren’t able to get a good night’s sleep when their symptoms flared.

Studies have shown that over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays (like Nasacort and Flonase) effectively relieve congestion and improve quality of life—including fatigue and sleep issues—in people with seasonal allergies. Ogden suggests pairing a spray with a daily dose of an OTC nonsedating antihistamine (such as Claritin or Allegra); the drug will block the action of histamine, the compound that triggers pesky nasal symptoms. For best results, begin treatment a couple of weeks before sniffle season starts.

Get enough (quality) sleep

It’s estimated that up to 26 percent of all adults in the U.S. have sleep apnea, a disorder that involves shallow breathing or pauses in breathing while you sleep. If you’re among them, you may often feel like you’re in a “brain fog,” even if you’re clocking seven hours of shut-eye a night. If your primary care physician suspects sleep apnea, she can refer you to a sleep center. Most cases can be diagnosed with an at-home test, says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Southern California and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Mild cases can often be treated with lifestyle modifications, such as losing weight and avoiding alcohol before bed. Moderate or severe cases may require sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which supplies a steady stream of air to keep your airways open.

Exercise

A sweat session is great for upping your oomph, even when you feel like you’re out of juice. “When you exercise, you release hormones like adrenaline. This hormone actually tells our bodies to ignore feelings of pain and fatigue while enhancing blood flow to large muscles,” says Sabrena Jo, senior exercise scientist at the American Council on Exercise. As a result, a workout can leave you with more energy than you had beforehand—an effect that can last several hours.

And it doesn’t take much. One study looked at healthy, sedentary people who began exercising three days a week for just 20 minutes a day, at either a moderate or a low intensity. By the end of six weeks, their energy levels were 20 percent higher than those of a control group of nonexercisers.
Remember: The idea is to leave the gym energized, not exhausted. “If you feel beaten down by the time you step off the treadmill, it’s a sign you need to scale back,” says Jo.

 

Get adequate vitamin D

Research suggests this key vitamin plays a role in keeping us charged up. Experts suspect D helps regulate insulin secretion and metabolism, both of which affect energy levels. The nutrient has also been linked to better moods (not to mention a slew of other health benefits). If you find yourself constantly dragging, particularly in the winter, it might be worth asking your doc to check your D levels. Since it can be tough to get an adequate amount from food (sources include fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk), she may recommend a supplement.

Purge your Facebook friends

There are two reasons social media can be an energy suck, says Dr. Brian Primack, director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh. “On one hand, you look at everyone’s curated photos and get depressed because your life doesn’t look so perfect,” he explains. “But on the other hand, anything that’s negative also gets magnified. Neither extreme is good.” Indeed, one of his studies found a link between the amount of time spent on social media and the likelihood of depression.

Not ready to cut the Facebook cord? Try paring your “friends” down to your actual friends. “When you don’t know someone, you’re more likely to have a miscommunication or be upset by something in their feed,” says Primack. “But using social media to connect with old friends can have the opposite effect—it’s energizing.”

Eat to fuel

To improve your everyday energy, try this tweak: Substitute plant protein for animal protein whenever possible, suggests Samantha Heller, a registered dietitian at the NYU School of Medicine. Plants feed the “good” bacteria in your gut, she explains, which help boost your immunity to keep you healthy. They may also boost overall mood. A 2015 study found that people who followed a plant-based eating program for 18 weeks saw an increase in their productivity. Here, Heller describes a sample menu for an ideal day.

Breakfast: A Berry smoothie. Blend 1/2 cup berries with a scoop of avocado and 3/4 cup soy milk. The shake is high in both fiber and protein to stabilize your blood sugar until lunch.

Lunch: Lentil soup and kale salad. Lentils and kale are a mighty nutritional combo, offering protein, fiber, iron, potassium, zinc, folate, and more.

P.M. snack: Fruit and nuts. This duo serves up a nice balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat to help you power through the rest of the afternoon.

Dinner: Vegetarian tacos. Wrap beans with shredded lettuce and cheese, chopped tomato, avocado, and salsa in a corn tortilla for a light dinner that won’t mess with your sleep.

Try some fast pick-me-ups

Take a mini break. Stand up and stretch, or watch a funny video. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers found that people who took two short breaks during a repetitive 50-minute task performed better than those who worked straight through.

Go for a quick walk. A landmark study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that a brisk 10-minute walk can have a revitalizing effect, enhancing energy for at least two hours.

Chew a stick of gum. A 2015 U.K. study found that this trick raised alertness and improved concentration, possibly because chewing increases blood flow.

Don’t ignore fatigue

Sometimes feeling spent isn’t a problem that can be solved with a nap. Below are a few possible medical explanations for flagging energy.

Anemia. This condition, common in women, means you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your tissues. If blood tests reveal you’re anemic, you may need to take an iron supplement.

Celiac disease. Fatigue is one of the symptoms of this serious condition, in which an autoimmune reaction to gluten damages the intestines. If blood tests suggest celiac, you’ll need an intestinal biopsy to diagnose it. The only proven therapy is a gluten-free diet.
Hypothyroidism. “If your body isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, you’re going to feel like you’re running low on fuel all the time,” says Milosavljevic. This disorder can be treated with synthetic hormones.

Heart disease. A 2003 study published in Circulation found that 70 percent of women who’d suffered heart attacks had reported feeling unusual fatigue for up to a month beforehand. “Patients often say that they feel tired in their chest,” says Dr. Dana Simpler, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. After a full workup, your doc can prescribe a treatment plan.

This article originally appeared on Health.com
Hallie Levine / Health.com       May 03, 2017     TIME Health
source: time.com


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5 Causes of “Brain Fog”

Jana, selected from Natural Solutions magazine   February 24, 2009

Your mind feels like San Francisco in the springtime: The fog is rolling in and it might not leave again until fall, unless you do something about it. Here are five common causes of “brain fog” and what you can do to bring back the sunshine.

1. Stress. Chronic stress overstimulates the brain. Turning down the figurative volume helps repair damage done to brain and nerve cells. Adaptogens (such as ashwaganda, panax ginseng, and rhodiola) can help your body cope with stress. L-theanine has been shown to reduce anxiety and increase sleep quality.

2. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Both of these are relatively recently recognized disorders that can cause impaired mental function. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to alleviate symptoms of both disorders. Light to moderate exercise can boost the immune system and improve mood and sleep.

3. Fatigue. As obvious as it sounds, fatigue affects the ol’ gray matter. Lack of sleep can cause symptoms mimicking mental illness. We need from seven to nine hours of sleep per night—and quality counts. Don’t check email or do work right before going to bed. Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks late in the day. Practice calming techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing.

 

4. Nutrient deficiencies. Your brain is cranking through nutrients at a furious pace. Make sure a steady supply is at hand. Vitamins C and E have been shown to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The B vitamins can help improve memory. Zinc, Co-Q10, and essential fatty acids also help maintain healthy brain function.

5. Depression. Almost 10 percent of Americans suffer from depression, which can cause difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. Read Natural Cures for Depression for what you can do to help relieve depression.

Neurotransmitter-boosting supplements, such as SAMe and 5-HTP, help lift levels of dopamine and serotonin. St. John’s wort, although bruised in recent media reports, is still a great option for minor depression.


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Fatigue

By Mayo Clinic staff

Definition

Nearly everyone struggles with being overtired or overworked from time to time. Such instances of temporary fatigue usually have an identifiable cause and a likely remedy.

Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, lasts longer and is more profound. It’s a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and diminishes your energy and mental capacity. Fatigue at this level impacts your emotional and psychological well-being, too.

Fatigue isn’t the same thing as sleepiness, although it’s often accompanied by a desire to sleep — and a lack of motivation to do anything else.

In some cases, fatigue is a symptom of an underlying medical problem that requires medical treatment. Most of the time, however, fatigue can be traced to one or more of your habits or routines. Chances are you know what’s causing your fatigue. And with a few simple lifestyle changes, it’s likely that you have the power to put the vitality back in your life.

Causes

Taking a quick inventory of the things that might be responsible for your fatigue is the first step toward relief. In general, most cases of fatigue may be attributed to three areas: lifestyle factors, psychological problems or medical conditions.

Lifestyle factors

Feelings of fatigue often have an obvious cause, such as:
· Alcohol use or abuse
· Caffeine use
· Excessive physical activity
· Inactivity
· Lack of sleep
· Medications, such as antihistamines, cough and cold remedies, prescription pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants
· Unhealthy eating habits

Psychological problems

Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as:
· Anxiety
· Depression (major depression)
· Grief
· Stress

Medical conditions

Unrelenting exhaustion may be a sign of a medical condition or underlying illness, such as:
· Acute liver failure
· Anemia
· Cancer
· Chronic fatigue syndrome
· Chronic kidney failure
· COPD
· Emphysema
· Heart disease
· Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
· Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
· Medications, such as prescription pain medications, heart medications, blood pressure medications and some antidepressants
· Obesity
· Pregnancy
· Recovery from major surgery
· Restless legs syndrome
· Sleep apnea
· Type 1 diabetes
· Type 2 diabetes

Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

source: MayoClinic.com