Come Monday, and most of us wait for Friday, even Saturday for some not-so-lucky ones. We are a generation of constantly tired people. ‘I can’t wait to sleep and relax over the weekend’ is a phrase heard way too often. While partying might be the idea of a weekend for the younger lot, sleeping and relaxing becomes the replacement as you grow slightly older - post mid-20s for most!
What is this constant feeling of tiredness and where is it taking us? “Tiredness is of two kinds - physical and emotional,” explains Niloufer Ebrahim, a city-based psychologist and psychotherapist. “Most of us complain about physical tiredness but it is not so simple. The two are interlinked. If you are physically tired, you won’t have any emotional or mental energy left and vice-versa,” she says, adding, “There is a third kind, which is rather recently recognised, the chronic fatigue syndrome - this is where a person is constantly exhausted.”
This is the story of many lives today. A Mumbai-based CA, who has spent at least four to five years of her life studying and hoping to crack all the exams she needed to become a Chartered Accountant, says, “I used to be so exhausted most days of my student life, I ended up cutting contact with most of my friends. My social life was zero. After I cracked it, I believed life would get better. But no, the initial few years of my professional life sucked energy out of me like nobody’s business.”
This ever-increasing demand for putting in extra hours at work and proving professional excellence is getting the better of people. Tiredness and fatigue are currently the leading health concerns in India, according to a research by a global market intelligence agency. The findings reveal that as many as 22 per cent adults in India say they are personally concerned about their tiredness and fatigue levels, rising to one in four (25 per cent) women.
Sometimes this tiredness manifests itself physically. “People don’t come to me complaining of fatigue, but yes, when we trace their physical issues backward, it leads to psychosomatic pain,” says Dr Madhuri Lokapur, a practising pain specialist with Jehangir hospital. This, she says, is a kind of pain, that arises out of mental tiredness and fatigue. People have widespread body ache but the tests usually show no issues. She points to cases of Fibromyalgia, a disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
In dealing with such issues, people usually seek medical practitioners, but not really counsellors or psychologists, especially in India, given the taboo surrounding mental health. “Everyone thinks it’s in the head and there is also under-diagnosis,” says Dr Lokapur, who intervenes depending on the severity of the issues and sometimes sends her patients for physiotherapy.
Some, who do seek counselling, “come to me complaining of tiredness and absolutely no enthusiasm or motivation”, says Ebrahim. “I then have to ask them the right questions to figure out the real issue - whether it’s physical, emotional or merely boredom. I get a lot of IT professionals, and basically people who work across time zones,” she says.
Ebrahim points to an unhealthy lifestyle, bad eating habits, and minimal consumption of essential nutrients as the reason behind fatigue and related issues. “Listen to your body,” she says, especially people who are obese and have a family history of diabetes. These people are more prone to fatigue-related issues. She adds that women are more at a disadvantage in India. “We are low on iron, which is essential for a healthy and fit body.”
Coming to the solutions, she says, that it is not so difficult to have a healthy and low-stress life. “Better time management is the key. Work smart, instead of simply working hard. Cut bad habits, get adequate sleep, exercise a little every day and avoid technological stimulations like mobile phones or laptops before going to sleep,” answers Ebrahim.
She suggests yoga and a simpler life for getting rid of fatigue by giving examples of our ancestors who had a much simpler but more fulfilling life than we do now. “We must remodel our lives,” she concludes.