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Exhaustion is one of those symptoms that can make life feel really, really tough. When we say exhaustion, we’re not talking ordinary fatigue, mere tiredness, or the habit of snoozing through your alarm clock a few extra times. This kind of exhaustion is the complete lack of vital energy that overwhelms you when you wake up in the morning, keeps you stuck at home, and makes doing anything seem totally impossible. Your exhaustion might be a passing phase, or it could be caused by a whole number of things, including autoimmune diseases, anemia, hormonal problems, kidney disease, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and cancer-related fatigue. Plus, there’s always the exhaustion that comes with burnout (aka too much work stress). The good news: there are many practical, no-cost ways to try to battle exhaustion, including eating regular meals (healthy food, of course!), making sure you get plenty of good-quality sleep, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing your stress. Additionally, the meditative martial arts practice qigong may help improve the fatigue of cancer, and just 5 to 15 minutes of exercise, 3 to 5 times a week, can help ease CFS. One question you might have is whether or not your exhaustion could be due to adrenal fatigue, a condition some have linked to chronic stress. Believe it or not, this is a controversial topic! There is a LOT of conflicting research and a lack of evidence for the condition’s existence. What is known is that exhaustion and other symptoms are often caused by a dysfunctional hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a role in your response to stress. Adrenal glands don’t literally burn out, but if your body is dealing with a dysfunction, it can be, you know, exhausting. One thing is for sure: your fatigue is not just “in your head”—and if you don’t yet have a diagnosis, your medical team will have to work a little harder to find the root of the problem. And hey, we know that searching for a diagnosis when you’re already exhausted is hard. But the hope is that you’ll find a cause, and that your exhaustion will ebb as you treat the problem. You’ve got this!

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