4 Gross Things Your Body Does When You’re Exhausted
Exhaustion is no joke. And it also shows up in unexpected ways. It isn't just being a little tired; it can alter everything from your brain patterns to your ability to see, and can even manifest as a chronic condition. Beyond a feeling of lethargy, exhaustion can show up in many different ways, and some of them aren't particularly charming. Your body can do some fairly gross things when you're exhausted that you probably don't realize are signs that your body is telling you to take a break. However, if you recognize the mechanism behind them and realize it's your body telling you to get some rest, you can solve what may seem like mysterious (and slightly off putting) symptoms pretty easily.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists notes that at any given time, one in five people feels unusually tired, and one in 10 has serious fatigue. Exhaustion can be brought on by stress, recovery from illness, jet lag, anxiety, sleep loss, or a schedule change that's keeping you awake. New parents are particularly prone to it for obvious reasons, but so are shift workers and people with irregular working and sleeping patterns. If you're combatting fatigue, recovery isn't just about getting more rest. You should also make sure you drink enough water, eat properly, go to bed at regular times, and identify any underlying health issues that may be contributing, like anemia. And yes, fatigue is an absolutely legitimate reason to go to the doctor. Here are just a few random, gross things your body will do if it needs rest.
1. Cracked Lips
You may be too tired to apply lip balm, but there are other reasons why chapped, dry lips can indicate you're approaching burnout. There's a theory that the adrenal system can suffer when you're under stress, causing minor adrenal deficiency and a low amount of the hormone cortisol, which helps the body maintain energy. Dry lips are a signal of severe adrenal deficiency, which is a proven illness. Exhaustion is, however, linked to dehydration, and cracked, dry lips are also a signal that you're not getting enough liquid.
2. Gastrointestinal Distress
If your appetite has dropped out of sight and you can't face the thought of going near food, it's a signal that you're probably feeling a bit of exhaustion. Appetite loss is a slightly counterintuitive reaction to fatigue, as you'd think that the body would desire more fuel to push itself through the low energy of fatigue; but the deep discomfort of exhaustion can stretch to the body's digestive system. At the extreme end of the scale, irritable bowel syndrome has been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome, but if you're just experiencing everyday burnout, your ability to eat without wanting to push the plate away (or feel nauseous) may disappear.
3. Constant Dripping Cold
Exhaustion over a long period of time will likely affect your immune system. The result? A higher-than-usual chance of catching colds and viruses, and a strange inability to get rid of them once you've got them. If you've had a dripping cold for several weeks and can't seem to shift it, no matter how much vitamin C you take, there's a chance your body is signaling that it needs some time out.
4. Flu-Like Symptoms
If you happen to feel incredibly exhausted all the time and experience other symptoms, like a sore throat, aching limbs, dizziness and muscle pain, it's possible that you may have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. One of the characteristic signals of ME/CFS, as it's called, is flu-like symptoms over a long period of time, including serious body ache and low-grade fevers. ME/CFS also isn't something that abates once you catch up on sleep or take a personal day off work — it's a chronic condition that needs targeted management. If this fits your symptoms, it's important to find a GP to get a proper diagnosis (and treatment plan).
It's important recognize the signs your body is telling you to slow down, or that your body needs a little help resting and recuperating. And if those signs are a little gross, then so be it — at least you know what the deal is.