Fatigue and how to handle it

Fatigue is a very common complaint among college students. The most common cause of fatigue seen at Student Health and Wellness is "college life." The mental strain and other stressors of college, combined with not always eating and sleeping properly, often result in significant fatigue. Anxiety, depression, excessive alcohol use, and mood-altering drug use can also cause fatigue.

Common physical causes of fatigue are hypothyroidism and anemia. If you have constipation, dry skin or hair, weight gain, or cold intolerance, you should be evaluated for hypothyroidism. You should seek urgent medical attention if you experience symptoms of anemia such as shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, rapid heart rate, or feeling like you might pass out.

Another well-known illness causing fatigue is mononucleosis or "mono." However, tiredness due to mono is usually accompanied by more common symptoms of sore throat and swollen glands.

Prevention and treatment

If you are experiencing excessive fatigue there are a few key things that can help relieve it:

Rest
Make sure you're getting approximately seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
Exercise
Incorporate some type of exercise into your daily routine. This can be as simple as walking to class instead of taking the campus bus.
Nutrition
Try adding vegetables, whole grains, and fruit to your meals—especially if the bulk of your diet comes out of a box or from fast food restaurants. In addition, attention to adequate iron intake is especially important for vegetarians and menstruating females.

Time management, biofeedback, or muscle relaxation techniques also may help. If stress is severe (interfering with school, work, or relationships) or you are noticing other symptoms of depression (change in appetite, sleep patterns, or feelings of sadness), you may need to see a counselor or other mental health professional.

If you continue to experience excessive fatigue despite adequate rest and healthy lifestyle habits, see a health care professional for an evaluation.

University of Iowa students can schedule an appointment with a provider at Student Health and Wellness online through their MyChart account or by calling 319-335-8394.
Last reviewed: 
August 2017

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