News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
An ill effect of everything we’ve dealt with over the last two years such as — COVID-19, fires, power outages, and community unrest — is brain exhaustion or chronic fatigue syndrome. If you have days where you are completely worn out and your brain hurts, you’re not alone.
While there are many forms of fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome is a medical disorder characterized by extreme and ongoing exhaustion that lasts for six months or more and is not associated with any other diagnosed cause. There are many theories on the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Mental fatigue can also be triggered by prolonged cognitive activity.
There is no single test to confirm a diagnosis. Treatments focus on improving symptoms that not only include profound fatigue, but also problems with memory and concentration, sore throat, headaches, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits, muscle and joint pain, dizziness, and poor sleep.
Those with chronic fatigue syndrome have decreased activity in an area of the brain known as the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are at the base of the brain and are associated with a variety of functions including motor activity and motivation.
When we reach a point of mental exhaustion, too often we are hard on ourselves. At times, most of us have put pressure on ourselves feeling we should have more willpower or should be able to power through. It’s easy to forget that our brain needs rest and energy to perform. We wouldn’t go on a long bike ride and feel upset with ourselves because we are tired, so why do we treat our mental exhaustion differently?
Excessive stress and anxiety that aren’t properly channeled can impact you mentally and physically. Extreme brain exhaustion or mental fatigue is dangerous if not managed. The only way to manage or eliminate extreme or chronic fatigue is to deal with the sources: over-work, stress, a lack of sleep, anxiety or any combination of these or other factors.
While most mental activities don’t use a lot of calories, you average a 300 calorie use by your brain per day for all mental activities, taxing or not. While there is no specific evidence indicating fatigue increases calorie burn, we know it can occur when we work on solving problems. Giving your brain time to decompress can make a tremendous difference. A fun fact is chess grandmasters burn up to 6,000 calories a day during tournaments by sitting and thinking.
These are serious times. We hear people in the community are not aware how impacted your hospital is right now. Staff is working long hours and COVID-19 numbers continue to stay high. Many hospitals across the country with surges over capacity would like to transfer patients, but to where? The greatest gift you can give our health care heroes right now is to avoid situations where you are putting yourself at risk of getting COVID-19. Help us reduce the surge by masking, washing your hands and getting vaccinated.
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