Your question: Why do I feel exhausted after anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this blog I will explain why you feel tired or exhausted after experiencing anxiety, explaining how common this anxiety-related feeling and its symptoms are, as well as giving you strategies to cope with anxiety and prevent it from consuming your life.

Anxiety is a common and necessary experience in people’s lives. Basically, anxiety is your body’s response to a threat, whether real or not, that prepares you to act accordingly, either by facing the situation or running away from it, both of which are useful in certain circumstances. That is what is known as the fight or flight response.

The problem is that anxiety causes annoying symptoms in people, such as tachycardia, sweating, headache and intense feelings of fear. All these anxious symptoms cause chaos in your body and mind, and can leave you in a state of profound weakness. Anxiety-related fatigue is both physical and emotional.

It is natural for anxiety to make you feel exhausted, as it triggers a number of physical and psychological reactions in your body, as well as an imbalance in your organism, which leave you in a state of exhaustion.

Therefore, you should not worry too much, as it is an expected response of your body that demands you to replenish your energy after experiencing anxiety. However, you are probably also looking for solutions and how to cope with the anxiety problem in general.

I would like to help you first, to take better care of your body and respect the rest periods it needs after experiencing anxiety, and second, to build strategies to help you cope with the feeling of anxiety, which although it will eliminate it completely because you need it in your daily life, it will significantly improve your quality of life.

Why do your body and mind get tired after anxiety?

Anxiety may be a temporary feeling, but the state of exhaustion it leaves in your body can last for hours or even the rest of the day. As I mentioned, anxiety is a period of intense agitation and stimulation in which your body and mind deal with different symptoms that drain your energy.

Having anxiety can feel like walking around the block several times even if you don’t move, because symptoms such as tachycardia, longing, muscle tension and nausea make you feel physically exhausted. Anxiety activates your fight or flight response, and makes your body feel like it has to fight or flee from the threat at hand, whether it is real or not.

Therefore, it is normal for anxiety to generate fatigue in your body. One study(1) showed the relationship between anxiety and depression with chronic fatigue and musculoskeletal pain. In addition to the physical symptoms of anxiety, there are the emotional symptoms. Anxiety makes you feel fear, worry and in some cases intense sadness.

You have probably noticed that after suffering a strong emotion such as anger or sadness, you feel exhausted. This is because emotions are also related to the energy available to our body for daily activities. The combination of physical and emotional exhaustion, caused by anxiety symptoms, makes you feel extreme tiredness and fatigue after an episode of anxiety.

How can you relieve your anxiety?

When the main symptom related to anxiety is fatigue or extreme tiredness, this means that you need to work on improving your sleep habits, and in general, getting more rest to replenish the energy consumed by periods of anxiety. 

It is likely that insomnia or sleep problems in general are causing your anxiety episodes, which becomes a never-ending cycle. You don’t sleep, it makes you more anxious, the anxiety makes you tired, but it doesn’t let you sleep either. The approach then must be a joint one, both on your part by applying techniques that alleviate the anxious symptoms, as well as professional, going to a psychologist or therapist, in conjunction with a physician specializing in sleep problems.

Regulate your sleep schedule

Establishing sleep routines can be complicated at first, but it is key to reducing the feeling of fatigue. Some suggestions for better sleep include avoiding electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime, avoiding caffeine and heavy foods at dinner and doing light stretching exercises an hour before bedtime.

Relaxation and breathing techniques

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety that generates tiredness or fatigue.

Guided Imagery

In this exercise(2), in addition to inhaling and exhaling slowly, you will close your eyes, and visualize a scenario that generates calm and happiness, and distracts you from the negative thoughts that come with anxiety. It can be a beach, a mountainous landscape or even a pleasant memory. You will apply this when you start to feel the anxiety episode. This technique takes time and training, so don’t worry if you initially feel that it doesn’t work for you.

In my experience…

Anxiety generates fatigue, no doubt, and this symptom should be seen as a warning sign that you are not adequately replenishing your energy on a daily basis. Anxiety is necessary, but it should not control your life. Applying these techniques and seeking professional help together, you will learn to feel more rested and to avoid that anxiety generates a worry that deteriorates your quality of life.

I hope that with these suggestions you can improve. I recognize and applaud you for seeking professional counseling, because it shows that you want to feel better and you are on the right path to change the things that make you feel bad. I believe that you have the capacity to improve, although sometimes your mind makes you believe that you have no solution. It was a pleasure to write to you.

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