Randal De Souza
Tired. It’s a simple word that will pop up several times daily in the vocabulary of a university student. While the usual method of dealing with it is to line up and grab your favorite caffeine drink, consistently being tired can be a symptom of a greater problem of diagnosable fatigue.
You may deny that you have ever experienced fatigue. After all, the classic case of a fatigued individual is someone who has an active social and academic life, but burns out from being unable to handle it all, and then goes through hospitalization and an intense rehab routine, right?
Wrong. Late nights and partying are certainly part of the fatigue equation, but there are plenty of other reasons to be tired in class.
Physical fatigue refers to an inability to physically function at a normal level. You may recognize this on days when you’re so tired that moving too much is out of the question, and you’re simply content with sitting somewhere and relaxing or sleeping.
Mental fatigue is more familiar to some, being associated with increased sleepiness and decreased attention. If you’ve ever felt like your brain couldn’t take what was going on in class because of an inability to concentrate, as opposed to a lack of interest in the material, perhaps you’re mentally fatigued.
Fatigue is usually the result of a student’s lifestyle, and its origins may be simple or very complex. It requires attention. While relaxation, proper time management, and other activities can normally cause fatigue to end, chronic fatigue should be something you discuss with a doctor.
So now that we’ve established that students do experience true fatigue, what are some causes of it?
Burnout: Students have tons of things to do at university, such as part- or full-time work, attending classes, completing homework assignments, participating in voluntary extracurricular activities and socializing. Doing some of the more school-related things within a short time frame will court fatigue. With busy schedules, the average student doesn’t necessarily factor in all they need to do (i.e. eating, grooming, and socializing), so they will naturally overload their day with activities.
Plan ahead, and spread your school work and other obligations throughout the week. Trying to get in all you need to do at once will hurt you. Take breaks during homework sessions, and get up and stretch once an hour at least. Remember to reward yourself reasonably for task completion, for this will keep you focused.
Poor Dietary Habits: A regular diet of pizza, fries, burgers and pop will take its toll not only the body, but the immune system. Given time, a weakened immune system will interfere with the body’s energy supply because it is not receiving the nutrients it requires to repair cells, rebuild muscle tissue, promote psychological well-being and perform other functions that keep us healthy.
Consider a balanced diet filled with protein, starches and healthy fats along with adequate exercise as essential to staying on track. Healthy meals packed with whole grains, fiber, fruits and vegetables will help students maintain proper energy levels. If it seems like a lot of work, start by preparing one healthy meal a day and work your way up to the rest of them. After all, alleviating fatigue relies on more than just organizing your day planner – it’s a lifestyle unto itself.
Caffeine: Ah, caffeine, the key ingredient in that ambrosial beverage whose absence renders most student mornings incomplete. While some caffeine is certainly part of healthy diet, its abuse should concern students when it is responsible for fatigue.
Completing homework and studying for exams require long hours and dedication, but drinking insane amounts of coffee and taking caffeine pills to stay awake interferes with the sleep cycle. Ignoring sleep for weeks or months will cause fatigue, and compromise your health. Preventing fatigue involves getting at least eight hours of sleep each night, and taking brief naps during the day.
Rather than staying up long nights close to exam time, how about allotting some study time, say an hour or so daily, during the week and then sleeping at regular hours? Using caffeine as a means to keep yourself awake will lead to long-term repercussions.
While balance in life is essential, trying to do too much of anything will cause you to overwork yourself.
Ultimately, we’re all human; nobody is indefatigable. Accept that there are limits on achievements in the short-term, and focus how you can achieve things in the long term. With proper planning, a balanced diet and a good night’s sleep, you’ll be surprised at just how much you can do.