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Fatigue slows students as spring break nears

March 6, 1997

James Phillips / The Baylor Lariat

Oliver Boblete, a San Antonio sophomore, takes a quick break between classes. As spring break nears, students look forward to a time of rejuvenation from the rigors of collegiate life.

By Melissa Harlow

Lariat Reporter

Students are tired and brains are becoming the equivalent of cafeteria mashed potatoes as many students search for ways to combat fatigue.

For these students, the good news is that they are not alone--several students have been forced to combat the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune of tests, papers and dreaded mid-terms.

The late nights, running around and class lectures are wearing students down, and energy levels are nearing empty.

These days, experts believe that when there is no medical cause for fatigue, certain lifestyle habits usually are the culprit.

In a recent Waco-Tribune Herald article, Dr. David S. Beel, author of Curing Fatigue said 'changing routine and behavior takes time and effort, but nothing beats the pleasures of healthy energy.'

Many authors and professors alike would agree that there are things the average 'busy' person can do to reduce fatigue.

For starters, try drinking more water.

'Start your morning off with a glass of water and have three more before the day is through,' said Liz Applegate, professor of nutrition at Eastern State University. Dehydration reduces blood volume, causing less fluid to reach the brain. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and many sodas act as diuretics--which may actually increase many fluid needs.

Secondly, quit worrying so much.

'Chronic anxiety is an energy drain and is often associated with fatigue,' said Michael Vasey, associate professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

Vasey encourages fatigued individuals to spend time really examining their worries. Usually a 'hard look' reveals unrealistic thinking, and things are not always as bad as they seem, he said. For genuine problems, coming up with a plan of action eases anxiety more than worrying.

'Physical activity is almost a wonder drug for tiredness,' said Dr. Holly Atkinson, author of 'Women and Fatigue.'

The entire nervous system wakes up, which is important because fatigue is a state much like sleep, with a slowdown of all body systems, she said.

Regular exercise can cause new blood vessels to develop throughout tissues, increase muscle strength and endurance, facilitate deep sleep and speed up metabolism.

Sue Kania, exercise psychologist of the Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas, said, 'Fatigue should be attacked on two levels. First, to maximize oxygen flow during daily routines, walk around frequently. Second, gradually increase fitness.'

As stamina improves, overall energy increases.

Holding the body in the same position for a long period of time also drains energy. At the computer, sit up straight, walk around occasionally and look away from the screen every few minutes.

Naturally, low-quality sleep is a major cause of fatigue. Sleepers tend to wake more often if the room is too warm--about 75 degrees. But this problem is easily solved by turning down the thermostat, opening a window, or buying a fan.

'Check your medicine cabinet for drugs that cause drowsiness,' said Sandra Liley, assistant professor of Family Medicare.

Medications most likely to cause tiredness are antihistamines, blood-pressure medicines and some cold medicines, she said.

Most importantly, fuel your body. For steady energy, health counselors suggest calories must be a mixture of protein (12 to 15 percent), complex carbohydrates (55 to 60 percent), and nonsaturated fats (25 to 30 percent), three meals a day. To metabolize calories, the body particularly needs iron, selenium, B vitamins and potassium.

'Things havebeen very hectic around here (campus) lately, but at least a break is in sight,' said Pamela Dale, a Plano sophomore. 'The tests and homework are beginning to take their toll, and most of us are just ready to take some time off mentally, physically and emotionally.'

In the long run, fatigue only makes the days seem longer. If you find you have the semester blues, doctors suggest you eat, sleep, drink water, and be merry.

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