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Fighting Fatigue with Dr. Holly Phillips

Holly felt fatigued for more than 20 years.  She says it was often debilitating and every day was a struggle.  After her second child, Holly said she was the most tired and decided to figure out the cause of her fatigue. “There is a difference between tiredness (after exertion) and fatigue (extreme whole bodily tiredness),” says Holly.  “What inspired me to make a change after 12 years of practice is that fatigue was the number one health challenge with my patients.”  Fatigue generally resonates with women although men are fatigued, too.  “Women feel that as we build great lives, the price we have to pay for that is being exhausted,” says Holly.  “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

The challenge with finding the cause for fatigue is overwhelming because one of the symptoms for every single medical and psychological condition is fatigue.  Holly suggests using her 7-Day Exhaustion Breakthrough Challenge (page 199) to help you gather information to give to your doctor to determine the cause of your fatigue. 

  1. Keep a fatigue diary:  to manage exhaustion, you will need to find out what triggers it, what makes it worse and what seems to reduce it. Keep a fatigue diary including rating the quality and quantity of sleep, what you eat and drink (and when) and physical activites of the day for 7 days to watch for patterns of fatigue. 
  2. Sleep solo: try sleeping alone for the challenge to prevent others from affecting your quality of sleep.  Dedicate 8 hours each night in a cool, dark, quiet room.  Take a magnesium supplement and remove all sources of blinking or glowing lights which prevent melatonin levels from rising as they should. 
  3. Stick with a clean diet: eat no processed foods for 7 days.  Consume only whole foods in their recognizable form.  Drink minimal caffeine and have one “green” drink, ideally before noon.  Also focus on getting plenty of magnesium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids to increase energy levels and mood/brain functions.
  4. Walk 10 minutes every day: walking increases overall energy levels.
  5. Check in with your body hourly: set an alarm to go off every hour to remind you to stop what you are doing and focus on your physical well being.  Stand up.  Close your eyes.  Starting with the top of your head, examine the sensations in your body and look for areas of discomfort.  Use deep breathing exercises. 
  6. Drink water all day long: by the time you are thirsty, you’re already mildly dehydrated.  Adequate intake for women is 9 cups (2.2 liters/day).  For men, 13 cups (3 liters). 
  7. Make a To Don’t list: make a point of reevaluating your list of things to do.  Are you sure you have to do it or can it be delegated?  Can the task wait until after the 7-day challenge?  Can the task be altered to be simpler or less time consuming?  Set limits and protect your energy by only accomplishing what is crucial.
  8. Make sense of your symptoms: on day 8, review what symptoms improved?  What went away completely?  Look over the long-term symptoms checklist (page 211) and circle the ones you’ve experienced over the last year.  Take that list and your fatigue diary to your physician for a battery of tests.


Holly says it took many years to diagnose her condition, which was fibromyalgia.  She says once you determine the pattern of your exhaustion then you and your physician will need to determine where it is coming from.  “Fatigue, just like pain or fever, is one of your body’s primary alarm systems to alert you that something is out of whack,” says Holly.  She says while trying to get to the bottom of your personal energy crisis, there are a few things you can do to jump-start your energy levels, even for a short time: check your posture (standing tall improves oxygen flow), expose yourself to light (enhances mood), use aromatherapy (increases alertness), surround yourself with energizing colors (increases energy), and listen to pleasant music (slower music reduces stress; upbeat music revs up energy).

Mentioned in the Video



Guest Info


Medical Contributor, CBS News

Board Certified General Internist

Medical Degree: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Private practice, 11 years Member, American Medical Association and Independent Doctor’s Association of New York


2 daughters: 6 and 3 years old


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