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Last Updated on October 5, 2018

How Mental Fatigue Eats You Slowly (And Ways to Regain Mental Energy)

How Mental Fatigue Eats You Slowly (And Ways to Regain Mental Energy)

Do you feel like no matter how much sleep or rest you get, you’re always tired? Do you catch a cold easily, and it takes you a while to recover, before falling ill again? Does your body and your back ache, and do you get regular headaches or migraines? Does all this occur, even though you have a good diet, exercise regularly and seem to sleep through the night?

We immediately look for physical fatigue signs and then try to rectify the problem with material solutions, like taking a multi vitamin, sleeping and exercising more or less and changing our diet. The last thing we consider is that the issue lies in our mindset — mental fatigue.

What does a “tired mind” mean?

Mental fatigue is a state of being defined by extreme mental activity,[1]  sensory overload and hyper vigilance [2], which causes exhaustion. It stems from excessive mind and brain activity, which then manifests in the body.

The demand on your attention through various sensory, emotional and psychological stimuli overloads your capacity to function and diminishes your cognitive performance. Mental fatigue is considered to be one of the biggest causes of accidents in modern society.

Signs to look at when you’re feeling overwhelmed

There are very clear signs that tell us when we are burnt out. It’s as though we are running on empty and our energy is so depleted that we are unable to perform sometimes the most basic day-to-day tasks. Our physical appearance and mental health may start to deteriorate.

We may lose or gain weight, develop dark shadows and deep lines on our faces, our skin becomes dull or prone to break out and our muscles feel achy and stiff. Motivation and a positive outlook escapes us and we simply go through the motions of merely existing as opposed to living. Other symptoms include:

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  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Erratic emotions
  • Loss of sex drive

Why you have mental fatigue

Everything around tires your mind

Mental fatigue is caused by excessive physical and mental activity placed on our bodies and brain. Modern living is chaotic, competitive and demanding.

Whilst the industrial revolution, mass food production and consumerism has made everyday living easier in some respects; we don’t have to hunt for our own food, we have a variety of gadgets, machines and appliances to make living and traveling easier and civilized society is organized through systems, infrastructure and institutions to support us.

Despite all of this, we have put incredible pressure on the planet and the environment, we have 24 hour news cycles and social media constantly harnessing our attention, the global population has exploded, unemployment is rife, health care and education is inadequate and many nations are marred by poverty, war, inequality and injustice.

Life is no longer simple. We are expected to work hard, play hard and be switched on all the time. Even relaxation has become an industry. When the mind and the body are placed under too much pressure, the result is a malfunction in the systems [3] that keep us going.

Our heart health can suffer, disturbing blood flow through the body and to the brain; we contract infections and our immunity isn’t able to cope; our metabolism and digestion is impaired, we have a lack of sleep or have poor quality sleep and we don’t extract the vitamins and nutrients from the food we consume, particularly if we aren’t consuming the right types of food or not enough of them.

Believe that coffee and alcohol are he way out

The demands we impose on our mental and physical well being due to the pressures of everyday life can become so overwhelming, that it is difficult to see a way out.

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Mental fatigue, its causes and symptoms can easily become a lifestyle cycle. The more pressure we take on, the worse decisions we make and this in turn, increases the pressure, causing us to take even more shortcuts.

We try to stay competitive and relevant in the workforce, we have relationships and raise families, which require us to earn more in order to sustain our quality of life. We attempt to stay abreast of what everybody else is doing on social media, a tool that often becomes the most convenient and efficient way to socialize, when we are so busy working and taking care of our families.

We compel ourselves to keep our finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world so we can stay informed, empowered and educated. As a result, we are forced to eat and exercise on the run, we are always switched on and hyper alert, and we use band-aid solutions to help us feel better. We drink too much coffee or alcohol to sustain our lifestyle. The more we try to find a solution to our lack of energy, the more we do and the less energy we have.

Always try to keep yourself busy

Stop. These days we have no idea how to do nothing sometimes. Just be. Live in the moment. Feel as though we have enough, no more or less than what we need. Experience gratitude.

It seems simple enough, but most people’s response is that they simply don’t have enough time. In fact, we have all the time in the world. The key to conquering the effects and cycles of mental fatigue is to address our outlook.

If we stay in the moment and live each minute, hour, day with reflection on what we are doing, not thinking too much about our long term goals or past experiences, but just doing what is in front of us, suddenly our intentions turn inwards and we address the elements that are most important for us to have a functional and healthy life.

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How to regain your mind vitality

1. Observe how you breathe

Pay attention to your breath on a regular basis throughout the day. It changes automatically. When we are frustrated we huff and puff, when we are angry we gulp for breath, when we are sad or low, our breathing is shallow.

Become acquainted with how you breathe. First begin by observing it. Everyone has moments when they are still, do it then. When you’re sitting on the toilet, before you go to sleep at night, when you’re commuting or driving. When you are required to do nothing, pay attention to and get to know your breath.

Then, practice techniques [4] to make your breathing work for you. Sometimes simply regulating your breath, by breathing deeply a few times and then steadily, is enough to re-oxygenate your brain and help you to recenter.

2. Enjoy eating good food

Meal times are sign posts that break up your day and give you an opportunity to recharge. No matter how busy you are, you are inevitably going to get hungry, so make that moment count.

Even five minutes to enjoy a piece of fruit or a long drink of water, can be enough to clear the cobwebs from your head. Better still, do it outside. Make mealtimes a routine. You don’t have to observe it to the minute or be obsessive about it, but make eating an important part of the day.

Eat sitting down, at a table or bench, in order to give your body the opportunity to not only taste your food, but to digest it. Do this at around the same time every day, several times a day. Observe at least breakfast, lunch and dinner and be flexible to allow for snacks and meals in between. Make healthy choices, but let yourself have indulgences too. A piece of cake and a glass of wine are sometimes the best medicine.

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3. Use your body

As a modern society we obsess over exercise, particularly of a competitive nature. That can be healthy sometimes. Team sports are excellent ways to get fit and connect with others. But your body is your own and you need to move it and use it how you see fit.

You may prefer walking to running, yoga and swimming to a team sport. Your physical activity of choice could be dancing at a club or in your kitchen or maintaining your garden. Learn how to stretch and strengthen your muscles, move your joints, get your heart rate up, learn how to balance and how to warm up and cool down.

Sedentary behavior is said to be as dangerous for our health as smoking, so get moving.[5]

4. Make quality sleep a non negotiable aspect of every day

Sleep and sleep well. Sleep, is one of the things we forgo first when we are busy and our stress level is high. Anyone who has children or a high pressure occupation knows this only too well and sleep deprivation is commonly used as an implement of torture, it is that harmful.

Sometimes the amount and quality of sleep we get is out of our control. Having babies and small children means losing sleep and sometimes our jobs demand us to be available and alert when we should be sleeping.

It is important to make quality sleep a non negotiable aspect of every day. Steal sleep whenever you can. 6 to 8 hours is usually ideal. When you lose sleep, catch up. While seemingly impossible, it’s doable and a power nap can make all the difference in the world. The benefits of sleep are undeniable.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]TheNationalCenterForBiotechnologyInformation: Neural effects of mental fatigue caused by continuous attention load: a magnetoencephalography study.
[2]GoodTherapy: Hypervigilance
[3]MedicineNet: Fatique
[4]Time: 6 Breathing Exercises to Relax in 10 Minutes or Less
[5]AustralianGovernmentTheDepartmentOfHealth: Sedentary Behaviour

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Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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