Advertising
Advertising

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:

Advertising

  • 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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

How Mental Fatigue Eats You Slowly (And Ways to Regain Mental Energy) 10 Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Taking a Bath 20 Dalai Lama Quotes To Change The Way You Think Small Things Parents Can Do to Effectively Reduce Sibling Jealousy Learning These 10 Tricks Can Help You Overcome Frustration in Communication

Trending in Mental Strength

1 15 Inspiring Ideas to Boost Your Motivation for Success 2 How to Turn Your Fear of Missing Out into a Joy of Missing Out 3 What Is Resilience and Why Is It Important? 4 Positive Motivation vs Negative Motivation: Which One Is Better? 5 10 Personal Development Goals for Success and Happiness

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

Advertising

3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

Advertising

6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

Advertising

9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

Advertising

Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

Read Next