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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 February 18, 2019

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

Why is this so critically important to you?

The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

  • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
  • The man facing the judge.
  • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
  • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
  • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
  • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

2. Accept Your Fear

Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

And here’s what can be done.

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3. Get Some Perspective

I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

  • Are you really at risk?
  • Will this kill you?
  • Which leads us on to..
  • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

4. Hold a Hand

As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

Ask yourself:

  • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
  • Could that really happen?
  • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
  • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

8. Assume the Worse

If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

  • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
  • Think about how they feel about champagne?
  • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

11. Go with Fear

When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

13. Own Your Fear

Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

More Resources About Fighting Fear

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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