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Published on September 6, 2018

What Mentally Tired Means (And 11 Ways to Combat Brain Exhaustion)

What Mentally Tired Means (And 11 Ways to Combat Brain Exhaustion)

You might know all too well that feeling of constant exhaustion, tiredness and lethargy despite doing all the commonly prescribed self-care treatments. You feel mentally tired.

Let’s not deny exercise, getting enough sleep and clean eating are all important. However, you are doing all those things and are still feeling exhausted.

There is a great chance there are deeper mental and emotional issues your brain is constantly feeling under attack from and therefore is suffering from constant mental fatigue. It feels like you just can’t seem to get a break and you are constantly running on the treadmill and cannot step off, even if you want to.

Doing a U-turn on this path can be tough but definitely not impossible. In fact, these life-changing mental strategies will not only help to relieve this constant mental tiredness but help you truly springboard to a new level of peak functioning you might not have ever experienced before.

1. Review your core values and ask yourself if you are operating in alignment with those.

One of the most common reasons people leave their jobs is because of their boss. In a survey of 7500 full-time employees, Gallup found 23% of respondents felt burnt out often or always whilst 44% reported feeling burnt out sometimes.[1]

You will be surprised to learn the burnout was not attributed to increased work performance or productivity but rather how the employees were managed. Unfair treatment at work, lack of role clarity, unmanageable workloads, lack of support from their manager and unreasonable time pressure were the top five factors correlated with respondents experiencing burnout.

If you are regularly struggling to have your core work values honored (e.g. trust, open communication, respect, collaboration), it is high time to look at having a conversation around this with your boss.

By discussing with your boss how being able to have these values met will better benefit them and the greater good of the organization, you create a win-win for all!

Get clear on what you will and won’t tolerate. Listen to your gut on what is deeply and truly important. Getting clarity on this alone will give you greater awareness to be able to respond better when things happen that throw you mentally off-course. The awareness and new clarity will massively reduce that brain exhaustion!

2. Choose to set the mental tone of your day.

Which do you think is going to better influence having a mentally easier day?

  • Starting the day getting up late, having breakfast of coffee laden with sugar whilst you listen to the tragedies of the world news on the television; OR
  • Waking up earlier, doing five minutes of stretching to calm music, listening to an inspiring podcast that gives you ideas and solutions and having a nourishing breakfast, smoothie or juice?

Choose how you want your day to start. Make easy simple changes and practice sticking to them each day.

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Even if you face a disaster first thing upon arriving at the office, your brain is already riding a relaxed wave that puts you in a clearer mindset to put out those fires than if you have already started the day in a stressed mental state.

Give yourself a head start!

3. Examine what drains your energy and make necessary changes.

When your colleague or partner is expressing anger, fear, sadness, frustration and other similar emotions coupled with solution-focused discussion, you feel purposeful and energetically uplifted just supporting them.

However, not being able to get a word in when they talk at you, whine, complain and blame the world around them for their misfortunes will drain energy from you and fry your brain. That loss of energy costs you greatly!

It can be a great idea to start training those friends, family or colleagues that when they need to download with you (with you, not on you) there are conditions. Those conditions might be whingeing and complaining for twenty minutes freely but then the focus needs to be about looking at solutions.

If you get sprung unexpectedly by a whingeing phone call, gently inquire what they are calling about first before launching into the meat of the conversation. If you can sense it is going to be a mentally heavy conversation, state you have a limited time available. Make sure you have a get-out clause ready!

Your mental state deserves to be preserved and protected. Stop making yourself available as a mental, emotional punching bag at the leisure of anyone who does not have the same capacity for mental and emotional regulation as you. They are not your problem to fix.

Give periodic support but empower them to become their own change agents by directing them to additional sources of support.

4. Get good at relaxing on cue, not on demand.

Stress deactivates your attention and concentration capacity and your ability to think creatively diminishes.

When you are anxious, you deplete your brain’s ability to think about what it is you really want and what is important to you. When your brain is in a relaxed state, dopamine levels are increased freeing up mental and emotional space. Only then can you truly choose what you want to turn your attention and energy to.

Choose wisely! By relaxing your mind first and then focusing on positively reinforcing thoughts and ideas you greatly reduce your mental (and physical) fatigue.

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Practicing mindfulness first and then choosing wisely what you want to focus on is like wiping your glass lenses clean before trying to see clearly.

Increase practicing having a relaxed brain as your default state as opposed to a reactive after-thought. Because you have momentarily slowed down, you will be able to speed up.

5. Develop creative sources of internal motivation.

Long-term gratification is a noble thought. The problem is your brain naturally looks to steer you in directions which bring you immediate satisfaction, that keeps you safe and happy now.

Search for and/or create steps in your journey that ignite a positive emotional shift for you in as many ways as possible. Be creative with this. Instead of allowing the guilty feeling of leaving the office with that project still incomplete, practice thinking more about your children’s and partner’s radiant faces surprised and delighted to see you home earlier than usual.

You get to feel better about yourself when you invest in quality relationships. Let them re-nourish you so you can dive back into that project refreshed and with better focus tomorrow.

6. Reframing your current perspective can greatly shift and lift mental fatigue.

Stating to yourself that you are overwhelmed can’t manage and that you are burnt out can become a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy. Practice a thought-stopping word such as ‘shift’ to help stop the wheels turning in that downward spiral direction. From there, see if you can recognize that in those moments you are feeling overwhelmed but you are not actually stuck in being overwhelmed.

You are feeling you can’t manage and feeling burnt out but you actually are not those labels. You merely feel those things in your moments of emergency.

Feelings are transient. According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg, the most heightened part of our intense emotions lasts for about ninety seconds. After that, the energy of what we are feeling starts to subside if we don’t fight what we are feeling.[2]

Embrace that and let the sting of those feelings run their course. As they subside, you will mentally feel more relaxed and your brain will have a greater capacity to shift into a new gear.

7. Reduce, minimize or eliminate your exposure to prolonged stressors or stressful periods.

This can be much harder to put into practice. You might gradually need to look at the people, activities, your work and ways you operate in your relationships and friendships to see what stressors you are exposing yourself to and how often.

Working with a coach or mentor – someone who is completely non-biased in your assessment – can greatly help to really map out where your mental tiredness is truly exacerbated. Some friendships may need to end. You may need to explore flexible work options with your boss.

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The journey will be easier when you develop and gradually work through a hierarchy of gradual change.

8. Increase qualified support networks and resources.

Most would think that asking for help and assistance automatically reduces your mental tiredness. However, getting advice and help from people who are not qualified or biased about how you can overcome your challenges can plummet your mental tiredness further and make matters worse.

Start asking yourself three questions:

  1. What sort of support, guidance and help do I need?
  2. Where are the places I know where to get that help?
  3. What qualifies this person or resource to be able to provide me with that help?
  4. Are they coming from a position that unconditionally supports me or are they projecting their own views and expectations upon me?

It is nonsensical to ask someone who has no business ownership experience – nor run a successful business – how to run a business. The same goes for any area of our life, professional or personal. Yet, we often do this.

The more we make unsuitable choices of where we get our advice, information and guidance from, we will continue to be mentally tired. We then sustain unhelpful behaviors which keep us stuck and safe.

Be more discerning about who and where you get your advice and guidance from, gain better clarity about the way forward and lift another level of that festering fatigue!

9. Build in pause time.

Positive and constructive day-dreaming allows you to mentally breathe. According to Dr. Srini Pillay, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, we daydream for approximately 46.9% of the day!

We may as well take advantage of this fact and direct it using positive constructive day-dreaming.[3] You can biologically change your brain by carefully constructing the imagery that you tell your brain to create.

Focus on overcoming your challenges and see yourself in the process of actually doing what is required. Do this at the same time as a low-concentration activity such as meandering-type walking (not power walking in the gym) and double your impact. Overcome your brain exhaustion by directing imagined focus on what you want and where you want to go.

Peta Ellis , CEO of River City Labs which fosters some of Australia’s newest and most innovative businesses, is a serial start-up founder who swears by having ‘headspace for Peta’. Between 4:00 am and 5:00 am, Peta speaks to no one, does gentle exercise and listens to music. Her days are filled with talking with people constantly so she does not negotiate on having this time for herself.

At moments throughout the day, she schedules in non-interrupted fifteen-minute pockets to reflect on how she is feeling, self-monitor and reflect on how she is progressing and also what she needs to do next.

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Scheduled pauses are one of her most powerful assets to maintaining such a strong entrepreneurial drive.

10. Gradually reduce procrastination on things that really need active attention.

The more you resist, the more it persists. The reality is that the longer important things are left unattended, the more detrimental the negative consequences can become. Rumination then becomes layered with greater feelings of guilt, disappointment and pressure all of which add to your brain feeling exhaustion.

If you are going to procrastinate, do it properly!

Give yourself full permission to do menial administration tasks and unproductive email sorting but set a time limit on it. Then set a limited time period devoted to the activity you MUST attend to.

Don’t necessarily aim for completion if that puts extra psychological pressure on your mindset. Simply aim to dedicate good effort for that period of time.

Throughout her life’s work of research on mindset, Stanford University Professor of Psychology Dr. Carol Dweck explains that when we place emphasis on dedicating quality effort as opposed to ensuring a certain outcome, completing the job becomes and feels easier. You then set your next dedicated procrastination time to be slightly shorter…and shorter again.[4]

Before you know it, you will become more productive with less effort and your mental space will become clearer.

11. Choose to stimulate your mind with energizing information.

If you have career challenges which are not easily or immediately solvable, spending all your waking hours watching television shows such as Jerry Springer are going to add to your feeling mentally tired.

Invest a little time to strategically choose literature, podcasts and being around people that help you work through your current challenges. Whilst driving, listen to an audiobook with content that helps you learn how to work through your problems or talk with your passenger about ideas and solutions which energize and increase your motivation to tackle your day ahead.

However, be careful of taking this to the extreme. Becoming a serial course junkie and having a podcast to fill up every other second you are not working will fry your brain.

Your body’s muscles become stronger whilst repairing on the rest days after you have completed a weights session at the gym. In similar fashion, your mind becomes stronger when you choose helpful energizing information to feed it but you must allow rest time for your mind to process it to gain the full benefit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Malachi Thompson

Executive Leadership and Performance Consultant

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Last Updated on March 19, 2019

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

It’s Monday morning. The alarm rings. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you open your eyes?

“I really don’t want to go to work today”, “I have such a long day ahead, what a dread”, or “Yes! It’s a brand new week ahead! Looking forward to getting lots done.”

Whatever your response may be, ask yourself this question:

“What is it that made you feel unmotivated?” What was driving you to feel negative or positive about your Monday ahead? How to get motivated?

Meet Nancy

I used to have a colleague by the name of Nancy. She came to work at the same time every morning, and would leave at 6.30 sharp every evening. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later. She was known to be the office grinch as she was often grumpy towards everyone, so much so people would avoid her whenever possible. She complained about everything under the sun.

I had a brief conversation with her one morning in the office lounge where we were both getting coffee. She told me she had been working with the company for over 20 years! When she told me that, I asked her what motivated her to stay on for so long, and her reply was simply “I don’t know. It’s a job that pays the bills, and is close to where I live.” With that, she walked away and I was left standing alone in the lounge with my hot coffee, at a loss for words.

How could someone be doing the exact same thing for over 20 years? And she clearly doesn’t enjoy her work, what with all that complaints and grouchy attitude. So why hasn’t she done anything about it?

The 2 Types of People

This might be an extreme case, but I’m sure you must know of people who have been doing the same thing for years and seem to not have any problem staying stagnant. Whether it be in their marriage, job, or personal endeavors, they seem to be getting along just fine without progressing towards anything ‘better’.

On the other hand, I’m sure you would also know of individuals who focus on the positive, set goals and are constantly pushing themselves to greater heights. Be it promotions at work, building a family, celebrating milestones in their marriage or relationships, upgrading houses and cars, setting up new businesses, or going to school again, these individuals seem to constantly progress towards something that improves or enhances their life.

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So what’s the difference between these 2 category of individuals?

What you feel like or don’t feel like doing, boils down to one thing. And that is motivation. It is the force, or lack of, that keeps driving you forward to overcome challenges and obstacles to achieve your goals.

Without motivation, you’ll give up after a few failed attempts or even on the first tough challenge that comes your way. Or, in the case of Nancy, just remain where you are: unhappy yet not doing anything to progress ahead.

What is Motivation, Really?

Whether you realize it or not, motivation is a huge force in your life; and it needs to be harnessed in order to excel and actually enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many overgeneralize the word motivation. We think of being either motivated or demotivated as a simple “yes” or “no” state of being.

But motivation is not a switch. Motivation is a flow. To feel motivated, you need to dive beyond the surface. Just reading a motivational quote, being encouraged by your friends or even mentor won’t help you build sustainable motivation in the long run.

You can think of the motivation that we want to achieve like the Sun (self-sustaining and long lasting), which supplies a constant influx of energy to all life on Earth. Just like the Sun, your “motivation engine” has different layers, starting from the core and spreading out to the surface. The surface is what you see, but the real process is driven from the core; and that’s the most important part… I’ll explain why in a moment.

If you can create a self sustaining motivation engine, you’ll not only be able to find more meaning and purpose in your life, but you’ll be able to enjoy every minute of what you’re doing, which will make your roles and responsibilities less of a chore. Now wouldn’t that be a game changer?

Let me help you understand this motivation flow better, by breaking down the Motivation Engine into 3 parts:

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  1. Core – Purpose
  2. Support – Enablers
  3. Surface – Acknowledgement

I’d say we’re most familiar with layers 2 and 3, as we come into direct contact with both of them frequently.

The Second Layer: Support – Enablers

In essence, the second layer of the Motivation Engine (also known as Enablers) is what supports your goals. They can magnify the motivation core you have, or speed up the momentum that you build. Basically, they create favorable circumstances for things to go smoothly.  

The Third Layer: Surface – Acknowledgement

The third layer, also known as Acknowledgement, encompasses any type of external recognition that might give you motivation. It may come in the form of respect or recognition, such as compliments and praise.

Or it could be emotional support through encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism. It could also be affiliation, where you have mutual companions or buddies sharing the same goal or burden with you.

This is generally what you see on the surface when you look at other people. You see the external acknowledgement, respect, and recognition they’re getting.

The Innermost Layer: Core – Purpose

But what’s most important, and the true driving force behind your Motivation flow, is the innermost core – your Purpose. Your purpose is what differentiates the motivated from the demotivated, the achievers from the underachievers, the happy from the unhappy.

Your motivational core is your Purpose, and is sustained by two things: Having Meaning, and Forward Movement. With these two as a foundation, you’ll have a power source that will feed you motivational energy indefinitely.

So, how do you do these two things?

How to Sustain Your Purpose

Having Meaning is simple. Just ask yourself a question: Why?

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Why are you pursuing a certain goal? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. While motivation provides you energy to do something, that energy needs to be focused somewhere. So without meaning, there is no direction for your energy to be focused on.

Yet, having a meaningful objective doesn’t mean you have to change the world or create A huge impact on society. The secret to meaningful work is simple: it should contribute value to something or someone that matters to you.

Next up is gaining Forward Movement. In short, this means to just keep moving. Like a snowball, motivation from having progress creates momentum. So to keep this up, you have to keep moving.

And the good news is, your progress doesn’t have to be huge for you to recognize it. Small amounts of progress can be just as motivating, as long as they keep coming. Like driving a car, you may be really impatient if you’re at a complete halt. But, it lessens if you’re moving forward–even if you’re moving slowly.

Creating a simple progress indicator like checklists or milestones, are a great way to visualize your small (and big) wins. They trigger your brain to recognize and acknowledge them, giving you small boosts of motivational energy.

This is why video games are so addictive! They’re full of progress indicators everywhere. Even though the progress is completely virtual, they’re still able to trigger the motivation centers in your brain.

Find Out What Drives You Today

So why not take some time today and do a quick reflection of where you’re at now? Take one aspect of your life that you’d like to be more motivated.

For example, it may be your current job. First, start with why. Write down your reasons for why you’re in the job that you’re in. Then think about your Motivation Core: Your Purpose. Write down what it is within your job that gives you meaning, and what are some things that will help push you forward in life.

Once you have those points, it’s time to do a comparison. Does your current job help you make progress towards that Purpose that you’ve written?  

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If it does, then wonderful! You’re on the right track. But if it doesn’t entirely, or you now realize you’re way off target, don’t panic. It’s definitely not too late to align your actions back to your true purpose.

Here at Lifehack, we’ve condensed over 15 years of life improvement coaching into 7 distinct Cornerstone Skills. And finding motivation is just 1 of 7 Cornerstone Skills that you can master to dramatically turn your life around!

Wouldn’t We All Like to Be Happy?

Happiness need not be a vague term or illusion that you’re constantly chasing after–with no end in sight. By finding your true motivation, you’ll be one step closer to realizing your happiness and finding meaning in all things you do.

And for those of you who feel like you’re already working towards your purpose or goals, learning these 7 Cornerstone Skills will only help you to push progress even further, and at a much faster rate. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be 10 times more productive?

You may have read hundreds of books, articles, and watched videos, maybe even tried some solutions too to help you stay motivated. But, none of them really have any impact. They bring only incremental changes, and that’s not what you’re really looking for. This is because permanent change requires a holistic approach, and is more than just focusing on one area of your life, or working on changing a part of your routine or actions.

You want to make a fundamental change; but it feels like big, unknown territory that you can’t afford to venture into at this point in your life.

The truth is, taking your life to the next stage doesn’t have to be this complicated. With our course, it’s actually quite simple. It’s an all in approach, and the 7 Cornerstone Skills is just what you need to make that holistic change. So if you’d like to take the first step to achieving your life purpose, the time is now!

Applying one of the 7 Cornerstone Skills as covered in this article can already make a difference in your life, imagine learning the whole set of skills to live your best life! How to learn them all? We’ve got the solution at Lifehack — Find out More About Our Solution Here!

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

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