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Last Updated on July 4, 2019

What Is Mentally Tired? 11 Ways to Combat Brain Exhaustion

What Is Mentally Tired? 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.

More to Combat Brain Exhaustion

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 30, 2020

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

We all know the feeling—when you sense that you are not completely happy and fulfilled with your life—things are not where and how you envisage them to be. You go through the motions everyday, angry with yourself and the universe for throwing you such an unfavorable dice.

You can’t help yourself but feel a perennial envy towards those who are smiled upon by karma—the lucky individuals who seem to have the Midas touch and everything they undertake ends up with success, recognition and greater opportunities. Life must be so exiting.

Unlike yours.

We call this sensation many names: I’ve hit a wall; I’m not making progress; I’m stagnant; I’m moving in loops; Something is off in my life; I’m off balance.

Or simply: feeling stuck.

In this article, we’ll look into the reasons behind this feeling and how to get unstuck in life and live a more fulfilling life.

Is Being Stuck Really Such a Bad Thing?

Is it really so bad to be stuck in the status quo? After all, not everyone can be a super-star, right? What’s wrong with living a quiet life, with not many turns and twists and just going with the flow?

True—there is not much fun in this, but there is not disappointment, anxiety, stress and ill-ambition either. Life is easy and uncomplicated.

So why do we keep hearing over and over from the greats that staying is one place is not a good thing?

Tony Robbins gives us an elegantly simple answer to this question:

“If you are not growing, you are dying. “

“Progress equals happiness,” he says. “That ’s because reaching a goal is satisfying but only temporarily. Life is not about achieving the goals, life is about who you become in pursuit of those goals.”[1]

There you have it—staying in one place makes us unhappy.

We all know that the comfort zone can be great. It’s like a warm old blanket you wrap yourself around on a cold winter night, cuddled in front of your favorite TV show.

But just because something feels comfortable, does it mean it’s ok to stick to it forever?

Progress equals happiness, remember.

You may not even fully be aware of the small voice in the back of your mind that’s been bugging you, but you better learn to listen carefully—because you may wake up one day and realize that your productive life is gone and you haven’t achieved many of the things you wanted for yourself.

Pretty gloomy picture, indeed.

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Simply put, what the wise men advise us of is not just some self-help fluff for them to gain more popularity or sell more books. It is true—as you will learn below—that not moving forward, not even making the effort to do better or become better—even if you don’t always succeed in these endeavors—is a mental demise and a waste of your potential.

The Common “Stucks”

There are many reasons why you may feel stagnant in your life—some may be completely out of your control even. The main thing, though, is to be able to identify the reasons and then try to take some remedial actions.

But it starts with an awareness—because you can’t fix what you don’t know about, right?

Here are some of the main contributors to your feelings of stuck-ness:

You Lack Purpose in Your Life, or the “Why” of What You Do

Simon Sinek, the best-selling author and motivational speaker tells us in his famous TED talk that every successful endeavor—be it related to an organization, your career or personal life needs to begin with defining the “Why.” You need to be able to explain to yourself why you do what you do and what drives you.

It is the thing (s) that gives meaning and inspires you to wake up in the morning and to want to take on the world. It is your reason for being.

You Like the Status Quo

You may like your comfort zone. After all, it’s…well, comfortable. But as we established, the good old blanket is not necessarily going to make us fulfilled in life. You can watch so many TV shows wrapped in it before you get bored.

We, humans, still carry our ancestors’ fighting instincts—for hunting, for self-preservation, for taking actions to make our lives better. Inaction is not what made the mankind create all the innovations we enjoy today.

The Good-Old Fear of Failure and of the Unknown

Admittedly, it’s not an emotion to be taken lightly—it can be quite real and powerful for many of us.

According to a Gallup poll done a while ago among U.S. teenagers, the fear of being a failure and not succeeding in life was at number four.[2] More specifically, this feeling was described as “making mistakes that will mess up my life,” “not measuring up,” “not leaving a mark.”

So, fear can be a powerful paralyzer and can elicit a “safe-mode” response—i.e. stuck-ness.

Your Crowd

We all know the famous adage that we are the average of the five people we rub shoulders with. So, if your in-crowd is similarly stuck as you are, although it may be consoling at times, you won’t be motivated to make much progress yourself.

It’s called a social proof bias—if everyone around you is doing (or not doing) something, then it is ok for you to follow suit.

Comparisons to Others

While comparisons are not always bad, according to the Social Comparison Theory,[3] they have to be handled with caution.

Faring against others can make you very unhappy with yourself. Failing to recognize that your path is not the same as others’ and that there are many ways to get to an end-point (goal) can be very discouraging to taking the first step to unstuck-ness.

Personality

Our temperaments can also contribute to a sense of feeling stuck. For instance, you may be more of a passive, dreamy kind of person who prefers observing to taking action, pensiveness to gregariousness, solitude to venturing out in the world.

That is, you have more of a slow-burn personality vs. a fiery one—therefore, it takes you longer to contemplate all alternatives before taking the plunge.

And that’s ok. But you need to recognize that this may also be the reason why you are not progressing as fast or as much as you would like towards your goals.

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And while changing who you are is hard (impossible even, according to some psychologists), there are things that can be done to make it so much better for yourself, which I will discuss a bit later.

A final point to note here is that, paradoxically, it is possible to feel both stuck and unstuck at the same time. For instance, you can have a great career, but your family life may feel a bit stale, or wise versa.

As our personal and professional lives constantly fight for the top spot on our attention list, the feeling of stuck-ness may also depend on where you are on your life’s trajectory.

For someone who is younger and single, stagnation may be felt more vividly in their professional lives, as opposed to someone who is in their mid-life, where family takes priority—such individuals may not feel as down-hearted that they are not progressing quickly enough professionally.

How to Get Unstuck in Life

The neat thing about your path to becoming unstuck is that it follows the so-called Principle of Equifinality,[4] which states that the end state can be reached by many means.

It’s not just one thing that can help you to start moving forward again. There are many avenues you can explore to find out what works for you and with your own story and personality.

1. Show up and Be Willing to Do the Work

Woody Allen has famously said that “80% of success is showing up.” That is, you need to begin with the right motivation and willingness to take action towards unstucking.

You must want to improve your current state. And you must follow through.

2. Self-Reflection

Spend some time alone. You need to figure out why you are stuck—that is, what is the root of your discontent. Meditation may help here too. But this step is essential:

Packing on some self-knowledge and awareness on why you are where you are in life can help you discover a whole new universe of ideas on how to make it better for yourself.

It is as the saying goes: Identifying the problem is half of the solution.

Start to do self-reflection with the help of this article: The Power of Self-Reflection: Ten Questions You Should Ask Yourself

3. Break a Sweat

There is an avalanche of research on the benefits of exercising for the body and the mind. The latest research tells us that if you want to put your mind in the best possible focus shape, a 15-minute jog will do the job better than 15 minutes of relaxation and meditation.[5] It also clears your thinking, improves your attention spans, and can generally make you feel like a “brand new person.”

4. Find a Purpose

As I already touched-upon, the “Why” behind your actions is a prime driver of self-progress. If you link your goals—be them personal or professionals—to a “bigger-than-me” aspiration, then it will be so much easier to convince yourself to keep moving.

According to recent research,[6] we all have a specific purpose-seeking style—similar to our own way of writing, dancing or speaking.

There are four types or “Whys”—creative, prosocial, financial and personal recognition. The prosocial approach to finding meaning, though, which is based on kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, is the best one in the long-run—it was shown to lead to greater caring, integrity and personal growth.

Here’s How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person.

5. Find a Passion

It’s barely a secret that if you enjoy something, you will want to do more of it and it won’t feel like an obligation. You will have an internal motivation to keep going despite setbacks, despite the stress or the tiredness you may experience at times.

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So, find what thrills you and makes you come alive and strive to become better, the best even, at it. The more progress you make, the more confidence you will have that you can apply the same passion and dedication to all other parts of your life that feel stagnant.

Learn How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life.

6. Nudge Yourself

The Nudge Theory[7] has been around for a while and has shown some wonderful results in positively influencing people’s behaviors—from making us conserve more energy, to improving the payment rates of fines, to making job-seekers more engaged and involved.

Small things as daily reminders in terms of micro-goals you can set on your phone, for instance, can have a profound favorable effect on becoming unstuck.

Nudging can also help overcome some of these personality traits we talked about—like passiveness or acute proneness to procrastination.

7. Seek Different Experiences

Even if you are in a happy relationship, you may still feel stuck—i.e. you may be unfulfilled, uninspired, or bored even of doing identical things over and over. The same rings true for your professional life.

The end-point is that you need to feed your brain different experiences if you want to get unstuck. If you repeat more of the same thing, you will end up with more or less similar outcomes. Change requires taking the path less trodden, experimenting, learning new ways, seeing new places, reading, travelling—it’s an endless list, really, to personal growth.

According to research covered in Psychology Today,[8]

“Activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort, and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives. Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counterintuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.”

8. Leave Behind the Things That Are Not Constructive for You

Arianna Huffington put it in a great way:[9]

“You can complete a project by dropping it.”

Assessing the things that make you feel stagnant is important. But equally valuable is to recognize that just because it may be hard or even impossible to get something that you really want, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that you are necessarily stuck.

Maybe it’s simply not your thing. For instance, you may want to become a professional golfer. You practice and practice but you can’t quite reach the level of Tiger Woods that you aspire to. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of your life and shift your focus.

9. Compare Wisely

Comparisons can often make you feel down and create a sense of stagnation, which may not always be valid. You must realize that your pace of progress differs from your friends’, neighbours’, siblings or even significant others’.

Just because you are not a millionaire by the age of 30, or haven’t started your own business, or written your third bestseller yet, doesn’t mean that you are not moving forward.

So, mind how you measure your progress and your state of stuck-ness. Your perceptions may differ from reality.

Besides, it’s never ever too late to start things over! Here’s how:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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10. Ask for Help

Finally, remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. If you feel stuck in your personal life, you can speak to your close ones and find a solution together. Maybe they feel the same way.

At work—raise your hand, speak to your manager, volunteer to do things that can help you learn and become more valuable.

You don’t have to come up with all the answers right now. The most important thing, going back to the first idea, is to be willing to make a change.

When Is Enough Enough?

Seeking progress is a great thing. Who wouldn’t want to become a better version of themselves after all?

But the pursuit of growth should be handled with caution. It can become very addictive and sometimes even be counterproductive.

It’s true—you may experience a “runner’s high” and success can make you overflow with dopamine, but the constant chase of “more” can toss you into a never-ending spinning wheel.

You will never be happy with the status quo and won’t accept things as they are—which, naturally, can open a Pandora box of mental health issues.

That is, too much of a self-improvement drive may leave you unable to enjoy your life, to be fully present in the Now and to appreciate the person that you are.

And this is not necessarily a good thing.

So, should you strive to improve yourself, so that feel unstuck and free again? Absolutely.

But remember to take a breather and be grateful for what you have.

Summing It All Up

The feeling of being satisfied or unsatisfied with one’s life is very personal. Similar to its cousins—happiness and success, it is best measured by and depends on our individual histories, personalities and paths—i.e. my trajectory is different than yours and what makes me feel content may not create the same feeling for you.

For instance, you may be happy to be in a position where you help others and their gratitude is sufficient enough reason for you to wake up in the morning. But for someone else, this situation may create a sense of stuck-ness.

The main take-away here is that you shouldn’t compare your story to anyone else’s because you may end up feeling constantly stuck. And this, speaking from experience, is not the best place in the world to be.

Progress is great, but don’t forget that your life is here and now.

So, try to enjoy yourself some too, while making your grandiose plans to take on the world, will you please?

Featured photo credit: Camila Cordeiro via unsplash.com

Reference

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