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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

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

Leadership & Performance Edge Strategist

How To Overcome Laziness in 7 Steps What Is Mentally Tired? 11 Ways to Combat Brain Exhaustion 5 Proven Risk-Taking Tips To Take More Chances In Life How to Be a High Performer and Achieve Excellence How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected

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Published on April 14, 2021

How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

How To Relieve Stress And Restore Energy

You didn’t get to where you are in life without learning how to relieve stress along the way. But just because you’ve “been there, done that” doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be easier this time around. Granted life experience will likely have taught you the old refrain, “this too shall pass” but that same life experience will also likely have taught you something about the active role you need to take to combat stress from time to time and how we could all stand to benefit from a stress-busting reboot.

I think we all know the dangerous side effects of too much stress in our lives. Stress is a major contributor to many poor health outcomes, such as diabetes, weight gain, hypertension, poor memory, and a whole host of mental health issues.[1] Therefore, how we manage the stress in our lives, needs to be revisited with a fresh and new perspective, in the same way, we need to clean out and freshen up our closet every so often.

Below are my top 10 strategies to relieve stress and restore energy with a fresh look at some old favorites that are guaranteed to help you self-optimize for health and happiness in body, mind, and spirit.

1. Compartmentalize—Prioritization on Steroids

People think of the compartmentalizing tactic in different ways, and there are negative associations with this term. However, when I suggest that you compartmentalize to manage your stress—or better yet, relieve stress—what I am referring to is the idea that you block out certain parts of your life that are distracting you from what you need to do in your daily life.

For example, you are at work but also have some extraordinary stress in your private life due to ailing parents with no siblings to share in the caretaking. Managing this alongside your own family and professional responsibilities, which were already heavy enough, places an enormous amount of stress on you.

When you compartmentalize, you put up mental blinders to help you focus on the task in front of you with the knowledge that managing your parent’s living and financial situation will be handled in due time after work hours.

Learning how to block out these different realms of your life will help you prioritize and manage the work that is in front of you.

2. Get Outside, It’s Like Therapy

Simply getting outside in the fresh air will automatically bring down your stress levels and restore some lost energy.[2] The research around this growing field known as ecotherapy is proving once again how powerful nature is and how we can improve our mental wellbeing along with our physical and spiritual health with time outdoors.[3]

When you are outside, you are more likely to have increased activity levels and will be exposing yourself to the mood-boosting sun, which helps our body create vitamin D. Research on vitamin D indicates that those who are vitamin D deficient may be more susceptible to inflammatory illness, depression and lowered resistance to stress, and more and more of us are becoming vitamin D deficient across the United States.[4]

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Spending as little as 10 minutes outside every day can be enough to improve mood, mental focus, and decrease blood pressure. Think of the increased concentration and improved efficiency you will get as a return on investment that yields way better growth on your aptitude and attitude for life.

3. Do an Organization Reboot

We all know the secret to success is largely due to organization or at least some form of it. I would argue that organization is a process. We build structures to organize information and life events based on our current demands. Over the course of your life, this will vary and probably increase as your life becomes more complicated, which will force you to innovate and change things up as you go.

What was enough in college or your first job out of college may not be enough at this point in your life. Furthermore, many, many systems can help us organize, and too many can detract from their intended benefits.

Assessing and weeding out the unnecessary systems or consolidating from the many to one might just be the answer.

Is a family calendar on Google more efficient than the calendar hanging in the kitchen? Don’t just assume that the answer will be in tech. Sometimes the old-fashioned pen and paper is more practical and might also serve as a better physical reminder—think of the whiteboard in the kitchen vs the hidden “to-do list” on your smartphone with reminders that consistently fail.

Another strategy for your organization reboot is an organization self-assessment. First, what it is that you need help organizing, and what the intended outcome is? Is it for communication purposes—to make sure that everyone is on the same page—or is it to help you process and think about the workload in front of you? Answering these 2 questions will help you move forward as you think about what makes the most sense for you, your family, or your team at work.

Another way to approach an organization reboot is to ask other people how they stay organized. This is especially helpful when taking on new responsibilities that might come with a job change or a new family dynamic.

I did this in a new position I recently took and by collecting data on how other people approached their work (think of the complex systems in public education), I was able to create “a best practice” that worked for me and that I could share with my colleagues. Something that could earn you some extra kudos is a bonus, especially when you are the new kid on the block.

4. Engage Your Creative Brain

When we engage the creative parts of ourself we tap into the part of our brain that releases dopamine, which has a naturally calming, therapeutic effect. Needless to say, this will almost immediately help us to relax and will lower our stress levels. One of the premises for which art therapy has been well established.

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In one study, in particular, it was found that after just 45 minutes of engaging with artistic materials, regardless of the level of production or artistic talent the person had, there was a notable decrease of cortisol in 75% of the participants.[5]

Music therapy is another form of creative art that can relieve stress and restore our energy.[6] Many of us use music to help us decompress or move into another part of our day or activity. Music also taps into this part of our brain that increases focus and can help us emulate the feeling or “vibe” we perceive in the music. As we know, upbeat music will help you feel more positive while slower music can help you feel more relaxed by easing some of the tension in your body.

There are tons of great playlists out there aimed at stress relief. The next time you are on your preferred music streaming service, test out a few and see which works for you. Needless to say, music is one of those things that we can have in the background while moving forward with other parts of our day.

Perhaps this is another area in need of a reboot that could enhance your stress relief routine.

5. Do You Need a Vacation or Weekend Away?

Vacation opportunities may not be as readily available as we would like. However, it doesn’t have to be a week in the tropics to feel the benefits of a short break from your everyday routine.

If we are optimizing our time with some of the above strategies, perhaps we might be able to sneak in that weekend getaway or even just a day trip with the family. Getting out of your everyday environment, especially when trying to build in some respite and relieve stress, can do wonders for our mind, body, and spirit.

We may love our homes, but they do represent the endless “to-do list” and remind us of all the things that contribute to our stress levels. Getting away from this environment where you can get outside and engage in some of your favorite activities with your favorite people will free your mind and your body.

Granted, COVID-19 has definitely hindered our road trip or vacation opportunities. However, with a little creativity, we can build in the little breaks that we need to relieve some stress, reconnect with the people who are important in our lives, and help us to feel ready for the next hurdle in front of us.

6. Meditation and Mindfulness, Make Them a Habit

Meditation and mindfulness can offer endless benefits to us emotionally and psychologically, which will naturally relieve stress. Many of those benefits include increased focus, relaxation, and a decrease in the mental clutter in your head.

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One of the biggest challenges with mediation or mindfulness is that to feel the impact, we need to practice it consistently, which takes discipline. The people who are most successful at integrating mediation and mindfulness into their self-care and stress relief routines are people who build it into their daily practices.

And as is true with many strategies, we don’t need to spend hours doing it. Just 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a difference, but we do need to make sure we are doing it.

Maybe there is a 5 or 10-minute window at the end or beginning of your day where you could fit this consistently? There are lots of great apps to help guide you through your mediation with music and visualization.

7. Fight Off “Aloneliness” and Find Your Alone Time

I read an article recently about “aloneliness,” which is the opposite of loneliness. As an introvert, I have always been that person who replenishes her energy from time alone but never quite thought about the craving as a likening to loneliness for the introvert.

The benefits of alone time are science-backed and include those things that many times go out the window when we are stressed and overwhelmed—things like creativity, mental strength, and productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many people without the opportunity to have their alone time, which could be another reason that you are feeling more stressed and less able to deal with your daily challenges.

You might need to be strategic, but you could build some alone time into your life with a walk outside to get lunch for example, which will also be incorporating strategy #2 on this list.

8. Find Balance in Your Life

Stress can turn our lives upside down and throw everything off-kilter. Finding your equilibrium, getting your bearings straight, and finding the balance in your life between the many demands of family, partner, work, and friends is essential.

If you are feeling increased stress, take a look at the demands around you and make sure that there is a balance between the different parts of your life—in particular, the areas where you find more nourishment for the soul.

Incorporating the well-known life coaching strategy “life wheel” is a great way to think about the different parts of your life to ensure that you are giving all areas the time and attention that they need.

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9. Maintain Good Sleep Hygiene

It’s no secret that sleep can be your best friend or public enemy number one. As the saying goes, “what a difference a day can make” is in large part due to a restful night’s sleep. However, when we are stressed, sleep is one of the first things to get out of whack.

If you are going through a period of high stress, you are likely feeling an increase in outside or family demands. Finding the time to fit it all in may naturally creep into your sleeping hours or, on the other hand, the stress might keep you from being able to get a restful night’s sleep. Either of these two scenarios is a case where it might be good to take a look at your sleep routine and force you to be a little more protective of it.

Some of my go-to tips and strategies around maintaining healthy sleep hygiene are:[7]

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Maintain your physical activity
  3. Limit alcohol
  4. Sleep in a cooler environment
  5. Get plenty of fresh air

So, before you get to thinking that you can sleep “later,” remember that healthy people and well-balanced lives have a healthy amount of sleep in their lives.

10. Animal Love

There’s tons of research out there about the benefits of having a pet, in particular, a dog or a cat. Taking care of a pet or any member of the animal kingdom can have such a positive impact on our mood and psychological well-being that our brain releases a hormone known as oxytocin, dubbed the love hormone.

We get this hormone from other nurturing (human) relationships as well, but we cannot underestimate the impact this can have on us when we care for and connect with one of our four-legged buddies. A case in point is the fact that many pet owners report feeling a connection to their pet that rivals that of any significant human connection and, in some cases, can even be more significant than a human-to-human connection.[8]

Additionally, having a pet will likely promote other healthy habits. Some of which I spoke about above, such as being outside more often and increasing your physical activity. On a social level, connecting with friends and neighbors about your pet creates a shared connection—another protective factor in the fight against stress.

Botton Line

Modern life places many demands on us which hits us in different ways during different periods of our lives. Maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being requires a fresh and renewed approach every so often.

If you take the time today—to take care of yourself for tomorrow by revamping the old worn-out items in your self-care toolbox—you will reap the benefits 20 fold! Learning how to relieve stress from our life is a process that we will need to revisit time and time again, each time getting better and better.

More Tips on How to Cope With Stress

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

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