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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.

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More to Combat Brain Exhaustion

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Malachi Thompson III

High-Performance Consultant

How to Create Your Road Map to Success (A Step-By-Step Guide) How Successful People Think: 10 Mindsets to Cultivate How to Find Your Blind Spots in Life and Turn Them Into Strengths Is There a Secret to Success? 22 Ways Productive People Reach the Top How To Overcome Laziness in 7 Steps

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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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Reference

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