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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

Too Tired at Work? 4 Ways to Regain Focus and Balance

Too Tired at Work? 4 Ways to Regain Focus and Balance
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I once heard it said, “No one gets a prize for burnout.” It’s a lovely saying, but how many of us abide by this ideology? Not many because if we did, Botox and wrinkle cream would be a thing of the past. We’re tired at work and because of work.

Since childhood, we’re groomed to work for the weekend, but working for two free days per week robs us from enjoying the other 260 days. None of us grew up with the mission to be exhausted, yet far too many of us have accepted this rat race as business as usual.

From Monday to Friday, we complain about the craziness, and then we escape on Saturday and Sunday with a pitcher of sangria. Isn’t this the way that life is supposed to be?

There’s nothing wrong with hard work. It’s what makes the world go round, but if our only moment of joy is zoning out to Hulu in our comfiest pajamas, we might need to rethink our chaotic schedule.

If you’re tired of grabbing your coffee on the run, yelling at the kids as you race to the door, and driving like a maniac to make it to your morning meeting, grab a nice glass of wine and enjoy this read.

In this article, I’ll reveal a couple of reasons why your exhausted and give you some practical tips to keep your sanity and social life without experiencing so much fatigue. Let’s get you started on this journey.

Why You Might Be Exhausted

Before I go to the practical tips, let’s first discuss the two main reasons why you might be tired, especially at work.

You Are Tied to Technology

According to Deloitte, most employees are exhausted. But more specifically, their source of depletion is tied to operating in an “always on” and “always available” work culture.[1]

Technology has removed all boundaries, and in many ways, it has removed an employee’s right to say no. Employees don’t feel like they have the option to shut off their phones, have a life separate from their job, or escape the piles of paperwork.

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This reality is leading to burnout and stress. Many employees feel like they can’t escape or even take a breath when they’re away from work because, in all honesty, they’re never away from the office.

Technology has made a business structure without walls, but that also means that there are no doors. This open concept of business is a blessing, but it’s also created a corporate environment that doesn’t respect personal boundaries.

This constant access to employees might work well for a company’s bottom line, but it will lead to higher burnout levels and employee dissatisfaction in the long run.

You Value Performance Instead of Purpose

Workforce Institute conducted a study and found that “95 percent of HR professionals perceive that employee burnout is sabotaging productivity” within the workplace.[2]

Repeat after me: “Life is more than the weekend.”

No amount of burnout will get you to the corner office. It doesn’t take higher energy levels to reach your goals. It requires making the right decisions. Remember, it’s not about working hard—it’s about working smart.

The hamster wheel will not get you to where you want to be. It will only lead you to more fatigue and frustration. If you feel stuck and tired at work, you’re not alone. You can shift your narrative and your sleep schedule, but if you want to change your life, then you need to change your habits.

4 Ways to Change the Way You Work

Change takes time. It also requires you to ask what you want out of life. When you take the time to know who you are and what you need, you’ll have the confidence to write your story. Pinning down your boundaries protects your purpose.

All of us experience exhaustion. But if you’re tired at work 99.9% of the time, then something needs to change, and it’s not always the job. Many times, the most significant change starts with us.

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You can regain your focus, but you need to take some time for personal introspection before experiencing higher productivity. Here are four tips that you can put into effect now!

1. Remember Your “Why”

What is your motivation?

When you were younger, you were compelled by your goals and driven by your dreams, but once you hit 30, you realized that you couldn’t pay the rent with pretend money or your 3-year vision board.

Sacrifice is a part of adulthood. After all, we’ve all learned how to pivot and survive the twists and turns. There’s nothing wrong with being responsible, but whether we like it or not, the strains of reality pop our bubble and push many of us towards burnout.

Stepping away from our foundational dreams comes at a price, which can include our health, our wholeness, and our sense of purpose. If we want to regain our focus, we need to take the time to rediscover what makes us tick. We have to make space in our schedules to work on our “why.” We can’t just be led by our “what.”

If we don’t take the time to remember the reason behind our work, we lose ourselves in it. If you want to regain your focus and stop being tired at work, you need to remember your purpose. Once you make that the foundation of your life, all of your decisions will center around that focus.

You can learn more about finding and sharpening your focus in this free guide: End Distraction And Find Your Focus

2. Recenter Your Life

One of the biggest things that you can do is to carve out time for contemplation. Now, I’m not talking about a quick morning ritual or a meditation retreat. I mean seeing yourself as a priority on your task list, not an option.

Too many of us sacrifice ourselves for the sake of deadlines. We spend days preparing our presentation and researching statistics, but we put off going to the gym or getting that extra hour of sleep. We worship doing more than being.

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Numerous studies have come to the same conclusion: We all need to put ourselves first if we want to thrive in business. But we don’t listen to the research. Too many of us continue to live off of coffee and spreadsheets regardless of the numbers. It’s not healthy, but it is tied to corporate culture.

Far too many companies reward this type of behavior. They expect their employees to be available 24/7 and bleed paperclips and printouts day-and-night. And it’s only gotten worse since we’ve started working from home.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “one of the best ways to manage through chaos is to anchor yourself in routine.”[3] Self-care has to be a part of our daily routine if we want to stop feeling tired at work. Regaining focus requires us to recenter ourselves. It demands that we place our needs into the equation without feeling guilty.

You can start by getting your blood flowing with exercise, drinking plenty of water, and taking at least 30 minutes each day to do something that brings you joy.

3. Rethink Your Expectations

We all remember the iconic line from Family Matters. Steve Urkel would hike up his pants, adjust his glasses, and utter those four iconic words that made him an endearing celebrity of the 90s.

“Did I do that?”

We can still picture his squeamish expression as he faced another kerfuffle that he had created. Many of us can relate.

After hours of exhaustion, we desperately try to keep our eyes open at work without running into walls. We blankly stare at the piles of paperwork, mindlessly nod as our boss asks us to add one more item to our checklist, and pray that we don’t drool through our endless meetings.

For many of us, this is our average workweek. We color-coordinate our schedules, add endless monotonous tasks to our week, and hope that we can balance everything without losing our sanity. What if there was a better way to survive?

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4. Reorganize Your Task List

If you’re continuously exhausted at work, one of the biggest things you can do to regain focus is to rethink your task list. You don’t need to accomplish everything, and even if you do, your task list doesn’t necessarily have to be solely done by you.

Before you begin the rat race on Monday mornings, use Sundays to restructure your work week. Write a list of people that you work with and their correlating skill sets. Then, look at your list of important tasks.

Break your task list into three columns. Fill the first section with tasks that only you can do. Then, fill the second section with functions that don’t need to be done or can be pushed to a future date. Lastly, fill the third section with tasks that can be done by others.

Adding items to your checklist might leave you feeling a sense of accomplishment, but if you continue to micromanage your task list, you won’t be able to move forward in the long term.

If you want to regain focus and stop being tired at work, start with your planner. Not everything needs to be crossed off or completed. Sometimes, the best way to meet your goals is to remove the ones keeping you stuck.

Final Thoughts

If you’re tired of being tired at work, take a look at these four tips, and implement one of these practices into your week. Remember, it’s not a race, and these tips are not just another thing to add to your task list. Their purpose is to help you understand your specific triggers that lead to burnout.

If you want to restore your joy, remember your why, and recenter your life—you need to understand yourself. Take time to implement boundaries that provide work-life balance. Make this the year that you enjoy your work week, not the year that makes you pray for the weekend.

More Tips For When You’re Tired at Work

Featured photo credit: Shane via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Colleen Batchelder

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Leadership Strategist | Executive Coach | Dr. Batchelder teaches business leaders how to create corporations where Millennials want to work.

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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
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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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