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Published on June 8, 2021

What is Mental Energy And How To Maintain A High Level of It

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What is Mental Energy And How To Maintain A High Level of It

We all understand “energy” in the physical sense, and we mostly experience the feeling of having a lot or a lack of physical energy. But physical energy is very different from mental energy. So, what is mental energy?

Mental energy is a mood and a measure of the willingness to undertake cognitive tasks. When you are experiencing an abundance of mental energy, you will feel motivated, efficient, and focused when dealing with tasks. You may feel like you can take on more and have the capacity to throw yourself into a situation without feeling stress or anxiety.

However, unfortunately in the busyness of modern society, you may relate more to the feeling of having a lack of mental energy. Take yourself back to a situation where you are juggling lots of tasks, work is hard, and home life is emotionally exhausting. This is the feeling of a lack of mental energy. You may have felt like being on the verge of burnout, found yourself procrastinating, and had the feeling of just not having the capacity to take on any more emotional or cognitive tasks.

You must deal with a lack of mental energy before it develops into mental exhaustion. Let us take a look at the symptoms of mental exhaustion and the toll that it can take on you as a person and your life.

Signs of Mental Exhaustion

Here are the mental, physical, and behavioral signs of exhaustion.

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Mental Signs

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anger

Physical Signs

  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Increased illness

Behavioral Signs

  • Poor performance at work
  • Social withdrawal
  • Inability to keep to commitments
  • Increased time off sick at work

The signs of mental exhaustion are less than desirable, and you should reiterate the importance of maintaining your mental energy and do not let it be an afterthought.[1]

How to Maintain a High Level of Mental Energy

The maintenance of mental energy is all in the approach. We can not always control our situation or the number of tasks that we have on at a particular moment in time. However, we can control how we manage and maintain our mental health and mental energy at these times. Just as our physical energy can be maintained through various methods, so can our mental energy.

Now, let us take a look at some of the useful methods that can help us to maintain a high level of mental energy starting from today.

1. Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep may sound like the most obvious method to help maintain a high level of mental energy, however, it is very important.

There are two stages of sleep, REM (rapid eye movement) which is the stage of sleep when you dream, and Non-REM. Non-REM can be divided into three stages, the final stage being deep sleep. The deep sleep stage is where scientists believe that your body renews and repairs itself and also the stage that is most important in terms of energy maintenance.

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There are many ways in which you can create good sleep hygiene. These include having time away from devices before sleep, stopping caffeine intake a few hours before you plan to go to sleep, and going to sleep at the same time each evening.

2. Structure Your Day

Structuring your day can apply to either your home or your work life. The key is to prioritize the important tasks so that if you run out of time, you are safe in the knowledge that these have been completed. If you don’t do this, then you are at risk of overworking yourself, staying at work late, or doing household tasks into the evening.

At home, this may be washing first or tidying the house before you sit down to have a relax. At work, you can write down a list of your tasks for the day and then, list them from the highest priority to the lowest. You can tick off each task as you go along. Any uncompleted tasks can then be transferred to the next day. Furthermore, if you are running out of time, you’ll know in advance and can delegate the priority work to ensure that this is completed on time.

3. Eat Well

Eating well is important for both physical and mental health. Eating a well-balanced diet and certain foods can aid memory, concentration, and focus and thus, helping you maintain mental energy.

Let us take a look at some foods that can do this:

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  • Wholegrains – can improve concentration and focus as it provides a steady supply of energy throughout the day.
  • Blueberries – can boost short-term memory as they contain protective compounds called anthocyanins.
  • Blackcurrants – can reduce anxiety and stress as they contain Vitamin C which is widely thought to increase mental agility.
  • Pumpkin seeds – can enhance memory and boost mood as they are rich in magnesium, B vitamins, and tryptophan, which are believed to be important in serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that has a positive impact on mood.

4. Get Some Fresh Air

Going outdoors can have a restorative effect on mental health. You do not have to undertake a ten-mile walk to reap the benefits. Simply being out in the garden, going for a stroll in the countryside, or doing a brisk walk to the shop can have a positive effect on mental energy. Research has shown that spending time outdoors can relieve anxiety and depression. Furthermore, it promotes relaxation and can improve confidence and self-esteem.[2]

5. Take a Break

Taking a break every so often whether at work or when doing any task can maintain a high level of mental energy and focus when needed. A break can involve something as simple as walking away from your computer and changing your environment for a few minutes by going to make a cup of tea to strolling around the block on your lunch rather than staying in the office.

This change of environment takes your mind off the task at hand, rejuvenates, and reenergizes you. Focus can then be maintained and the task at hand can be done to the best of your abilities without mental fatigue.

6. Exercise Your Brain

Challenging your brain does for your mind what exercise does for your body. Physical exercise can stimulate your physical energy just as exercising your brain can stimulate your mental energy.

There are many ways to exercise your brain including:

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  • Brain training exercises can stimulate the mind and also boost intelligence.
  • Learn something new to create new challenges for your brain.
  • Socializing can stimulate multiple areas of the brain. The array of activities involved in socializing engages different areas of the brain with each activity.

7. Meditate

Studies of meditation have shown to have many benefits to the brain. Such benefits include an improvement in brain function and energy levels.

One such study found that practicing meditation for just 25 minutes a day can provide this boost. This is because meditation has been found to release endorphins and increase blood flow to the brain. When meditating, you focus your attention on your breathing and the aim is to eliminate the busyness of the brain and your thoughts. This provides a much-needed rest for your brain thus increasing your mental energy levels.[3]

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, a lack of mental energy is experienced by many and potentially, it is more commonly felt than the feeling of having a high level of energy. Once you spot the signs of a lack of mental energy, it is time to take action before those feelings worsen and develop into mental exhaustion.

However, the good news is that there are basic steps that you can take to maintain a high level of mental energy, and it is just as important as maintaining a high level of physical energy. These steps can be incorporated into your daily life with minimal effort. Eat well, sleep well, get some fresh air, take a break, challenge your brain, structure your day and meditate—it is as simple as that.

More Tips on Boosting Mental Energy

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Charlotte Chidlow

Declutter Consultant and Life Coach with a BSc (Hons) Psychology with the Open University.

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Last Updated on September 16, 2021

The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

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The Real Reason Why You Feel Exhausted (No Matter How Much You Sleep)

I love my sleep. I always make sure to get at least eight hours each night. I’ll even leave parties early so I can get to bed at my usual time Yet, there are still mornings when I wake up feeling exhausted, even after a great night’s sleep. Whenever that happens, I run through a mental checklist, grasping at straws to explain to myself why I feel so groggy: why do I feel exhausted? Did I drink too much last night? Did I stay up past my usual bedtime? Did I hit snooze on my alarm twelve times? Eight hours of sleep a night shouldn’t result in chronic exhaustion, right?

Regardless of how much quality sleep you’re getting, you can still feel mentally exhausted, burnt out, run-down, worn through—whatever you want to call it. Most of the time, you’re so exhausted you don’t even have the time or the sense to see it clearly.

The answer is right in front of your face, but you haven’t had a chance to step back and analyze your situation. Maybe you hate your job, or you’re worried about paying rent, but you’re not actively thinking about it. How could you with all that’s going on? It’s planted in your subconscious, lurking there and eating away at your morale.

That worn-down feeling is a cumulative combination of unconsidered stressful circumstances—an amalgamation of past worries and future anxieties. We aren’t talking about your regular physical exhaustion from a long day’s work standing on your feet. This is purely in between your ears. You’re overstimulated, and it’s dragging you down. But what’s the real reason behind this brain fog? Why do you feel exhausted?

The first place to look at is stress,[1] which is the body’s natural response to a new challenge or demand. Where are you currently experiencing stress in your life?

Most pain, exhaustion, or emotional fatigue is the direct result of stress. Daily life is filled with tiny stressors—running to catch the morning bus, praying you’ll find a parking spot, or worrying about the leak in your ceiling at home. As these small stressors pile on uncontrollably, you realize you’re white-knuckling through the day.

Mental exhaustion,[2] simply put, is long-term stress. It’s having a day like the above over and over again for months on end until it weighs so much it finally drags you to the ground. You can’t keep living like this.

You may have experienced this in the form of a “mid-life crisis,” or even a quarter-life crisis where you stop and realize you never pursued the things you once hoped and dreamed of. Life passed you by in the blink of an eye. What happened to the “purpose” you once wanted to get out of life? Maybe you wanted to be an artist and all of a sudden, you look down and you’re forty-three years old sitting in a conference room surrounded by suits and boring charts.

You’re faking your way through life and you’re tired of putting on an act.

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Why Do You Feel Exhausted?

“Depression, anxiety, phobias… so many things can be disguised in a way that gives a facade of normalcy over a person’s internal struggles.” —Morgan Housel

There are many reasons why you may be feeling exhausted. There may be times when you had complete hours of sleep yet ask yourself after waking up: why do I still feel exhausted?

Why? It’s because there are other possible reasons for this exhaustion other than improper or lack of sleep. Here are some reasons why you feel exhausted.

1. High-Pressure Occupation (emergency responders and teachers)

Working in a highly stressful scene like an ER or police department is an obvious input for stress. Long hours on the job and making high-level decisions in crisis mode need to be followed by a period of rest, relaxation, and debriefing.

2. Working Long Hours

Consistently clocking in 12-14 hour days for weeks on end can drag you down. Many occupations require this type of work seasonally, like accountants during tax season. But when you’re spending that much time at week year-round and there is no end in sight, mental exhaustion can become chronic.

3. Financial Stress

For obvious reasons, being in troubled circumstances with your finances can cause long-term stress and constant worries, which lead to feeling exhausted. How can you enjoy life if you can’t afford to do the things you enjoy? No matter how much you sleep, you will still feel exhausted if something is troubling you at the back of your mind like financial problems.

4. Dissatisfied With Your Job

When you ask yourself, “why do I feel exhausted?” Try also asking, “Am I satisfied with my job?”

Many people slog through life in a job they hate. Whether it’s your unruly boss, the team that you work with, or the customers who you’re sick of hearing complaining, being stuck in a dissatisfying job can cause feelings of resentment in work and your personal life.

5. Clutter

Whether you’re naturally a messy person or life has become so frantic that you haven’t even had a chance to clean or organize, clutter plays a massive part in mental exhaustion. Having a clear workspace and a calm environment to walk into makes a difference in mental clarity. This can also affect your productivity and your attitude towards your job.

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6. Avoidance and Procrastination

When you feel exhausted, it may be because something at the back of your head is troubling you. You may have some responsibilities that you should be doing or have done but still have not. Putting things off too long will cause hidden stress to climb on top of you like a monkey on your back. Avoiding your responsibilities and procrastinating are some of the possible causes as to why you feel exhausted.

7. Living With Chronic Pain or an Illness

Going through life with stress is hard enough. Add on top of that something like chronic back pain or a congenital condition and it’s like taking care of two separate people for yourself. This can also cause feelings of resentment, bitterness, and irritation around people you love, even those who support and take care of you.

8. Death of a Loved One

Losing a close friend or family member is something everyone has experienced, and it never gets easier. Many people try to play tough and portray to their loved ones that they are okay and dealing with it just fine. But the reality is that it’s weighing them down.

Be honest with yourself about it, and have someone you can talk to. Experiencing your grief alone and not sharing it with anyone may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

9. Lack of Purpose

Life needs to have a purpose. Every individual has a purpose that is entirely unique to their circumstance. It can be guided by religion, occupation, or an ultimate life goal to strive towards, such as writing a book or owning a business. Without an ultimate purpose, it’s easy to let yourself slip into a depression that leads to mental exhaustion.

What Should You Do When You Feel Exhausted?

“When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.” —Nicholas Sparks

1. Talk About It

It may sound obvious, but talking through these struggles with someone is a form of therapy in itself. Chances are, someone has been through the same type of thing that you’re going through right now. Don’t hide it. Open up and learn how others dealt with it. It’s more common than you think.

2. Find an Outlet or a Hobby

One way to help find joy out of a life of exhaustion is to come home to a hobby. Unwind from the workday by doing something you love that’s also a bit challenging. Learn how to play guitar, play video games with your kids, read a book, or learn new recipes to cook for your family. Take your mind away from whatever it is you’re worried about. Focus entirely on the process and get out of your anxiety.

3. Be Realistic

You can’t do everything. Look at your schedule, and be honest with yourself and the people around you about what’s possible for one person to do in a day. You can’t change the world alone. Enlist the help of others and don’t be too proud to ask. Putting the weight of the world on your shoulders may be the reason why you feel exhausted.

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4. Arrive Early

It took me years in life to realize how much being early can relieve stress. Waking up five minutes earlier gives me five minutes to relax and think if I’m forgetting anything before I head out the door. Leaving five minutes before I normally would for an event gives me five minutes to arrive and get a good seat, scope out the scene, or talk to someone and learn something about the place.

Being early allows you to be relaxed and completely comfortable as opposed to running through life in a hurry. Settle in before anyone else and have the mental edge that you’re prepared for anything.

5. Exercise More, Try Healthier Habits

Exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. But have you ever regretted a workout? One hundred percent of the time it makes you feel better and gives you the momentum to have a great day.

Try healthier habits. Go for a walk right when you get out of bed. Try a new vegetable once a week. Drink more water. Stand more. Replace dessert with fruit. If you drink ten cups of coffee a day, try to go one day a month without coffee. Healthier habits ultimately lead to a happier life in more ways than you think.

6. Journal

Similar to talking about your problems, journaling is an excellent outlet for not only getting the thoughts out of your head but also to clarify your feelings. As you write, you’ll realize you actually didn’t understand what you were thinking. Writing helps that. Do it often.

7. Take Care of Something

Get a pet. If you’re not ready for a dog, then buy a few plants to take care of. This takes the attention off yourself and on to something that relies on you for livelihood. It will help put everything in perspective and relieve stress and exhaustion.

8. Meditate

This is such an overly-used cure-all, but meditation really does help with clarity of thinking and developing a sense of calm in your life. Researchers found that meditation “decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.[3]

It doesn’t have to be sitting with your legs cross, fingers in a circle, and saying “Oooommmmmm.” Meditating can take on whatever form you’re comfortable with. It can be taking a few deep breaths before you step out of your car, or it can be closing your eyes and thinking of your loved ones when you’re having a hard time.

Sometimes before bed, I’ll just close my eyes and envision a future I want for myself. I picture the people I love hugging me and saying “Congratulations.” For what? I don’t know, but I’m putting myself in the mindset to succeed.

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Final Thoughts

Dr. Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit:[4]

“The more you work on systems for reducing stress and excess decision-making, the more mental energy you’ll have.”

This is true in so many areas. Work on habits and routines that will eliminate the number of decisions you make. The more disciplined you are in these areas, the more freedom you will have to do the things you truly want and need. But also, understand how you are getting in your own way.

Author Tim Ferriss likes to ask himself, “How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?” or “What are the stories I tell myself that interfere with self-love?”

Take a look at the actions and routines you structure your life around. Are there small tweaks you can make to get out of your own way? What would this look like if it were easy? Sometimes, asking yourself questions like these can lead to surprisingly simple solutions and answer the question of “why do I feel exhausted?”

As I said, everyone is struggling in their own way. How you manage your stress may differ completely from someone else. By being vulnerable and understanding that you have the ability to overcome this exhaustion, you can begin to find meaning. Exercise consistent positive habits and the momentum will attract more positive momentum. Oh, and get good sleep!

More Tips to Help You When You Feel Exhausted

Featured photo credit: Hernan Sanchez via unsplash.com

Reference

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