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How To Avoid Suffering By Changing Your Mindset

How To Avoid Suffering By Changing Your Mindset

No one likes to suffer.

So why are so many people displaying signs of suffering? Stress, anger and regret are common emotions that you feel on a daily basis. As much as we try to avoid them, we always end up bringing the negative feelings in.

Leo Babauta has an effective solution for this problem. In his latest blog post, he highlights how to detect and avoid suffering. By doing this, individuals can regain control of their wavering emotions.

Perhaps the most shocking concept that Babauta covers is how unhealthy eating and lack of exercise are linked to suffering and fear.

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The reality is, self-compassion can hurt a progressive mindset. It can dampen the truth, making individuals believe things that can hurt their future.

Are you experiencing suffering in your life? How are you addressing these negative issues? Let us know what you think.

The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit | Zen Habits

The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit

Let’s hypothesize that there’s a substance that’s been irritating you and causing problems in all areas of your life: it causes you to be unhappy, to be stressed, to procrastinate, to be distracted, to be angry with people, to be dissatisfied with your life, to be overweight and unhealthy, to not exercise or eat healthy, and much more.

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Horrible substance, right? Now imagine there were a salve that could ease the bad effects of this substance, and make all those other areas better.

The substance is real: it’s your suffering. We all suffer, in small and large ways, every day. And it causes all the other problems I mentioned.

The salve is also real: it’s self-compassion. Which sounds too fluffy for most people, but it’s a concrete practice that will have concrete benefits, in all areas of your life.

Let’s take a minute to explore suffering, and what would happen if you applied the salve of self-compassion.

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The All-Pervasive Effects of Suffering

We don’t always think of ourselves as suffering, if we’re leading normal lives. But in fact, we’re suffering more often than we usually realize, just not necessarily suffering greatly. We suffer in small ways, and that affects our happiness, the happiness of those around us, and our actions and habits throughout the day.

Some examples:

  • Stress: Throughout the day, things come up to stress you out, from a new thing to add to your workload to someone criticizing you to the housework not being done. This is suffering, even if it’s usually at a low level (though sometimes it can get to high levels). The salve of self-compassion would reduce this suffering, and allow you to deal with these events/situations more calmly, increasing your happiness levels throughout the day.
  • Frustrations: Little frustrations happen all the time, from people not doing things right to traffic being congested to not being able to figure out why software isn’t working right. This is also suffering. Self-compassion can help you calm down from the frustrations, and handle the situations appropriately. You’d be less angry when you responded, which is likely to result in better outcomes.
  • Anger with others: Someone has pissed you off — your kid just won’t listen, your spouse has said something critical, your boss is being a total dillweed. You’re suffering, obviously. This can result not only in unhappiness, but in actions that hurt your relationship with others, your career, your marriage. Instead, apply self-compassion, and you can calm down, respond appropriately, even with compassion for the other person, who is also suffering.
  • Feeling bad about yourself: There are a million reasons we feel bad about ourselves, from failure to body fat to hopelessness in bad situations. This too is suffering, and it causes us to take harmful actions, like comforting ourselves with food and shopping and alcohol, not taking action, not believing in ourselves. Self-compassion eases this pain, and leads not only to more helpful actions but happiness.
  • Feeling rushed: There’s often a feeling throughout our days that we need to rush to the next thing. Walking, we go quickly. Working, we switch constantly to the next communication, next tab, next super-urgent-can’t-wait-do-it-now task. This feeling of constant urgency is itself a source of stress. Self-compassion can ease this as well, and allow us to slow down, enjoy the moment, be happier in each moment.
  • Distraction: We live super-distracted lives, wasting huge parts of our day. Distraction is a symptom of suffering — we go to distraction because of fear (we’re afraid of harder tasks, of missing out, of failing) and we think distraction is comforting. In turn, distraction tends to increase suffering — we feel bad about ourselves, we procrastinate on important things and make our jobs and lives worse, etc. Self-compassion helps us see this suffering, ease it, and reduce the tendency to distraction.
  • Procrastination: We all procrastinate, on work, on writing our great novel, on learning a musical instrument, on exercise. Procrastination, like distraction, is a symptom of suffering, of fear and thinking we can’t do something. Self-compassion can help with that suffering and reduce procrastination, increasing our creative output, helping us to take care of finances and work tasks and decluttering and all the things we know we really want to do but aren’t doing.
  • Not exercising: This is a specific form of procrastination, and so is a symptom of suffering. It also shows how procrastination can cause more suffering, as a lack of exercise leads to worse health, which leads to the stress and pain of disease. Self-compassion can help us start exercising mindfully and joyfully.
  • Unhealthy eating: We tend to eat unhealthy things because we are afraid of vegetables and not eating junk, and because we need to comfort ourselves from other suffering, and because we think we need the crutch of temporary pleasures. We don’t. Self-compassion eases this suffering and helps us to be OK with not eating Pringles and donuts, with making our bodies feel better.
  • Lack of gratitude: Much of our lives are spent in silent complaint, or sometimes not so silent. We are so unhappy with little things in our lives, which is a form of suffering. These complaints mean we’re missing out on what’s great about our lives. Self-compassion helps us to deal with the pain of these complaints, and instead turn to the amazing things we can be grateful for, which increases our happiness with life all around us.
  • Lack of mindfulness: Most of our lives are spent in distraction, unmindful of the present moment. This is a form of suffering, because if we weren’t suffering we could stay in the present much of the time, fully appreciate the moment as it happens. Instead, we’re thinking about the future because we’re worried about it, we’re obsessed with the past mistakes we’ve made. Self-compassion can ease these worries and obsessions, and instead practice mindfulness with each moment more often.

I could go on forever, because suffering takes many forms. But you can see the pattern: self-compassion eases the pain of the suffering, reducing the bad effects and allowing us to choose more helpful ways of living.

Let’s turn to a method of self-compassion.

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A Self-Compassion Method

This is a method you can practice through a daily habit, to help with suffering in all forms:

  1. Notice your suffering, in one of its many forms.
  2. Turn towards the suffering, see it as it is, feel it fully, experience it mindfully and in the moment.
  3. Accept the suffering, instead of trying to ignore it, avoid it, push it away, kill it. Accept that it’s a part of life, a part of you, but temporary.
  4. Wish yourself happiness, wish for an end to your suffering. Give yourself a mental hug, comfort yourself.
  5. Let go of what’s causing the suffering. Just release it, or put it aside. The cause is likely something you wish were different. Instead, appreciate things as they are. Be present with reality.
  6. Be grateful for the reality that’s happening right now.

This is not always easy to practice, and so I recommend a daily session where you turn inward for a couple minutes, and practice without the distractions of daily life. You’ll get better at the self-compassion habit with practice.

But it’s worth the practice. The salve of self-compassion can change your entire life.

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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