Everyone thinks it’s normal for someone to be tired if they work out in a field all day or stand on their feet all day. But, people who have a desk job or spend a lot of your time on mental tasks are often surprised and shocked that they are still exhausted.
Mental exhaustion can affect your entire body in negative ways. Not only are people with mental exhaustion tired, they also often suffer from body aches as if they have worked out all day long. Overusing your mind is just as bad for you as overusing yourself physically.
For example, many people who suffer from mental exhaustion, in addition to being tired most of the time, may start to get sick more often, have a lot of headaches, experience back pain, muscle aches and more. Plus, mental exhaustion can affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep which can just make all the above worse.
Take note of the symptoms that are caused by mental exhaustion. If you have more than a few of these and have been burning the wick at both ends, consider mental exhaustion a potential culprit.
- Constant sleepiness
- Frequent headaches
- Impaired decision making
- Inability to concentrate and focus
- Loss of appetite
- Memory problems
- Muscle weakness
- Poor coordination
- Poor judgement
- Reduced immunity
- Slow reflexes
- Sore or aching muscles
- Unexplained dizziness
When people are mentally exhausted, their body tries to get them to take a break and rest in every way it can. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the signs of mental exhaustion. Thankfully, there are ways to combat and overcome mental exhaustion, which we will discuss next.
How to Overcome Mental Exhaustion
Suffering from mental exhaustion is not a fun experience. It can sneak up on you. You may think you’re doing wonderfully well and then one day you realize you’re not. Therefore, let’s go through some steps to overcome mental exhaustion but also learn how to prevent it in the first place. After all, prevention is the best medicine of all.
- Track How You Spend Your Time – If you don’t know how much you’re really doing, it can be easy to just keep going 24/7 and never take a break. Take some time to track what you’re doing daily for about a week. You can use your smartphone to track your activities or you can go old school and carry around a small notebook to record your activities in.
- Drop Activities That Don’t Produce Real Results – When you look at the activities you did while tracking, note the things that aren’t really producing results, or that are busy work, or that are completely unnecessary. For example, do you go to a lot of meetings? Do you have to? Do you spend a lot of time trying to help a relative, friend, or someone else without results? Let go of anything that you can either just stop doing or outsource. Or if you must keep doing it, find a way to put limits on it.
- Put Everything in Your Calendar – One reason people get overscheduled doing too much and become mentally exhausted is that they think they’re magic. They think they can do 48 hours of work in 24 hours. But, if you started putting everything on your calendar properly, you would see that you just can’t. First, schedule the must-dos. Then add in family time, date night, friend time, and “me” time to your day. Don’t add anything to your schedule that will reduce these important things.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Don’t forget how important sleep is. Most adults should seek to get between six and nine hours a night. It largely depends on your genetics how much sleep feels right for you. Work with what you know you need. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, address that issue so that you fall asleep fast and your sleeping time is productive. To help get used to this process, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day for at least 30 days. You can start with the least time and work your way up to find out which amount of time works best for you to make you feel rested each day.
- Exercise Every Day – Schedule in exercise time each day. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. It can be as simple as a brisk walk. You also don’t need to schedule in an entire hour. Look at your schedule so that you can determine if you have 10 minutes to walk six times a day, or three 20-minute walks a day. You can also separate that out into different types of exercise. The important thing is to get up out of a chair and move as much as you can.
- Eat Right – Enough cannot be stated about eating the right type of food for your body. What you eat often depends on what you need. Ask your doctor to test your blood levels for vitamins and then eat the things you need to avoid deficiencies. Try eating smaller meals throughout the day which will give you a break, boost your energy, and help you stay more focused.
- Stay Hydrated – It can be very easy to get dehydrated. Most adults should drink between eight and ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day to stay hydrated. If you exercise strenuously you’ll need more. Tea, coffee, soda, and sugary drinks (even fake sugar) are all dehydrating and don’t do the same thing as clean, filtered water will. Take the challenge and commit to drinking enough water for 30 days, and you’ll see a huge difference.
- Take Regular Breaks – When you are doing mental tasks, it’s hard to want to take a break sometimes because there are times when the time is just flying by as you work, and you just don’t notice. But, it’s imperative that you take regular breaks. Since the brain works in 90-minute cycles, one way to accomplish breaks is to set up five- to ten-minute breaks every 115 minutes. Set a timer if you must. Get up and stretch, go for a fast walk, grab a snack, drink some water, and you’ll come back refreshed.
- Rest Your Eyes – Many people who are using their brains all day tend to sit in front of a computer. Computer monitors are very bad for your eyes. You can install software such as f.lux (https://justgetflux.com) to help lessen the strain, but getting away from the monitor on your regular breaks is going to help too.
- Understand That It’s OK to Do Nothing – A lot of smart, busy people tend to be uncomfortable with downtime. They feel as if they’re slackers. But, even if you have a mentally exhausting job as compared to a physically exhausting one, everyone needs to get away sometime. Schedule your yearly vacations and do something. Even if you just stay home and look at local sites, that’s okay – everyone needs downtime and everyone needs time to do nothing.
If you are currently mentally exhausted due to a project of some kind, and if it’s possible, take a sick day on a Friday or Monday, or take two vacation days – one on a Friday and one on a Monday. Spend that time resting, doing nothing, eating right, drinking water, and just getting yourself back. Then start fresh when you go back to work or school.
Next time we’ll talk about activities that raise your physical and mental energy levels.
All the best
Luke. G. Dahl