In this article I will try and give some insights into mental exhaustion.
What is it? Well, when you are physically tired it’s your body and your muscles, but when you're mentally tired it’s your melon, or your brain in laymen’s terms that is affected. It could show up when you have been really focusing on something or a difficult task for quite some time. It could be caused by your job, constantly caring for children or aging parents. Any number of things could be wearing out that valuable melon of yours.
Being mentally exhausted can put you in a bad mood. You may feel frustrated, irritated and sensitive. Your wick is short and you are quick to temper, you could start snapping or barking at people more than normal, and you may find it hard to control your emotions.
When you are mentally exhausted your productivity goes down, it becomes difficult to stay motivated and focused. You may start to miss deadlines and even the smallest of tasks may feel overwhelming. When you are feeling this way, it might be exceedingly difficult for you to hold your attention on something, or you may react negatively and spontaneously to situations as they arise. For example, in this state of mind it would be dangerous to do things such as drive a motor vehicle in our wonderful town of Sydney, because if you lose your patience, you may do something which is erratic but also dangerous.
Recent research shows that if you have a job which has an extremely high cognitive workload, and you are using your mind continuously for hours on end, then you are more likely to suffer symptoms of insomnia. The problem with not sleeping correctly then compounds the problem of mental exhaustion so it’s a vicious circle.
When you are really struggling with mental exhaustion you may be susceptible to using substances to help you cope with this fatigue of the mind. This could lead to other problems such as substance abuse.
One of the long-term effects of mental exhaustion could be that you start to become depressed. You feel that you just don’t have any energy and that life is moving in slow motion. Some folks say that they feel a numbness or depersonalisation of situations. If these symptoms continue for longer than two weeks, then it may be that you are suffering under depression.
Exhaustion of the mind switches on our sympathetic nervous system, that is our fight or flight response. You could suffer from feelings of anxiousness, continuously worrying about stuff or even feeling panicked. These symptoms could coincide with symptoms of depression. Another area that may be affected from exhaustion of the melon is when you are physically exercising. Your performance in your chosen sport my decreased dramatically for no apparent reason. You may feel that every exercise you do is a struggle.
Mental fatigue can also affect your appetite. You can either be eating more than usual or making bad choices in foods, like junk food, salty food, fatty foods, you name it. Or you can go to the other end of the spectrum and not be hungry at all. In this state of mind, you are prone to making more mistakes because your mind is not clear and sharp. This could have disastrous effects especially if you are operating heavy machinery, flying a plane, or simply driving a car.
When you are mentally worn out you may feel pain in your body. This could be headaches or sore muscles, back and stomach pain. Prolonged exposure to mental exhaustion and stress can bring on illnesses such as fibromyalgia.
What can you do about mental exhaustion?
You can take frequent breaks from your mental load. There is a technique called Pomodoro. This is how it works:
Set a timer for 25 minutes
Focus on one task the whole time
Take a 5-minute break when the timer goes off
After the 4th 25-minute block take a 15-to-30-minute break
Repeat this technique for the rest of your workday
Do something energetic. Go for a 15-minute brisk walk. For the fellas hit the floor and do 10 push-ups. Do some jumping jacks, some burpees if you're real keen or bust out a break-dance move or two. Exercise releases dopamine and endorphins into your bloodstream giving the physical body but also the mind a lift.
In summary the treatment for mental fatigue is the same as treating stress. There are many ways that we can treat stress. It could be easy as physical exercise, meditation, time management, and various other types of techniques.
If you would like to know more about mental exhaustion and stress, then contact me for a free 10-minute chat.
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