Fatigue and Rest
Are you feeling like you can’t seem to keep up or catch up with anything nowadays?
Deadlines, health, socialising, daily tasks, the demands of your job… you have a lot of responsibilities.
In a world that never seems to be fully ‘off’, fatigue is a very real and detrimental element of our working and personal lives.
So, how exactly can we combat it?
Firstly, let’s start by understanding what we mean by fatigue
Fatigue is described as ‘a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness’, which can be physical, mental, or a combination of both.
Naturally, when we experience physical fatigue – which can occur due to a lack of sleep – mental fatigue can follow, which can cause difficulty concentrating and a lack of motivation. There’s evidence that suggests driving whilst tired can be as dangerous as drink driving.
There are even specific forms of fatigue such as ‘digital fatigue’, referring to mental exhaustion from overuse of digital technologies (lockdown Zoom fatigue, anyone?).
It’s likely that most of us have experienced fatigue at some point before, but factoring in the pandemic and remote working, it’s probably more familiar than we’d like it to be. You could be thinking that feeling fatigued is, well, the new norm.
Stop and think for a moment. When was the last time you truly stepped away from it all and had proper rest?
Sleep isn’t rest
More often than not, our response to feeling fatigued is to say that we just need a full night’s sleep.
It’s essentially the ‘turn it off and on again’ for humans, after all.
Though sleep might address a physical symptom of fatigue such as physical exhaustion, the other elements of fatigue are unlikely to be eliminated by sleep alone.
What we truly need is rest, which can seem much harder to implement and conceptualise than sleeping is.
The difficulty lies in the fact that there is a culture of overworking to contend with, where one-upmanship is the norm and having no work-life balance is not only expected, but something to be competitive about. The simply ridiculous hustle culture, anyone?
“He submitted that project at 3am this morning!” can be the words of the gloating boss, simply because it benefits him that his employees have no time to unwind.
“I’ve only slept 8 hours this week and I’ve been working overtime,” could be a workplace conversation in which fatigue is more of a status symbol than something that needs to be addressed urgently.
It might seem counterproductive, but it can take more energy to rest than it can to stay fatigued
Overworking leads to obesity, heart disease, burnout, and shorter lifespans – regardless of industry1.
In a society that places so much value and significance on individuals who claim that overworking is key to their success (and ignores the negative impact of the majority that overwork themselves to burnout), rest merely seems like a waste of time.
Also working against rest is the notion that activities such as watching the TV and sleeping are the only forms of rest.
In fact, these are simply forms of passive rest.
It’s active rest that can often make the most significant difference.
Wait, active rest? What’s that?
There are physical, mental, and social forms of active rest.
Rather than viewing rest only as an ‘absence of work’, active rest is the more engaging alternative that can provide us with some much-needed restoration.
– Physical rest
Did you know that a 20 minute walk can not only release endorphins, but also a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)?
Don’t rush to Google, we’ll tell you what it is!
BDNF is a protein that protects and repairs your memory neurons as you exercise.
That’s right, BDNF is behind the sudden clarity you can have after exercising, which helps us to feel at ease and also recall our memories more clearly.
Yoga is another form of active physical rest, which can reduce stress, relieve anxiety, decrease lower back pain, stimulate brain function, and prevent heart disease2.
Breathing exercises are a form of physical rest that can be easily implemented throughout your working day as well, from square breathing to some good old fashioned deep breathing, which can also help to prevent those midday yawn marathons.
(Did you just yawn?)
– Mental rest
Have you found yourself reading the same line of an email ten times? It might be time to practice some mental rest.
For those who are more mentally drained from digital fatigue, it might be time to turn off devices and opt for meditation instead.
Journalling is also a popular option as it can provide a sense of control, whether it’s utilised for detailing any and all thoughts, or as a day-by-day account of your goings on.
There’s nothing quite like that kind of catharsis at the beginning or end of your working day.
– Social rest
This will be entirely dependent on the way that you like to recharge – do you usually relax in isolation or with others?
For some, making enough space to interact in any capacity with others is absolutely essential for their wellbeing.
For others, social burnout can mean that rest is actually more about planning social occasions to align with their energy levels, rather than becoming overwhelmed quickly.
Keeping track of your capacity for socialising will help you to recognise which of the two might align with you more.
Rest is essential for our health
No matter the way that you choose to rest, one thing is certain – we need rest in order to be healthier, happier, and to work well.
Overworking only serves to run us into the ground and lead to burnout, whereas deliberate, intentional rest can provide us with a host of physical, mental, and overall health benefits.
Rest doesn’t have to mean using up all of your vacation days in one go, it can be a five minute breathing exercise or a long walk with a friend. It can also mean getting sufficient sleep. Take a well cited basketball team that underwent a study that improved shooting accuracy by 9% just by sleeping a little more3.
It’s really down to your preference!