Fatigue is a common issue.

We face so many demands in an average week. Between work, family and all the other responsibilities piled on, is it any wonder we’re all exhausted?

Often it sneaks up on us as we’re going along with our busy lives. When we’re in “go-mode” it can be easy to overlook the signs. Sometimes we may not even notice it until some fairly dramatic physical aspects of fatigue show up.  

Physical signs of fatigue can include everything from headache to moodiness to vision impairment. Like so many conditions however, many symptoms mimic other ones, making it difficult to definitively know whether you are dealing only with fatigue or something else.

Because of this symptom overlap, it is important to see a doctor to rule out other conditions. Fatigue in itself is a condition and it can have an enormous impact on quality of life.There are several types of fatigue.

Sometimes fatigue indicates another underlying issue, and it is extremely important to rule out those differential diagnoses before dismissing your condition as “overtired.”

For the purposes of this article, we will focus on some types of fatigue that can be managed through awareness and self-care. As mentioned above, be sure to see a medical professional to rule out other potential causes of fatigue.

In his research on the subject of fatigue, Percy Stiles shares the importance of breaking out of “mental ruts”.  “Recovery from mental fatigue is less a matter of correcting metabolism than of forming desirable habits.”

Self-Care for Emotional Fatigue

Emotional fatigue relates to feeling mentally drained. In situations in which we are stretching our emotional muscles more than usual, this type of fatigue can leave us feeling wrung out and numb. Emotional fatigue should not be overlooked but is the most commonly ignored type of fatigue.

We tend to segregate our emotions from the rest of our functioning and expect ourselves to push through feelings. This type of

self-neglect will show up in other ways, so it is important to deal with feelings and not just “power through”.

Check in with your emotional state periodically.

While it may be tempting to just pretend you feel fine in the interest of getting things done, it will catch up eventually. Slow down and listen to your feelings. Sit with yourself in silence. Let your feelings thaw out in the quiet and resist the urge to brush them away.

Ask yourself what you’re always asking everyone else, “how are you?”

Really listen to your internal responses. You may hear yourself answering that question with, “I’m tired. I’m sad, lonely, drained.” Nurture your emotional health just as you would take time to care for your body if you were physically ill (one would hope). Get out in nature.

Have a change of scenery.

Let yourself cry. Do something creative. Take time to just ‘be’ rather than staying in ‘do’ mode all the time. We take our emotional health for granted and that is unfair. We need to honor our emotions. That doesn’t mean being swallowed up by them, but merely paying attention to what they are saying.

Managing Physical Fatigue

Take an inventory of your daily routine.

It may be that you are demanding too much of yourself. We tend to keep saying yes to things when our minds and bodies need us to say no. In our increasingly frenetic schedules, it can also be difficult to balance sedentary activities and physical outlets. An unbalance of physical and mental activities can also promote fatigue. We aren’t designed to sit at a desk all day, and many professional jobs require a great deal of sitting.

Adrenal fatigue can cause a variety of symptoms that diminish quality of life.

Body aches, anxiety, sleep and digestive issues can stem back to adrenal fatigue Blood tests can examine adrenal insufficiency, but there is some debate as to whether this type of fatigue can be linked to chronic stress.

Work/life balance can be a helpful avenue to explore when dealing with fatigue.

How much time are you spending in one position during the day? Is there a way to incorporate physical activity into your day to improve your physical and mental wellness?

Make sure you are nourishing your body with whole foods and plenty of water.

Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Even simple stretches throughout the day can release a lot of bodily tension. Pay attention to your physical needs.

Replenish Your Reserves

We refill our gas tanks so that our vehicles will continue to run. We need to have as much consideration for our personal energy reserves. Take the time to invest in your mental and physical health needs. Fatigue is often a sign that we have been ignoring some key factors in our wellness and need to pay attention.

Self-care is not frivolous. It is maintenance of a mind and body that we will be linked to until the end of our days.

Making self-care a priority can help manage fatigue.

Mindful observation of our internal and external state can be an important piece of self-care but in order to make the most of our observations, we need to listen to them.

Ask yourself “what do I need?” Create an environment for that to happen.

Remind yourself “I can and should prioritize my own needs.” Make a plan to meet one of your needs today.

Be yourself.

You are not a robot and can’t expect yourself to keep running on fumes. You cannot be everything to everyone. Your fatigue may stem from expecting perfection from yourself unreasonably. There is no race and no report card.

Make yourself a priority so that you can live your best life. Say no when you need to, or even just want to.

Listen to that little voice that says “I need rest.” People who care about you will understand and applaud your ability to take care of yourself. Most importantly you will be attending to your needs and fending off fatigue.


  • Dr. Teyhou Smyth

    Performance Coach, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Keynote Speaker, Licensed Therapist (#115137)

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