Mental fatigue refers to a state where the brain feels exhausted due to overstimulation and performing intense mental activity without rest. An overstimulated brain or a brain that has been exhausted due to work can affect an individual's ability to retain memories, be productive, and make good decisions.
Mental fatigue is often the result of prolonged stress caused by factors like procrastination, demanding work, physical fatigue, poor sleeping habits, illnesses, and life-changing events. This prolonged stress causes our brains to be mentally taxed, leaving us to feel detached, irratible, and overwhelmed, according to a study published in Cognitive Brain Research.
Symptoms of mental fatigue
The signs and symptoms of mental fatigue are not as obvious as those of physical fatigue. These symptoms appear during times of high stress and when the brain is overstimulated without adequate rest.
- Constantly putting of tasks at home, work, and school
- Abusing substances like alcohol and drugs to cope with stress and pressure
- Feeling irratible and distracted often
- Avoiding opportunities to socialize with friends and family
- Decline in performance at school and work
- Difficulties in managing commitments and responsibilities
- Body pain
- Stomach issues
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unintentional weight loss or gain
- Often falling ill
Mental, emotional, and cognitive symptoms
- Feelings of depression
- Cognitive difficulties
- Low energy levels
- Feelings of anxiety
- Loss of interest in activites and hobbies
How to avoid mental fatigue?
There are several lifestyle changes that can help us cope with mental fatigue and improve our overall health. Coping strategies for mental fatigue allow us to feel more rested and renewed when dealing with stressors.
1) Practicing self care and taking a break
Facing significant prolonged mental fatigue can cause all kinds of problems, and one way to avoid it is by regularly practicing self-care. Self-care allows us to stay on top of our mental needs before they cause anxiety or depression as a result of stressor exposure.
Focusing on a nutritious diet, regular physical activity, social support, and spending time in nature are all examples of self-care. Taking a break can sometimes be the most effective way to prevent future mental fatigue. Reading a book, watching a movie, spending some time by yourself, or going on vacation are all the things you can do to relax and take a break.
2) Improved sleeping habits
Sleep is not only vital to physical health, but it is also important for many different mental health reasons. Getting enough sleep on a regular basis can help individuals avoid mental fatigue.
Improved sleeping habits help individuals better deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. Ways to improve sleeping habits include: practicing yoga before bed, journaling, reading a book, and switching off electronic devices before bedtime.
3) Maintaining a gratitude journal
Dealing with unsettling or negative thoughts can be overwhelming when one is mentally exhausted. To avoid this scenario from happening, we can use a gratitude journal that has been proven to have many psychological health benefits.
Multiple studies indicate that keeping a journal of all things to be grateful for in a person's life allows them to focus on the positives in their lives, which improves their overall well-being. The benefits of a gratitude journal include fewer symptoms of illness, greater happiness, reduced stress, improved sleep, and better physical health.
4) Exercise and regular physical activity
Regular exercise and physical activity have many positives, like improved mood, improved energy levels, and greater brain function, which results in a lowered risk of mental fatigue.
According to research, regular exercise leads to greater resilience in the face of various stressors, as well as a greater ability to manage exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.
5) Consuming a nutritious diet
The food we eat has a major impact on our mental well-being. A nutritious diet can help us avoid mental fatigue or exhaustion. Drinking plenty of water and eating healthy foods high in nutrients that promote gut health on a regular basis boosts mental energy. It also assists us in developing a resilient mindset and an immune system that prevents fatigue in the long run.
Mental fatigue is on the rise and is an all too common feeling these days and has the ability to impact our minds and affect overall quality of life. There are numerous coping strategies available to help us deal with mental fatigue. Some of these are listed above.
Steve George Verghese is a trained psychologist with an MSc in Counseling Psychology from the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research.
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