Title Card - Mental And Physical Fatigue

Mental And Physical Fatigue: Why The Difference Matters

A couple of weeks ago on the blog, I talked about the great importance of self-care. Taking time for yourself is often overlooked and passed over in favour of something else that is deemed to be more “practical”, or something that is designed to get you further ahead. While having the drive to do those things is excellent, you will very quickly find yourself suffering from burnout. You won’t be able to think straight, you will be tired all the time, and even the work you are supposedly doing to better yourself falls behind because your brain isn’t as sharp as it used to be. I mentioned in this blog article that there are a number of things that you can choose from to unwind, and there is no wrong way to do it so long as you do actually unwind in the process. I do, however, want to talk about one thing in particular that often gets recommended as one of these methods: exercise.

Now, I can hear you groaning already and complaining about the fact that you’re way too tired to deal with this. There is way too much in your day-to-day that drains you to fit in another thing that will make you even more tired. Ironically enough, you may be getting more and more tired exactly because you aren’t tired enough.

Think about it this way: everyone tells you that you need to have a good balance between your diet and your exercise, because you should be burning the energy that you put into your body when you eat. Because we were originally designed to be in the wild fending for ourselves and gathering food, a sedentary lifestyle where everything is given to you, you don’t have to move, and you don’t have to burn calories will wreak havoc on your natural processes. Your body is designed to be active for some portion of the day, running away from predators or hunting down your food to eat. When that is no longer a necessity, your body has a whole lot of energy it isn’t using.

“So I why do I feel so tired?” I hear you asking. Mental fatigue is very different from physical fatigue. You can be constantly working and thinking about how you can achieve what you need to do, but for most of us, that involves sitting in front of a computer screen typing on a keyboard, not moving for hours on end. You feel exhausted not because you exerted yourself physically, but because you did so mentally.

I imagine that you have had those moments where you have had an extremely long week at work and you have exhausted yourself with meeting after meeting, report after report. You come home with a massive headache, eat your dinner, watch some television to unwind, and crash to go to bed. You “haven’t had time” to do anything physical, the most physical activity you did this week was walk to and from your car. Now you’re trying desperately to go to sleep to rest your brain, but you can’t fall asleep. You’re staring at the ceiling getting more and more frustrated, your leg bouncing with irritation that you seem to have so much energy despite feeling so tired. Well, guess what? You DO have energy. You have a full tank of physical energy keeping you awake, as you did nothing to expend that throughout the day, or even the week.

This is why even a little bit of exercise for even 15 minutes a day can make a world of difference. Although it’s not a lot, some physical activity is much better than none. With a depletion in both your mental and physical energy, you will find that you are sleeping MUCH easier than when you did nothing at all. Your body not only needs to recoup from your mental exertion, but your physical too. You are fully and completely tired, meaning deeper and more meaningful sleep. You will probably fall asleep much faster too, meaning more time to recharge!

The distinction between mental and physical exhaustion is highly important, and understanding how your body is reacting can mean the difference between constant fatigue and getting the proper sleep you need to keep going. Everyone has ten or fifteen minutes every day, find something active to do. Get your heart rate up, feel the burn in your muscles. Not only will you be healthier because of it, but you will just generally feel better too.

I had this revelation about a year ago when I started feeling all of these things. I was very mentally fatigued, but I couldn’t sleep. I would wake up tired despite getting 8 hours of sleep some nights, it simply didn’t make sense. Ever since I started jogging each morning, I haven’t had nearly the same issue. I integrated it into my routine, and I feel so much better because of it, and I guarantee that my work has also improved as a result.

Listen to your body and truly understand what it is telling you. It is trying to give you a sign, similar to how you faint when your blood sugar is too low. Know the difference between mental and physical fatigue and get back to your primal roots. It might give you a good understanding of what your body is trying to tell you.