This article has been reviewed for accuracy by our peer review team which includes clinicians and medical professionals. Learn more about our peer review process.
Mental fatigue affects people from all backgrounds and social demographics. It’s reported that about one-quarter of people experience signs of fatigue. Furthermore, research has indicated that women are more likely to experience burnout than men.
Mental fatigue can impair your ability to function normally, cause irritation and disrupt nocturnal sleep. In order to combat fatigue effectively, it’s important to be able to recognize fatigue symptoms, understand what can cause fatigue and know how to treat it.
What Is Mental Fatigue?
Mental fatigue is also known as mental exhaustion. It refers to a general feeling of mental or psychological tiredness and lack of energy. People suffering from mental fatigue may report feeling “drained” or “zoned out” or may report an inability to concentrate on tasks. Mental health fatigue can arise from being overworked and often results in a severe lack of motivation.
Mental fatigue has become a common sub-healthy state in recent years, affecting nearly all areas of cognitive processes in the human brain. When we consider the effects of mental exhaustion on our daily lives, it’s reasonable to want to prevent or treat it.
What Can Cause Fatigue?
Mental fatigue may occur if you regularly perform tasks that take a lot of cognitive and/or emotional energy. This is especially true if you forget to schedule time for relaxation and self-care. Some other possible causes of mental health fatigue are:
- Working long hours
- Having an excessively demanding work life
- Job burnout
- Having a baby
- Financial stress
- Interpersonal problems
- Chronic physical or mental illness
Signs of Fatigue
People experiencing signs of fatigue often report feeling less alert or unable to focus properly. However, there are a number of other signs and symptoms to look out for, with some being more subtle than others. The signs of mental fatigue can also be categorized as emotional/mental, physical or behavioral.
Mental Signs of Fatigue
- Feeling depressed
- Acute anxiety
- Apathy or lack of enthusiasm
- Anger or irritability
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Feeling cynical or pessimistic
Physical Signs of Fatigue
- Increased frequency of illness
- Frequent headaches, migraines or feeling of tension in the head
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight changes
- Feeling generally unwell
Behavioral Signs of Fatigue
- Becoming more self-isolated
- Frequent procrastination
- Getting irritated easily
- Difficulty managing responsibilities
- Calling in sick
- A decline in work or academic performance
None of these symptoms are desirable, and mental fatigue can have a significant negative impact on your quality of life.
Could It Be a Sign of Something More Serious?
The signs of fatigue may coincide with the signs of another mental or physical pathology. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms and are worried about your health, you may wish to check in with your general practitioner to shed light on the situation.
How to Prevent Mental Fatigue
Prevention really is the best form of treatment. Simply knowing about the risks of overworking yourself and neglecting important aspects of your well-being can help you prevent future burnout. Here are a couple of additional tips for preventing mental exhaustion.
1. Have a Healthy Work-life Balance
As fatigue often arises from being overworked, making sure you have a healthy work-life balance is key to preventing mental burnout. Be sure to get enough exercise, spend enough time with loved ones and take time to do things that relax you. After all, what’s the point of a life bereft of everything you enjoy?
2. Learn Proper Self-Care
While the concept of self-care may seem obvious to some, it can be utterly elusive to others. The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health care provider.”
This means taking your health into your own hands, making sure you’re getting the right nutrition, getting enough downtime and keeping a healthy body and mind. Some great ways to look after yourself include:
- Practice good personal hygiene
- Eat well
- Exercise daily
- Rest when tired
- Prioritize your health over your work
- Write down your thoughts and feelings
- Spend time with people you love
A very common problem people experience when they take time off as a result of feeling tired or overworked is that they often feel guilty for “underperforming.” Of course, it’s important to keep on top of your responsibilities as best you can. However, try not to beat yourself up about taking much-needed time away for self-care.
How To Treat Mental Fatigue
So you’ve checked out the signs and symptoms and you’re convinced you’re suffering from mental fatigue. What should you do next?
Take Time Away
If possible, you might wish to take time away from whatever it is that’s causing you to feel stressed. Perhaps you can’t identify the exact cause of stress and don’t know what it is you need time away from. Even so, taking a small weekend trip for a change of scenery can do a lot to relieve mental fatigue.
Remove Serious Stressors
Sometimes mental fatigue is a direct result of acute stressors in life. When this is the case, removing the stressor or managing it to the best of your ability can be highly beneficial. Of course, it’s hardly possible to remove every stressful element from life, but we often have more control over things than we think.
Practice Active Relaxation
Oftentimes, people mistake relaxation as watching TV or binging their favorite series. While this is relaxing in the sense that it requires little to no effort at all, it’s not the same as achieving deep relaxation. Deep relaxation involves removing muscular and mental tension through active practices like yoga, meditation, abdominal breathing or tai chi.
This type of deep relaxation has many health benefits and has been shown to reduce cognitive symptoms associated with mental fatigue.
When To Seek Professional Help
Mental fatigue can cause severe impairments for normal functioning and a significant negative impact on quality of life. Fortunately, there are many effective ways of warding off mental fatigue symptoms, with self-care being at the core of it all.
However, sometimes solo efforts aren’t enough to combat the negative effects of mental fatigue and professional help is necessary. FHE Health is an institution with highly qualified mental health professionals offering extraordinary mental health facilities.