August 23, 2018

15 signs you’re exhausted and 10 things to do about it

Has this happened to you?

Anne (not her real name) was driving to work one day and found herself having trouble remembering the route.  She wasn’t having any other memory troubles, but that day, it felt like her brain was “in a fog.”  She had been working 80- to 90-hour weeks, sleeping 4 or 5 hours per night, and her healthy diet and exercise routines had become overwhelmed by her schedule.  This frightening episode led her to re-examine her work life and try to reduce her stress and improve her health.

Does this sound familiar?  Work-related stress is much more common than you think, and exhaustion and burnout are increasingly prominent topics of conversation among professionals and the organizations in which they work.

How do you know if you are exhausted?

Common symptoms of physical and emotional exhaustion include:

  1. Muscle aches and pains without obvious cause
  2. Inability to sleep when you do get to bed
  3. Ruminating — an inability to shut your brain off or stop worrying
  4. Decreased performance at the gym
  5. Decreased work productivity
  6. Decreased creativity
  7. Hair loss
  8. Brain fog, forgetfulness and trouble concentrating
  9. Chest pain, nausea or changes in bowel habits
  10. Loss of appetite
  11. Unplanned weight gain or loss
  12. Missed menstrual periods
  13. More frequent colds
  14. Irritability or general grumpiness; anger issues,
  15. Increased resting heart rate (if you know your baseline and it goes up, pay attention)

If you are exhausted, what should you do about it?

  1. First and foremost, make sure you consult a health care professional to rule out physical or mental illness and to assess the severity of your symptoms.  Without this step, the rest may not matter.
  2. Make sure you are getting enough sleep.  Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day.  I know this sounds like a lot, and there are a few people who thrive with less sleep, but they are the exception.
  3. Set a regular bedtime and waking time.  Good sleep hygiene is essential to getting sufficient rest.
  4. Find a way to unplug from electronics at least an hour before bed.  It makes a difference in your health.
  5. Make time to play, in whatever way brings you joy. It’s been shown to reduce stress, boost productivity and improve overall well being.
  6. Level-up your diet.  Getting enough calories, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, getting enough protein and drinking enough water all can help you manage your energy.
  7. Consider taking up yoga.  It can have a number of health benefits and improves overall energy.
  8. Don’t skip breakfast.  From your body’s point of view, it’s penny-wise and pound foolish.
  9. Take power naps of 10 to 20 minutes during your work day.  They make for a refreshing break, and short naps improve productivity beyond the perceived “cost” of the time spent sleeping.
  10. Meditate, pray or practice other quiet reflection that fits with your preferences.  Science shows real benefits!

Many of us suffer from tiredness.  Make sure what you are feeling is not something more — exhaustion can lead to burnout and to serious health issues.  You cannot pour from an empty cup — take good and gentle care of yourself.

What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?

Last updated August 23, 2018