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Have you ever observed that even if you are not physically active, at the end of days when your mind is busy with work and you work hard, you feel tired and exhausted as if you have carried stones for hours? Do you feel tired and sluggish after challenging experiences? Have you ever felt less energized than when you were under stress?
Fatigue has a mental dimension that causes a slowdown in our mental functions as well as its physical dimension, which is manifested by the muscles in our body not working at an optimum level. Modern life, where everything moves fast, we are busy with something every second, and we make more and more efforts to meet expectations, is one of the most important reasons why our minds are constantly busy, pushing their capacity and getting tired.
What is Mental fatigue?
Mental fatigue can be defined as the temporary inability to perform mental processes that require cognitive skills such as thinking, analyzing, and making decisions, or performing them with a lower performance than usual. Mental fatigue occurs gradually, depending on the level of performance of the person, during any situation that requires focus, attention and effort. For example, although you may feel very energetic and motivated when you first start a task that you need to complete, the problems and details that occupy your mind while continuing your work may cause a feeling of fatigue in your mind that increases over time. The more cognitive skills such as analytical thinking, decision making, remembering and questioning are developed, the later the mental fatigue is delayed. In addition, many physical factors such as sleep, nutrition and movement also affect our feeling mentally tired. Therefore, when you feel mentally tired, it is quite normal for your body to feel tired and you cannot find the energy to do anything.
Causes of mental fatigue: Why do we feel tired?
Many factors such as the hustle and bustle of daily life, busy working hours, increased responsibilities, overthinking can cause mental fatigue. Let's take a closer look at the most important causes of mental fatigue, which are often associated with factors that cause physical fatigue.
Thinking in itself is a cognitive activity that requires mental energy. The complexity, excess and excess of our thoughts is one of the most important reasons why we feel mentally tired. The tendency to overthink and cling to thoughts, which is linked to psychological problems such as stress, depression, and anxiety, is linked to genetic factors as well as to stressors and challenging life experiences in a person's life. Psychological disorders in the family history, especially with symptoms such as bipolar, dementia, or borderline personality disorder, can cause a person to overthink.
Heavy workload and long working hours
The intense workload requires us to use our mental skills more, focus more, think more and analyze more. When we work long hours without taking a break from any work, a feeling of fatigue may occur in our minds gradually. Intense work that brings with it overthinking and a constant preoccupation with thoughts can cause a feeling of chronic fatigue.
Depression or depressed mood
Depression or depressed mood, which manifests itself with physical fatigue and a low mood, is one of the most important causes of mental fatigue. Depression, which manifests itself with symptoms such as emotional sensitivity, tension and lack of pleasure, also causes insomnia or excessive sleep, which causes both physical and mental fatigue, appetite changes, loss of interest, guilt, sense of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, lack of motivation, helplessness and depression. It can cause mental fatigue along with many symptoms such as a feeling of hopelessness.
The stress response, which is one of the body's natural responses to protect itself from possible dangers, emerges as a result of exciting, unknown or frightening experiences. This biological response causes an increase in stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. The increased release of these hormones helps us react quickly to perceived threats and situations where we feel pressured, which requires quick thinking. However, the body's constant exposure to stress factors, the mind's constant feeling of stress, and the prolonged stress response can cause us to get tired both physically and mentally.
Mental fatigue is often seen as a natural consequence of long-term stress. Your body's constant exposure to the things that activate the stress response causes your cortisol levels to stay constantly high, putting the work of other systems in the body out of balance. This includes your mental functions and nervous system. Many situations such as financial difficulties, losing a loved one, trying to complete a job on time, illnesses, and weak social support mechanisms can cause a feeling of mental fatigue and burnout due to stress.
Trying to deal with more than one task at the same time (Multitasking)
Since we often try to do more than one task during the day, we try to deal with multiple things in the same time frame. But because our minds are programmed to deal with only one thing at a time, all the things we seem to be doing at the same time create a situation where the mind has to switch one after the other. Making instant transitions between different tasks, trying to focus and remember again can be quite tiring for the mind. Constantly switching between thoughts, focus, and the problems we need to solve can cause the mind's ability to focus and solve problems to deplete over time.
Constantly having to choose and make decisions
Decision-making fatigue, also called ego exhaustion, is one of the most important causes of mental fatigue in modern life, where options continue to multiply. Constantly having to make choices causes the mind's ability to make the right and most appropriate decision over time. Even the simplest decision-making processes, such as not only making important decisions, but choosing one of the hundreds of options on the food menu, can cause the mind to tire over time.
Ways to prevent mental fatigue
The most important step in dealing with mental fatigue is to be aware of the factors that cause fatigue and to keep these factors away from your life as much as possible. It may be beneficial for you to pay attention to some small points in your lifestyle to prevent mental fatigue and to use your cognitive functions optimally.
Don't be sleep deprived
Sleep is one of our most important resources for the regulation and renewal of physical as well as mental energy and brain functions. Try not to disrupt the night's sleep, which is extremely important for the digestion and regulation of what we learn, experiences, and mental processes during the day. Use your bed and bedroom only for sleeping. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol that cause insomnia.
Avoid stress as much as possible
In our daily life, we can be exposed to hundreds of different stressors, consciously or unconsciously. Although it is not always possible to eliminate the source of stress, in order to feel better mentally, you should try to stay away from situations that you think are causing stress or that you notice that increase your stress level as much as possible. If some of your responsibilities at home or at work are stressing you out, you can try asking for help or delegating some of your responsibilities to someone else.
Reduce your options
In a world where there are so many options in every subject, it is a situation that most of us face from time to time, being indecisive among hundreds of options. For this reason, try to reduce your options especially in your daily activities such as food, clothes, grocery shopping. Try to reduce your options as much as possible by listing the options that you have tried before and that you think are suitable for you.
Lighten your workload
Although it may not seem very possible, getting rid of the workload and intensity, which is one of the most important causes of mental fatigue, will help your mind to be more relaxed and rested. Instead of being busy with multiple tasks at the same time, you can try to prioritize your work step by step, share some of your work with your colleagues if possible, and limit your working hours by not bringing work home.
Although mental fatigue is seen as an inevitable outcome of the modern world where we work with our minds rather than our bodies, being aware of the factors that cause mental fatigue and avoiding these factors in our daily life as much as possible can help prevent the feeling of fatigue.