How are you doing?
If you’re sick of your chronic fatigue, constant state of exhaustion and wondering why the heck you NEVER seem to have the energy to get done all that you have to do.
It totally sucks.
The new plague of exhaustion has spread far and wide and it’s contributing to a rethink on how we live and work.
Because who wants to be feeling exhausted. All. The. Time?
Have you been reflecting on your lifestyle? Have you adopted a four-day working week, hybrid work or permanent working from home?
Maybe you’re at that point of ENOUGH! Are you making 2023 year to rest and reset, taking time out, three, six or even 12 months off? Are you booking your plane tickets as we speak?
Everyone has been affected including those in leadership roles, especially women who are choosing to step down from their leadership roles, to reconnect to a different life, on their terms. A report by McKinsey and Co and LeanIn Org found that nearly 10% of women in leadership positions left their roles in 2022. Two women are leaving for every woman promoted to director.
Or maybe you’re stuck, unable to decide on what to do, exhausted, deeply unhappy and verging on the edge of burnout.
Is this you?
What would your life look like if you felt energised, and inspired by your work? What if you felt fulfilled and confident in your capacity to readily handle all the daily challenges?
This doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.
Thanks to science we now have a much better understanding around what energy is, how it manifests and what’s needed to restore it.
And it’s not just a question of getting more good quality uninterrupted sleep, though that is one of the essential types of rest needed.
Many of us have what Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith describes as an energy deficit. In her TED talk, she describes the seven types of rest we need to feel fully vital.
This is where doing an energy audit to look at where you are expending most of your energy and identifying where most of your energy deficit lies can make the biggest difference.
Stepping off the hamster wheel to reset
In his famous 2005 Kenyon commencement address “This is Water” David Foster Wallace talks about what “day-in-day-out” really means,
“let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again.”
Many of our days are the same. Some are better than others. Many will be as described by DFW, banal, boring, routine, and full of petty frustrations.
And as Dr Dalton-Smith suggests, staring at 4 beige walls all day long is a great way to kill anyone’s passion for their work.
If everything is the same old, same old your energy levels continue to drop, and you fall into a never-ending stupor.
No matter how much sleep you’ve had, or how many cups of coffee you’ve consumed, feeling bored, uninspired, unappreciated, and overlooked is draining.
How energised you feel at any given moment depends a great deal on how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.
But have you ever noticed, how at those times where you don’t even have the energy to scratch yourself, that if something different in your environment grabs your attention, your energy levels spark up and you actively seek to find out what’s happening?
The ingredients for greater energy
Please note the ingredients listed here won’t suit all tastes and energy requirements. Please use your discretion when selecting your combination, to determine which gives you the best outcome.
- Give yourself a mental breather. Take a short break every few hours spread across your workday, include a spot of physical activity, and choose some healthy food options. Close your eyes and take a 5-minute break from all that heavy lifting thinking.
- Polish up your positivity by asking, “What’s possible?”. Treading water in a swirling sea of negativity and fear exhausts your emotional capacity to handle adversity. Understanding what you can influence, and what gives you joy is highly energising.
- Tighten up on what you focus on, by prioritising what is worthy of your attention and ditch the rest.
- Hang loose with a moose or whatever art form takes your fancy. Non-work activities help keep all those worries and stress in perspective.
- Sleep well. Sleep is for everyone, not just for the righteous. Keep to a regular schedule and feel the difference.
- Connect, interact, and act on what matters to you. You matter. We all do and working towards the common good is uplifting, inspiring and energising!
- Dial down the sensory input. Did you know being exposed to chronic noise is a health hazard by elevating stress levels? Worse still you think you’re no longer hearing the noise, but your brain does.
Like when the dog lets rip a particularly foul fart. (We will assume it’s the dog!). Initially, the pong is overpowering but your nose very quickly loses its ability to detect the unpleasant aroma.
Which of these resonates most strongly for you?
The one element often overlooked in our energy management is sensory fatigue resulting from sensory overload.
Sensory overload being defined as overstimulation of one or more of your senses because of external stimuli in your environment.
Those living with autism, sensory processing disorder or ADHD are especially vulnerable.
This is fatiguing because your brain is constantly seeking to interpret and make sense of all sensory input, so you know how best to react.
But even your clever brain has its limits on how much it can process at any given moment. Too much input leads to mental overwhelm.
If you’ve ever been to a restaurant with poor acoustics where you spend the entire evening having to shout to make yourself heard, straining to follow the conversation and tortured by ghastly music being played too loudly along with the clatter of kitchen equipment and squawking of the other humans around you, you may recognise this as sensory torture.
And you go home exhausted from the experience.
But other less obviously intrusive sensory input, ceiling fans, air-conditioner units, noisy office or factory equipment, bright lights, prolonged time spent on screens, your colleague clicking his pen or tapping their foot, pongy lunches with too much blue cheese, garlic or curry, loud interpersonal conversations that don’t involve you, but you can’t escape from, crowded spaces can all contribute to sensory and mental fatigue.
Have you ever found yourself reaching for the noise-cancelling headphones, getting fidgety because you want to get away or even becoming slightly panicked?
A few years ago, while visiting Tokyo I found myself in a tightly packed store full of people, people, and more people, where the sales assistants were using megaphones to encourage you to buy from their sales station.
The noise was beyond deafening and after a few minutes I knew I needed to get out fast to escape the cacophony and alleviate my rising sense of panic.
Sensory overload creates emotional fatigue if you can’t do anything to influence the situation, and you’re left gritting your teeth in frustration. If you’re trying to hold it all together in this situation, you know having to regulate your emotions over time is hard work, and sometimes, we flip.
Sensory overload and anxiety are intrinsically interlinked. Hence the stress and ending up hyperstimulated and exhausted.
Managing your sensory fatigue
This starts with self-awareness. What do you know triggers you?
Creating a healthy working environment requires collaboration and intervention at every level because perceived sensory overload leads to cognitive fatigue, high stress, and increased risk of burnout and mental health challenges and that’s not helpful to anyone.
Even if noise doesn’t appear to faze you, all well and good but we all benefit from spending some time in peace and quiet.
Try switching off from your devices. You don’t HAVE to listen to podcasts or music while exercising or commuting.
You can dim the lights, take a moment to close your eyes, and shut out everything else.
Need to leave if feeling overwhelmed in a particular situation? Then do so.
Select those inputs you find soothing and restorative such as,
- Finding a quiet or safe place to sit and be still
- Spending time in nature
- Soaking in a warm bath
- Listening to some beautiful music
- Taking time to meditate
- Having a massage
- Doing a breathing exercise to calm the body and take you out of flight or fight mode
- Looking at those things, pictures, sculptures, and landscapes that create awe and wonder.
What else would you choose to manage your sensory fatigue?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, coach, trainer, speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is available for purchase
If psychological safety, burnout prevention and mental wellbeing is something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.