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I’m almost positive everyone can relate to feeling tired. For some, you might feel tired every once in a while like after a late night. Others, including myself at times are constantly feeling tired no matter how much sleep we got that night. I’ve had periods in my life where “tired” was my constant feeling. I’m not just referring to the obvious inability to sleep being a mother of 3. That tired makes sense. It is the other times when I’m getting sleep and have no logical reason to feel exhausted. In 2021, I became overly frustrated with constantly feeling exhausted. I had recently joined a group practice doing outpatient full time after years of working in more intensive settings like at a psychiatric hospital and providing community mental health services in Milwaukee County. The outpatient world was slower pace and less severe acuity in terms of my clients. I thought this change would help my

overall energy, but I actually got worse.

I went to see my primary care doctor for my yearly physical, and I explained my concerns about my constant fatigue. I was thinking something with my thyroid would show on the blood panel, but everything looked great. She suggested trying a sleep app which I did. I tried a bunch, and they all said I was sleeping great. My doctor then suggested some hormone supplement which has helped with my migraines and spoke to me about mental exhaustion. That got me thinking, so I went in full research mode to figure this all out. This is what I found explaining the different types of “tired” and ways that have helped me rest both physically and emotionally:

There are two reasons for low energy levels: either we expend more energy than we have, or we don't restore our energy reserves.

We use energy in many ways, including:

  •   Maintaining the status quo. Our body expends energy to maintain our body temperature. Approximately 20% of our energy is spent on keeping the brain working. 10-30% of energy will go to physical activity. Another 10% is spent on digestion. Lots of energy just to keep us alive basically!

  •   Stress. Stress hormones raise blood pressure and heart rate when we experience stress and activate energy consumption. It’s that fight or flight response kicking in!

  • Fear. A stream of negative news and excessive worrying about the future can heighten anxiety. A high level of stress caused by fear negatively affects the production of hormones that participate in supplying energy.

A few factors that contribute to low energy:

  •   Food. We often don't take good care of our nutrition: we eat on the go and have an unbalanced diet. This can cause a short burst of energy, followed by a severe drop.

  •   Sleep deprivation. 34.8% of the US adult population sleep less than the recommended 7 hours per day. I know I get less than 7 more frequently than not.

What are the different types of energy?

Physical energy. This is the basic level energy and most commonly thought about. This energy is maintained through nutrition, physical activity, keeping healthy, and muscle recovery.

Emotional energy. This is our mood, which helps us to be physically and intellectually productive. Our brain works better when it feels optimism and adventure or responds to challenges and opportunities. Any activity that brings a sense of joy, self-realization, and self-affirmation is a source of emotional


Intellectual energy. This is the ability of your prefrontal cortex to turn on to get that brain working!

Cool stuff, but how can I fix it and not feel tired all the time? Let me share some ways I’ve found some success!

How to recover from physical fatigue?

You can either totally relax your body or activate your emotions and brain.

Here's how you can totally relax your body:

  •   Sleep. This is the main way your body reenergizes itself. If you don’t have one already, download a sleep app! Comment, and I’ll share some of my favorites!

  •   Massage. You can target tired muscles directly by getting a massage!

  •   Saunas and steam rooms. Saunas and steam rooms can temporarily ease muscle pain by dilating blood vessels and releasing endorphins. Don’t forget to keep chugging the water though! Dehydration makes things worse!

  •   Reading. According to the National Sleep Foundation, reading before bed can help you sleep better. I would not suggest a “page turner” because that can keep you up!

  •   Puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, word searches (my personal fav!), brainteasers, anything that gets your brain working will help your body recover physically. By occupying your mind, you allow your body to recover. Give your brain a workout and let your muscles sit this one out!

How to recover from emotional exhaustion?

You got two options here: You can either take a break from stressful emotions OR focus on activating positive ones.

Here are a couple of ways I relax emotionally:

  •   Take a deep breath. Controlled breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is the chill and relaxed part of our nervous system.

  •   Meditation. A meditation practice can also help you relax emotionally, perhaps by decoupling-previously connected neural pathways. By learning to identity your thought patterns and the emotional reactions habitually associated with them, you can teach yourself to disassociate the two, thereby controlling your negative emotions. It takes practice! I’ve worked up to 10 minutes this past year. It took my nearly 10 years to actually try to stick to it for more than one try. I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t shut my brain up. I felt like a hypocrite talking about the benefits to my clients. About a year ago I set the intention to stick to trying to meditate. It was hard and frustrating at times, but eventually I got to a minute then slowly went up. I felt so much better after the minute. I tend to meditate to help me focus and center myself while navigating my busy schedule. Even if I can squeeze a couple minutes in the car between work and coaching volleyball, I’ll take it!

  • To switch on positive emotions, choose an activity that brings you feelings of happiness, self-realization, and self-affirmation.

  •   Hobbies. Hobbies improve your outlook by promoting social engagement and improving your sense of identity. They help you achieve that "flow” state. Things like drawing, crafts, and home repairs can activate the brain's reward system and promote relaxation. You can recover from emotional fatigue by activating the parts of the brain associated with good feelings.

  •   Art.  Any types of artistic activity (music, writing, dance, and visual arts) affect your health positively. This includes listening to music which had always been a “go to” coping skill for me before I knew what the hell a coping skill was!

  • Talking to close friends. friends and meaningful connections play significant roles in promoting your overall health. Specifically, they foster a sense of purpose, decrease stress, and promote a sense of self-worth - all positive emotions that can help you recover.

How to recover from mental fatigue

We are surrounded by information like work tasks, personal concerns, news media, and social media. This is all exhausting mentally whether we recognize it or not. The result is often information overload, which exhausts the brain and leads you to make bad decisions. So what can you do about it? You want to either relax your brain or switch to physical activity.

Here are some ways you can relax your brain:

Information detox

This means cutting back on the information you consume. Here is how:

  •   Limit your social media use. It you keep checking your Instagram and TikTok feed, you won't have enough mental energy for everything else.

  •   Spend one day a week without technology. Do something else: go for a walk, read a book, or spend time with friends and family.

  •   Take a break from decision-making. We spend a lot of mental energy on making decisions throughout the day. If you're feeling tired and can postpone making a decision, DO IT! You'll likely think more clearly and not use up that precious energy.

Switch to physical activity

Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins that focus your mind and can make it easier to sleep. It also promotes communication among the body's physiological systems, enabling the body to handle stress better. Motivation can be hard to find, but getting started is the first step. Motivation is the impulse to act. Neurologically, there is evidence that motivation may be connected to dopamine levels in the brain, while psychologists tend to correlate motivation with such concepts as autonomy, value, and competence. To regain your motivation, you need to take care of yourself physically and find value in what you do.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. What are some ways you recharge your energy?

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