Mental Fatigue: What to Do When Your Brain Is Too Tired to Think Straight
Contributing factors to mental fatigue are poor nutrition, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, or cognitive overload. Cognitive overload can take the following forms:
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It is the feeling that your brain just won't function properly. People will describe it as brain fog. You can't concentrate, and simple tasks take too long. You find that the things you could do in a short time in the morning now take forever.
Mental fatigue can be acute or chronic. Acute fatigue can be relieved after a short period of rest. If allowed to continue, it can become chronic fatigue and eventually lead to burnout.
Your brain is fuelled with the same food as your muscles. What you eat has an enormous impact on your cognitive functioning.
The quality of life decreases when we don't get enough sleep. To improve your quality of sleep:
Your body has natural ebbs and flows in energy throughout the day. Those are your ultradian rhythms. They are driven by your hormone levels, metabolic processes, and cardiovascular functioning and affect your energy, mood, and cognitive functioning. They are unique to you.
These rhythms take the form of 90-minute peaks of energy followed by a 20-minute dip that repeats throughout the day. As the day progresses, the peaks get lower and lower. Plan your day to work with your ultradian rhythms. Take a week to note your energy levels throughout the day. Notice when your energy levels are highest and lowest.
Your energy levels will naturally decrease throughout the day, but you can recharge your batteries by taking breaks.
It is helpful to have a work shutdown ritual - a consistent series of tasks that tell your brain that it can stop thinking about work for the day:
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