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The Underlying Psychology Behind Work Fatigue

Brian Wallace

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The Underlying Psychology Behind Work Fatigue

Fatigue in itself serves as a reminder for us to simply do something else; from an evolutionary and physiological standpoint, fatigue reminds us of survival needs like food and shelter. In the modern workplace, we can experience similar reminders through fatigue, past mid-day sleepiness.

Though scientists are not sure what the cause behind work fatigue really is, we can learn a lot just from understanding its symptoms. Unfortunately, many adults may not even realize they are living with chronic work fatigue and the first step is knowing what symptoms to look for in our own behavior. At first, work fatigue can make us feel tired during the day, even after sufficient sleep. We may experience long bouts of poor concentration, confusion, disorganization, and difficulty with routine tasks at work. Work fatigue can even encourage feelings of anxiety and depression when left unaddressed.

  • 46% they unable to calm their minds to sleep
  • 34% report headaches as a result of elevated stress
  • 32% report feeling sad or depressed

From desk jobs to first responders, it seems no single industry is inherently immune to the effects of work fatigue, though certain work conditions may facilitate it. Healthcare workers, service employees, early start times, and night shift workers are at the highest risk for work fatigue, presumably for their relationship with irregular sleeping patterns. On its own, tiredness can usually be resolved from one or two nights of quality, uninterrupted rest and shouldn’t be confused with work fatigue. Instead, we know work fatigue to be a state of physical and mental exhaustion, beyond the point of tiredness. While getting enough sleep can certainly help with work fatigue, it’s likely not the only area of your life that needs some extra attention. Among US adults who feel their job impacts their health negatively:

  • 26% are in low-paying jobs
  • 26% are retail employees
  • 25% report working over 50 hours a week

When faced with chronic work fatigue, it can be hard to push ourselves to make positive changes to get out of the slump. But our energy is not finite and there are ways both big and small to get it back. Take it one step at a time by practicing mindfulness at the moment through meditation, 73% of studies show meditation results in significant stress reduction. Taking this a step further, almost 10% of yoga practitioners report high levels of mental clarity than non-practitioners. Consider making hydration, nutrition, and even light exercise a priority. Take break times at work when necessary, especially after staring at a screen, and shake your muscles out with a short walk or a quick stretch. Keep in mind that fatigue is often a symptom of clinical depression; if all else fails, consider making time to speak to your doctor about your chronic fatigue.

When managing stress, small changes can lead to big results. While it’s not easy to master the perfect work/life balance, common sense and mindfulness can go a long way – see this infographic for more on how to take control of your energy once again.

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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