Everyone’s been physically tired so we know the signs of physical fatigue. Mental fatigue is similar, but because your brain controls your body, mental fatigue is more serious. But do you know the signs of mental fatigue? Have you ever felt that you just couldn’t do it anymore? If so, you’re experiencing the effects of mental fatigue. These extreme tired brain symptoms will sound familiar when you are experiencing a lot of stress and a hectic environment.
You are aware that there is too much going on at once. Are you feeling overwhelmed? You probably are literally overwhelmed by sensory input. Sounds, smells, sights, mental activity, physical movement, listening to others; sometimes all of this happening in a busy environment can be too much. When there is too much data input coming from all of your senses, your brain can begin showing signs of fatigue. You may notice that you ask people to repeat themselves and you miss details that you should have seen. To help relieve this symptom of mental fatigue try to limit multi-tasking as much as possible. Also try shutting off any noisy devices that you can control, like a fan, music, TV, buzzing lights, etc.
You rarely have down time. A study in the journal Environment and Behavior showed that there are two strategies that can help individuals more effectively manage their mental fatigue; avoiding things that cause mental fatigue and down time. One strategy is to limit how much thinking you have to do. If you can, delegate tasks to people you trust or postpone decisions if they aren’t urgent. The other involves enhancing the effect of restorative opportunities. They suggest that a restorative environment will help refresh your mind so you can think clearly again. Sometimes even a few minutes outside in the sun is all you’ll need to be able to keep going.
You have a total mental block. A mental block is when you have been so mentally drained that you cannot continue to think. You just stop thinking until you can rest your brain enough to recover and continue. Researchers in the Journal of Psychology studying mental fatigue found that mental blocking acts ‘as an automatic safeguard which prevents the individual from working continuously.’ In other words, you can’t continue using your brain because it will just stop working for you when you are really fatigued.
You feel more emotional lately. Depression or anxiety can be symptoms of mental fatigue because it can feel hopeless that you’ll be mentally clear anytime soon. Being mentally fatigued can feel a lot like being depressed because your level of mental energy is low. You might feel anxiety, for example, that things won’t improve. If the situation that is causing your mental fatigue is something that you cannot control, you can feel emotions of anger toward the person who you see as the cause of your suffering.
You experience physical symptoms. Headaches, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, insomnia, and being jittery are all physical symptoms you might experience that are signs of mental fatigue. Although you can consult your doctor if these are concerning you, the therapist might be better able to give you some helpful tools.
You forget little, but important things. Forgetfulness and memory lapse are a sign of mental fatigue. Your brain is processing so much information at once, but it cannot also create memories at the same time. Late on, when you sleep, your brain will make memories. In the meantime, you’re going to have a hard time remembering as well as being able to focus on anything for a long period of time. If you can avoid anything that could cause people harm without your full mental capacity, like driving for example, that would be best until you recover from your mental fatigue with some rest.
If someone asks you one more question you might explode. Answering questions and making decisions all day has left you with decision fatigue and you can’t answer anyone anymore. People will just have to get by without you because you are bowing out due to mental fatigue. Again, let some other people take on some of the smaller decisions that you have to make in a day. Dropping even small decisions, like what to cook for dinner can take one more decision off your plate, which can help prevent mental fatigue.