You get an ample amount of quality sleep, but somehow still feel tired. Sound familiar?
“We go through life thinking we’ve rested because we have gotten enough sleep—but in reality we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need,” according to Saundra Dalton-Smith, a physician, researcher, and author of the book “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity.”
Energy drains can range from mental (Zoom fatigue) to emotional (the stress of uncertainty) to everything in between, and these can’t be remedied with sleep alone. They demand a different kind of rest, which Dalton-Smith defines as not just relaxation—but as restoration.
We’ve chosen five types of fatigue that you may be feeling. Read the signs to recognize which type you’re experiencing. Then use the restorative tips to recharge.
We demand a lot from our bodies throughout the day. We sit (or stand) for long periods of time, metabolize all types of food, exercise, and push through errands and other responsibilities. If you’re dragging through the day, stifling yawns, or feeling irritable, you may be experiencing physical fatigue.
In addition to getting passive rest (sleeping and napping), you can recharge physically with active rest. It may seem counterintuitive to rest with physical activity, but restorative movement can reenergize your body by improving circulation and flexibility. Try restorative movement, such as yoga, stretching, and massage therapy.
Decision-making, problem solving, focusing, strategizing—all of these brain functions burn calories. And with the prolonged stress and uncertainty we’ve experienced over the past couple of years, our brains have been working overtime. If you’re struggling to make simple decisions or losing sleep to “3 a.m. thoughts,” your mind is likely overdue for some mental rest.
Carve out time each day to activate what’s called involuntary attention, or low mental engagement; a walk through nature, for example, can boost positive feelings and improve memory and attention. Short breaks throughout the day can help you unplug from electronics, reset your brain, and slow down. And at night, keep a notepad next to your bed to cleanse your mind of negative thoughts that arise before or during sleep.
Are you usually full of wonderful ideas but recently find you’re hitting mental dead ends? You may be experiencing creative fatigue. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a creative person, some processes, such as problem solving and planning, are actually creative exercises in disguise.
Recharge your creativity by starting the day free writing whatever is on your mind—without stopping or judging—for five to 10 minutes. This helps unblock thoughts and energy, and it gets your creative juices flowing. Creativity also stems from new experiences, which many of us are lacking these days. Try introducing small novelties to your routine. Something as simple as reading a new book or taking an alternate route to work can inspire different ways of thinking.
We can become emotionally drained when our feelings for others or, even more broadly, the state of the world overwhelm us. Compassion fatigue, for example, is experienced largely by those in helping professions and with high levels of empathy. We can also become depleted from our own emotional highs and lows, or by suppressing our emotions.
Practice setting boundaries with others when you need to conserve emotional energy. Also, try to honor your emotions with small moments of authenticity. Instead of answering with a default, “I’m fine,” for example, try offering a more honest answer when appropriate. This helps keep feelings from bottling up and bogging you down.
According to Ami Kunimura, founder of the Self-Care Institute, “We can become tired from too much social interaction, too little social interaction, or from not engaging in the kind of social interaction that aligns with our personality.”
Especially now as we navigate changing levels of social interaction, it’s crucial to check in with yourself and truly listen to your needs. Do you need more time with others, or perhaps you need more alone time? Who in your social circle drains you, and who lifts you up? Whether you decide to reach out more or opt out of an event, make that decision by checking with yourself rather than with others’ expectations.