I think I sleep well but I wake up tired and feel tired all the time.
A client recently said, “I think I sleep well but I wake up tired and feel tired all the time. When will it go away? I’m just sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.”
I do remember, many years ago, working in the path lab at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, England. It was during the university breaks to gain particle experience to add to my academic studies. That phrase “Tired All The Time” (TATT) came in on some blood samples indicating an investigation for mononucleosis or glandular fever might be in order. It is certainly true that there are pathological reasons for feeling tired and obviously physical ones too but if both of those are ruled out we are probably looking at emotional exhaustion.
My client was luckily enough and self aware enough to be able to spot the signs and symptoms of burnout and be able to stop and take a break. The challenge with burnout though is that it’s a slow simmer. It’s an emotional state that creeps up on us, with small leaks of energy that we don’t immediately notice. In this particular case it started over a year ago.
Ongoing fatigue does’t happen overnight and, in much the same way as your mobile phone battery drains, we do too. The more you use your phone the quicker it drains. Fatigue is a bit like this except that it is our inner battery reserves that are draining in response to an accumulation of our emotional responses to everyday hassle and niggles. As the Scottish Poet Robert W. Service said “It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” And given that it takes a while to drain your inner battery to a point where you notice it, it will also take a while to re charge. Have you ever tried recharging a truly flat battery?
So, what does it take? Well, time out from what’s been draining your energy is the first step. It’s a challenge too but one that you will benefit from in the long run. The alternatives of not taking action, however hard it may be, doesn’t look good.
The next step is to really build your self awareness so that you can instantly recognise when you are stepping into an emotional state that will drain you of energy. These are states like anger, anxiety and fear or more commonly sadness and guilt. (There are many more) The recognition here is vital. Now, I’d never say ignore that emotion. Instead it’s important to know that all emotions are information and to stop, recognise the emotion and be a bit quizzical. What is this emotion showing up for? Once established make a shift to something you find more fulfilling.
Have patience and compassion for yourself. You are building a new habit here and moving away from one that’s been running silently in the background for too long. You may even experience some self resistance as you move away from the current familiarity of fatigue and into a new, more energetic state of becoming recharged. Best of all, take action!