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Do not let fatigue linger

“We measure genius by quality, not by quantity.” Wendell Phillips

If I asked you to sum up your experience over the last two years in just one word, what is the first word that comes to mind?

For me, it is fatigue – isolation fatigue, lockdown fatigue, zoom fatigue, mental fatigue, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual fatigue.

Ok, that’s more than one word and to be fair I have not experienced every last one of these personally, but I certainly know people who have.

Simple physical fatigue can be helped with a warm bath in the evening then a good night’s sleep. You may want to talk to your doctor if it persists and ask for some suggestions for the long term.

But psychological fatigue is a different problem. It always indicates an underlying stress issue in your life – it could be financial or family or medical.

You may want to seek professional help to find then treat the issue. If it is an external problem – something happening around you, but which you have no control over – then hopefully it disappears soon.

On the other hand if it is an internal problem, a problem created or experienced inside you, it can be more difficult to alleviate.

This got me thinking: is fatigue something that just overwhelms us when we are tired in a way that we have no control over (and few ways to escape from), or is it actually the by-product of a habit?

According to dictionary.com a habit is “an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”.

If that’s the case, is it possible that we can alleviate fatigue by better understanding which “acquired behaviours” are causing it and altering them in some way?

As I pondered this, I was suddenly reminded of Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of the Habit, in which he identifies four key attributes of habits: habits follow very precise patterns; it is possible to modify habits; positive habits can lead to success; habits also have the capacity to be destructive.

Funnily enough, when you think about what all of those types of fatigue listed above have in common they all are the result of doing something too much – too much alone time, too many virtual meetings, too much stress, too much sitting around the house … you get the picture.

The other thing that they all have in common is that they are all activities that negatively impact your mood.

Could it be then that a practical method for relieving fatigue and elevating your mood at the same time is to briefly divert your attention from what you have been doing – thereby breaking the pattern of too much “sameness” – and do something else for a couple of minutes the moment you start to sense that weary sensation creeping up inside you?

Would, for example, drinking a glass of cool water refresh your mind during a virtual meeting? Could ten sit-ups on the front lawn be the cure for too much time spent in commuter traffic?

Would a five-minute walk outside relieve a tension headache? Would looking at images of flowers for two minutes relieve emotional fatigue?

These might seem absurdly small “cures” for the serious challenges we are currently experiencing but I would argue that it is the quality of your diverting activity rather than the length of time that you spend doing it that matters.

When we are overcome by fatigue, it becomes increasingly difficult to focus on anything else which only makes it more difficult to function. But breaking the “sameness cycle” at regular intervals (even briefly) allows your mind and body to reset, freeing you to continue on with the demands of your day.

The bottom line is that whatever the cause of your fatigue, don’t let it linger. Make every effort to identify what triggers your fatigue and take action to fix it.

Robin Trimingham is the managing director of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a business consultant, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://bit.ly/3nSMlvc or robin@olderhood.com

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of the Habit

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Published October 12, 2021 at 8:13 am (Updated October 12, 2021 at 8:13 am)

Do not let fatigue linger

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