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Mental Fatigue

August 31st, 2018

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment”

- Dale Carnegie

Feeling Tired? Wake Up From Mental Fatigue

Most of us are, in one way or another. Whether it’s from work, family, running after kids, or simply insomnia, we all deal with feeling tired in one way or another. For some, this sense of feeling tired can be short-lived and overcome by making simple changes, for others it can turn into long-term exhaustion and fatigue.

mental fatigue Exhausted African American worker fell asleep at workplace

Types of Fatigue

Fatigue can be categorized into two categories:

Physical fatigue

  • Exhaustion from the repetition of muscle movements and actions

Mental fatigue

  • Exhaustion from constant and extended periods of cognitive activity
  • Results in a decrease in cognitive performance

Why is Mental Fatigue So Troublesome?

According to a recent study, “mental fatigue represents a failure to complete mental tasks that require self-motivation and internal cues in the absence of demonstrable cognitive failure or motor weakness. Thus, mental fatigue decreases sufferers’ work or study efficiency in daily life”. Because suffering from mental fatigue can have such an impact on the rest of our daily lives, this can become a much bigger problem.

For example, let’s say you are working overtime to finish a project deadline for your boss. Due to the constant time, energy, and brain activity involved, this work is bound to have an effect on other aspects of your life, such as your sleep habits, healthy meal choices, exercise, keeping up with your social life, making time for family, the list goes on and on. The point is, developing mental fatigue from prolonged periods of work and stress can impact the rest of our lives, in an unhealthy way, both physically and mentally.

Symptoms of Mental Fatigue

unhappy woman suffering from mental fatigue stress at home


Feeling fatigued mentally can create stress. Stress about whatever the issue is that has caused the mental fatigue in the first place, or about other aspects of our lives. This stress, or anxiety, may cause feelings of worry, fear, nervousness, and many other emotions that create uncertainty.


Depression is a serious mental condition that can be characterized by negative feelings and thoughts about oneself and the world around them. Feeling hopeless and finding it hard to find positivity in your day-to-day life is another way one may be experiencing depression. When a person is mentally fatigued, the anxiety caused by an overwhelming amount of stress can send a person into feeling beat. Experiencing feelings of depression is not something that should be taken lightly. If you are worried that you may be depressed, please seek professional guidance.


Sometimes mental fatigue can cause insomnia. Insomnia is characterized by issues revolving around sleep, most commonly, the inability to sleep. You may find yourself having problems with sleep if you are anxious or in a constant state of feeling concerned about issues going on in your life, whether work or family-related. A lack of sleep develops into daytime drowsiness which then results in poor decision-making, poor eating and exercise habits, and the inability to perform on a daily basis.


As noted above, daytime drowsiness and nighttime sleeplessness impact elements of our day. The inability to retain and store information in our brains is a sign that mental fatigue could be affecting our memory. Our memories, whether short-term or long-term memories are saved in our memory bank when we are rested and feeling sharp. This becomes a problem when we are suffering from mental fatigue.

Emotional Sensitivity

Our emotions are sacred to us. They are an important part of who we are and how we present ourselves. When we are under mental stress and exhaustion, our ability to process our emotions and how we react to specific situations may be altered. You may find that you are more irritable, angry, or depressed than before you were overwhelmed by mental fatigue.

Changes in Appetite

The way in which we eat can be affected by our mood and our mind. Some people may deal with mental fatigue by stress-eating. Stress eating is when a person makes poor food choices, specifically binging on large portions of unhealthy junk food or fast food. On the contrary, other people may deal with mental fatigue by losing their appetite. Sometimes stress can cause a person to not want to eat or cook.

This may also stem from a person who is so overwhelmed by other issues in their life that they simply forget to eat. Whether you are dealing with stress eating or loss of appetite, neither one fuels the brain to function correctly to make positive choices in other aspects of your life.

Lack of Motivation

Motivation is characterized by a willingness to do or act upon something in a stimulating, inspiring, or driven manner. When there is a lack of motivation, one may feel uninspired to be an active participant. Often, mental fatigue can lead to this idea of having a lack of motivation in daily interactions and routine life because of mental exhaustion.


Addiction is when a person develops a dependency on a particular substance or activity. With mental fatigue, a person may turn to something that may initially bring calmness and distraction, but the repeated and unhealthy increase in alcohol or drugs will impair and negatively affect a person’s life. If you or someone you know is dealing with addiction please reach out for professional help.

Tips for Waking Up from Mental Fatigue

Allow yourself time to rest

  • Give yourself permission to take breaks from whatever is causing you mental fatigue during the day

Create realistic expectations

  • Set meaningful goals based on what you know is reasonable and achievable

Schedule your meals/meal planning

  • Make time in your daily schedule to sit down and eat a proper meal
    • This could also count as your break from your work or daily stressors
  • Eating a well-balanced meal will nourish your brain to make healthy and conscious choices for your mind and your body

Say “no”

  • Stand up for yourself by setting boundaries and limits
  • Choose what and how it is important for you to spend your time and energy efficiently

Find support

  • Surround yourself with friends, family, or professional help to help keep you on track

Clarity Clinic

At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in psychotherapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.

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