Is it hard to concentrate? Do you feel overwhelmed? Is it hard to sleep at night? Have basic tasks suddenly become difficult?
No, this isn’t an infomercial. But you may indeed have a problem on your hands.
All of those symptoms could indicate that you’re suffering from cognitive fatigue, according to a recent Metro article. So if you’re mentally exhausted, you may want to read on.
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What is cognitive fatigue?
“Cognitive fatigue happens when we have a number of demands on our thinking that go on for a sustained period,” Dr. Catherine Huckle, a clinical psychologist at the University of Surrey, told Metro.co.uk. “The result is that we become less able to ignore distractions, we need more time to plan and our thinking becomes less flexible.”
Maybe you have a high-pressure job where you’re having to churn out content constantly and deadlines loom large. Or maybe you’re having to keep track of a lot of appointments for your children. And maybe, during all of this, you’re not taking the time you need to relax and recharge.
“Even concerted efforts towards breaking a habit (such as smoking) or adhering to a new resolution (think exercise or dieting) — anything that requires willpower — increases cognitive load and makes us more susceptible to cognitive fatigue,” Huckle told Metro.
Cognitive fatigue can create a “mental block” or make you forgetful, Metro reports. It can also give you headaches, tension and a higher heart rate, all signs that your mental activity is affecting your physical health.
So what should you do?
“Strategies might include cutting back on the number of tasks that you are trying to achieve, increasing the timeframe in which you aim to get things done or lowering your standards (accepting a lesser performance and saving your best for when it is absolutely essential),” Huckle told Metro. “It can also help to feel more in control, which can be achieved through planning and scheduling of tasks, delegating where possible and by being assertive about what you can and cannot take on.”
Huckle further suggested that employers could help their workers by advocating for breaks, shorter hours and flex time. She added that doing more enjoyable tasks may cause less cognitive fatigue.
So beware of mental burnout — not only from work, but also from the everyday tasks that require organization and willpower. Make sure to take the breaks you need, and try to do the things you enjoy. Your brain will thank you.
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