Mental Fatigue and Exhaustion - Possible Causes

Are you often tired for no apparent reason and this is affecting your daily life? Your mental fatigue could be due to stress. It's perhaps the result of excessive worrying about any unresolved issues you've neglected to deal with.
Mental Fatigue and Exhaustion - Possible Causes
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

“I’m exhausted as if I had run a marathon and carried the whole weight of the world on my back”. Does this sound familiar to you? It does hit a nerve in a lot of people. Your seemingly unexplained mental fatigue is often overwhelming and it isn’t necessarily due to physical exertion. Emotional exhaustion often lurks around in the background.

Something that’s undoubtedly as striking as it’s evident is the intimate relationship between your body and mind. Sometimes, nothing is as pleasant as arriving home after exercising. Crossing the door of the house and knowing that you’re done with your duties for the day and feeling satisfied with what you’ve accomplished. The mind is usually at ease with this kind of tiredness as it’s neither painful, heavy, nor exhausting. The body quickly bounces back and there’s a sense of inner peace.

However, there are times when the mere act of going shopping or out for dinner with friends considerably drains your energy. These situations could be due to, in some cases, the presence of some underlying problem. In any case, it deserves your attention.

“’It isn’t the monsters we should be afraid of; it’s the people that don’t recognize the same monsters inside of themselves.”

-Shannon L. Alder-

Extreme fatigue for no reason

A mentally fatigued man.

You usually know why you’re exhausted, at least for the most part. It could be you overexerted or finished a special project so you worked harder. Perhaps you took a trip with many connections. All of these are obvious reasons for physical and mental fatigue. However, it’s hard for most of us to identify the reasons for the kind of exhaustion that drains our energy resources.

There are seasons when a kind of overall discomfort catches up with you and the reasons aren’t always too clear. Well, you may be suffering from mental fatigue.

What’s mental fatigue?

Mental fatigue isn’t always the result of things gone wrong. It doesn’t always have to do with problems, disappointments, or daily adversity. If you’re tired and don’t know why, it might be due to the many things you do. Also, to the problems that you must face without taking some time to either think about them or just take a break.

For example, how many times do you get up in the morning and have breakfast, take the children to school, go to work, and return on autopilot? You do those tasks mainly driven by inertia, one after another without even thinking. You basically leave no room for reflection or relaxation and it eventually takes a toll on your health.

What leads to mental fatigue?

An exhausted woman.

Mental fatigue doesn’t manifest overnight. Instead, it’s the cumulative result of several factors such as:

  • Overcommitment. How many times do you commit to doing more things than you can really do?
  • “Because I have to.” If you think about it, the sense of duty has a lot of power over your mind. Feeling obligated to do anything you don’t really want to do is a major reason for mental exhaustion.
  • Perfectionism. This is complementary to a sense of duty. You’re convinced you must do everything perfectly, quickly, and efficiently. This is something that will undoubtedly lead not only to mental fatigue but also to frustration.
  • Lack of rest. This is the most decisive factor of all. Not being able to relax or sleep will lead to exhaustion even before you get out of bed in the morning.

Strategies to face exhaustion

Wayne Dyer used to say that it’s best to do different things when you’re tired and that you should avoid complaining about your tiredness to other people because you would transmit your discouragement to them. You have to keep in mind that everyone is dealing with their own exhaustion in one way or another.

Somehow, when you say you’re exhausted but don’t know why, be clear about one thing. There’s a reason behind your exhaustion and you must identify it before you can make changes. Lack of action and complaining about it will only make you feel worse.

Thus, here are some strategies you can apply on a daily basis:

  • You must take breaks throughout your day and make sure you have at least two hours just for yourself. Dedicate some of that time and space to thinking, relaxing, and doing the things you enjoy.
  • Know how to prioritize what’s important from what’s secondary.
  • Commit to your self-care because you deserve it. Don’t hesitate to pamper yourself in a healthy way (“healthy” as in don’t max out your credit cards at the mall). It’s important that you take care of your body and mind.
  • Identify your self-sabotage mental patterns and be careful about the demanding or defeatist way in which you talk to yourself. Don’t start your sentences with “I have to”, as it can erode your self-esteem and well-being.

Final thoughts

A person meditating on top of a mountain to deal with their mental fatigue.

To conclude, meditation, in its purest meaning, is a suitable and effective strategy, as it allows you to think, contemplate, devise, and ponder. If you do it for at least 20 minutes a day, you’ll notice the benefits in just a few weeks. Allow yourself to consider the importance of working on the mental fatigue and emotional exhaustion that’s affecting your quality of life. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you should do today!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.