Had a rough day yesterday? Conrad talks about dealing with fatigue after the stressful day before – because the battle’s not over until you’re back on course.
I have a problem with two things: stress and lack of sleep. Often the two are interrelated – sometimes they’re not. They’re just an unholy tag-team that get me turn after turn.
It’s not a constant thing with me, but when it happens, it happens hard. A bad night’s sleep for me is about two hours. And even if I have had a good nights sleep, a rough day of stress can feel like I’ve had a handful of naptime the next day.
Yesterday was one of those days, and the resultant fatigue today is the aftermath. Like I said, this isn’t some constant battle for me, but its something that knocks me for six every few weeks.
So what am I feeling, why am I feeling it and what can I do to deal with fatigue after the stressful day before?
What am I feeling?
Well, tired. I had a full night’s sleep, but my brain had been overworking until late last night. That means that although I didn’t miss any sleep, I missed some important rest. Despite my best efforts, I kept getting distracted. In fact it was only a late viewing of The Walking Dead (I know) that got me off the subject of blogging and other business plans.
On top of that, my focus seems to be suffering today. I have already drafted an article before this, which I’ve decided not to use. I thought it was too negative and too rant-y. The subject matter is good, but the tone simply isn’t right.
I feel a sense of imminent defeat. This probably isn’t because of the tiredness, but mainly because I’m anticipating similar rough results to yesterday. I wasn’t happy with the outputs, and was interrupted before I was able to put into place the steps I outlined in that blog. That’s life, but it means I’m now having a grudge match with none other than the concept of productivity itself. That’s not something you can really win.
Why am I feeling fatigue after the stressful day before
Well, according to Steve Bressert, Ph.D. in his article The Impact Of Stress, this is classic 101. Fatigue is on the list of physical factors, as are “mental slowness”, “confusion” and “difficulty concentrating”. The other emotional consequences include similar problems like “struggling to think in a logical sequence”.
It seems that when you suffer from stress, it hits everything. Your stomach, your muscular system, your nervous system and more. This is perhaps because of the “fight or flight” quality stress enables. Because we used to flee sabre-tooth tigers, stress readies our body for feats we might consider almost superhuman compared to our usual efforts.
Except, of course, there are no sabre-tooth tigers. At least not until I make a Jurassic Park. So that means the stress bottles up. We don’t sprint it out, or wrestle it physically to the ground. Normally we put our head in our hands or look nervously at the clock.
What can I do about this?
Well, there’s plenty of stress books out there, but what I want to talk about is how I deal with fatigue after the stressful day before.
- Appreciate that if you’re tired, you’re tired. Wow, rocket science. But actually this isn’t a case of just pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and “getting on with it”. Nor, conversely, is it about moaning about the situation. It’s about knowing you might not be on par. If you are absolutely knackered then walk or take public transport, never the car. Check your work if it’s complex stuff and you’re feeling blurry. Be nice to yourself and know you might have cognitive limits today.
- Plan, plan, plan. By this I don’t even mean lists, and I like a good list. I mean step back regularly and make sure you are taking a concrete step towards something. This will help you keep your focus. Make cups of tea. Maybe a coffee or two, and while you’re doing that think things through. You may realise you’re faffing because you’re tired. That’s alright. Because in realising that you can change course. Step back at least once every half hour. Visit a loo, the vending machine or the photocopier. Whatever doesn’t make you look a lunatic.
- Consider it has its advantages. Yes, fatigue after the stressful day before can have its advantages too. This is especially one to appreciate if you work in a creative area. I remember a writer talking about this: he said he writes whenever. He writes when he feels good, feels bad. When he is wide awake and when he’s tired. They all bring different things out in you. You can actually find yourself approaching work a little differently.
- Appreciate that fatigue after the stressful day before just another thing. Yes, that’s right. Unless you’re endangering yourself or others (large machinery, cars etc) then this is just another thing. We can have crap days for a number of reasons. As humans we are adept at finding them. You could forget your watch, leave your ring on the side after doing your hair or have to recycle a shirt because you ran out of washing powder. All reasons to feel you are not on your game. But reality is its often just another thing. Maybe you can brush it off.
I hope this was handy. It’s what gets me through the tougher days when I’ve suffered from tiredness. To me this is the true essence of feeling positive – not grinning wildly or doing random star-jumps in the office but looking at being as constructive about your circumstances as possible. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Except when it comes to operating dangerous machinery – seriously don’t drive or control anything that endangers others.
Take care ’till the next post.