Have you ever experienced the feeling of being tired? I am not talking about the tired that all new parents feel when they are home with a newborn infant, although that is a unique kind of tired.
I wonder if you have ever done something so physically demanding and exhausting that you just collapse and fall sound asleep. I have experienced this several times in my life, the first time being when I was young and after a day-long effort of bailing hay (we used racks and did it by hand). After an impossibly long day in very intense heat, I remember sitting down under a maple tree in the front yard (we did not have air conditioning) and within seconds of sitting down, I was fast asleep.
I remember my dad waking me up and saying something to the effect that it is a shame most people go their entire lives without working their mind to exhaustion the same way I had just exerted my body. Somewhere in my youthful mind, I took that as a challenge, and this has served me well most of my adult life.
Fatigue is defined as, “extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.”
Fatigue comes in many forms beyond just physical or mental (intellectual) fatigue. There is a very real kind of fatigue that does not get a lot of attention called decision fatigue. Decision fatigue asserts the more decisions we make the worse they become over time. Decision fatigue often explains why people can follow a diet throughout the day and crash in the evenings by making all kinds of bad decisions. They are tired of the difficult decisions and default to an easy one.
Several CEOs and many of our former presidents wear the same color suit and shirt every single day as an effort to reduce the total number of decisions to focus on the bigger decisions they may face later in the day.
Recently, I have noticed decision fatigue creeping into my life as the volume of decisions has increased dramatically. I do not share this for pity, but because I want for you to pause and consider if you are experiencing the same thing.
If so, there are some self-help strategies you can employ that might help. First, try to reduce the total number of decisions. Can others help you? Does it need to be you that makes the decision? Can you share decision-making responsibility?
Second, focus on the big decisions first. If you know you are facing five big decisions, tackle them first thing in the morning when fresh before you answer 50 emails and the easy things.
Third, recover from fatigue. Take a break on the weekends and do what recharges you so you can begin fresh the next week. This is one of the biggest reasons I try to keep evening meetings and board meetings moving along, because during those meetings we are making some of the most important decisions of the month, often after working a 12-hour day. By hour 15 or 16, it is safe to assume the overall quality of decisions has diminished.
I read last week about a board that met for a 14-hour meeting and I thought to myself I cannot imagine how poorly their brains were functioning by the end of the meeting.
I will draw your attention to one more fatigue which has captured my interest lately. Compassion fatigue was a concept shared with me recently and I have had the opportunity to learn a bit more about it.
Compassion fatigue happens when a person is faced with several emotionally difficult situations and they begin to become indifferent to the suffering of others. It is a feeling of being emotionally drained and unable to share in both joy and sorrow of others.
I would encourage us all to watch each other for signs of this throughout the rest of this pandemic. Whether issues of food insecurity, loss of jobs, loss of income, the added pressure of remote and hybrid learning, concerns about housing, or an endless list of suffering, this is a very real thing for all of us.
I am deeply indebted to my loving family and close friends who made me aware of this phenomenon and some strategies to keep myself healthy.
I would encourage you to talk with people in your life who care about you and have an open and honest dialogue around wellness. It’s a beautiful place to start.
This is the one fatigue that I suspect you cannot self-diagnose in most instances. You really need someone in your life who is looking after you.
Drink your water, get some rest, and do the things you love to do best. Stay healthy, my friends.