The most common reply I receive from my family and friends when I ask them how they are is “I’m tired”. It seems like everyone is always tired and sometimes I can really see it in their eyes.
Understandably, our modern work culture calls for a 9 to 5 grind with extra hours if you want to stand out. Combine this with an expected social life, family life and also somehow managing to keep fit and eat healthy. Don’t forget that we should be sleeping at least 7 hours every night too!
Tiredness can have a huge impact on us. We become unproductive, fall behind on healthy habits, emotional eat and our state of mind isn’t in the best place. The relationship we have with ourselves and others also takes a hit too. It becomes a relentless cycle, one in which we feel like we can never get out of.
Typically, we try to break that cycle by trying to eat healthier, sleeping more and exercising. Drinking coffee is an OK, short-term solution but we don’t recommend energy drinks or supplements. As you can see, many of these approaches takes time and a lot of effort; they’re difficult to do on their own already.
I want to show you how try to use mindfulness to deal with tiredness. It’s something that I’ve trialled during my medical school training, had highs and lows with it but I’ve felt like it’s helped me.
1. Bring Self-Awareness into the Game
Becoming aware of your tiredness is the first step in achieving mindfulness with it. When we’re constantly on the move, tiredness starts creeping into our bodies and mind but we don’t notice it or we try to ignore it. It is only later when the exhaustion fully consumes us that we realise and by that time, we’re too mentally tired to do much about it. Become aware of your state of being, emotions and know when your battery is running low.
2. Physically Experience Tiredness
Take the time to really feel and connect with your tiredness. Physically experience all of the manifestations low energy brings to your body. What does your body feel like? Are your arms and legs sore? Are your eyes trying to close but you’re forcing them open? Now what about your mind? Is it exhausted or still full of energy?
I rely on this body scan to understand where my tired is coming from. Am I physically tired or is there mental unrest? Perhaps it’s both? Sometimes I feel exhausted but my heart is racing and that’s how I know it’s a bit of my anxiety coming through.
3. Mindful Actions
When you physically connect with your tiredness, you can then act mindfully. Through my body scan, I try to relax any tension by letting my eyelids droop, relaxing my arms and legs and stop forcing myself to feel energised. If it’s my brain that is tired from overthinking, then maybe it’s time for a run to clear my mind or a mindfulness session to help guide me back to the presence. Sometimes we do things that we’re not aware of when we’re tired. For example, emotional eating is common or taking our frustrations out on a loved one. Becoming more mindful of your actions in the context of your tiredness will help set healthy boundaries for your mind and body.
Idling is frowned upon in this modern era. But when you’re tired, it’s okay. Even when you’re not tired, it’s great that you’re taking a break from the hustle and bustle. Sometimes we procrastinate because we’re tired but we don’t realise it’s that reason. So we judge our actions and try to rectify it by pushing ourselves even more and the unhelpful cycle continues. Take a rest by sitting on the couch, lying down in bed or aimlessly scrolling through social media can be ways to become idle. I personally like to go outside the front yard and sit where my dogs are sunbaking (they love it!).
4. Small, Achievable Steps
If you can’t rest or stay idle for long (maybe because there’s a deadline for work or school) then knowing what is realistically achievable in your tired state is important. When I’m tired, rather than trying to type out an entire blog post or film another Youtube video, I divert my energy to something smaller instead – Instagram posts, writing out my to-do list, watching inspirational videos. The trick is to be mindful of your capabilities when you’re tired so that you don’t feel disappointment or failure when you set out to achieve something that requires too much effort… one that you were meant to do on another day.
5. Compassion and Kindness
Be kind to yourself and it will be kind back to you. Sometimes I’m guilty of judging myself for feeling tired – I’m not fit enough, I ate poorly or I’m taking on too many things in my work life. Perhaps some of them are true but the key is to give myself some loving kindness. Yes I might’ve agreed to something I knew would tire me out even more but I was only trying to help out a friend. And no, I run 5-7 times per week and if I have that mindset of ‘I’m not fit enough’ every time I feel tired… what’s more demotivating to my efforts than that?!
Our bodies have a sense for tiredness for a reason. It means to rest, rewind and recharge. Sending yourself some compassion to let yourself feel this way without judgement is important.