Over the past month it has become clear to me in my practice that people are experiencing different forms of fatigue. Social, emotional, and physical exhaustion which has been chronic this past year all amount to mental fatigue. I see this in children, teens and adults. Not too many people can escape it. So, today I thought I would clarify what each of these types of fatigue do to us and what you can do about it to clear your mind, improve your memory and reduce your overall stress.

How To Deal With Mental Fatigue

I'm so tired of it all, how can I get myself and my kids through the end of the school year?

The fatigue is real. The exhaustion, the stress and burnout are something we are experiencing on a collective level. Let's just start with social fatigue. Usually people think of this as introverts feeling exhausted after a lot of socializing outside of their comfort zone. Today, I think of it as the constant worry that one experiences about socializing at all. Some people are tired of zoom and Facetime for their socialization. Some people are tired of justifying their decisions to not go out. Some people are tired of making decisions for themselves, their family and their kids about who it's safe to spend time with. It's all exhausting.

The past two weeks have been prom season. It seems as each school is doing things a bit differently. Some have cancelled, some are doing it outside, some are just having parties, some schools require masks, some are doing prom in pods, some schools are not allowing outside of the grade guests and some schools are only offering prom to seniors. I have heard a lot about this from the teens that I work with. They are dizzy with choices and decisions. And the seniors just want something positive to remember their last year by.

Emotional exhaustion is an accumulated amount of different feelings that lead to an overall feeling of being worn out or drained. Usually this entails a build up over time and can result in a variety of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, apathy, withdrawal from others, irritability and even hopelessness. There may also be a physical response to this exhaustion because the body interprets the constant fatigue or stress as a threat to survival leaving muscles, hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain activated for extended periods of time.

If you or your child have been experiencing symptoms like headaches, change of appetite, racing heart, sweaty palms or stomach aches this could be your body's way of responding to chronic stress. Physical fatigue is a part of the stress cycle. Stress is often felt in our bodies leaving us limited to just continue to go about our days.

Once social, emotional and physical fatigue are experienced and understood there is one more area to understand which is mental fatigue. This is a feeling of brain fog. Where you are challenged to concentrate, you forget what you were doing and just generally feel out of sorts. With it being close to the end of the school year, kids are ready to be done, teachers are looking forward to that summer vacation and parents are sometimes checking out themselves. 
With all of this exhaustion, parents have been asking me how to best get through the last bit of the school year. It's prom season, graduation time, and in many areas of the country Covid-19 restrictions are loosening up. People want to look ahead to all of the excitement but know there are still weeks until the finish line. 

So, here are my top 3 tips to make it through to that finish line for you and your kids:

1. Move- yes, when you are tired you sometimes need to move. You need to take a walk, you need to do a yoga class, or lift weights. Whatever helps you release stress that is active- just do it!

2. Act- cross off those things on your to do list. Go to the store and get that thing. Get on line and order that gift. Whatever keeps you up at night, that adds to your exhaustion, is likely something that won't actually take that much time. It's the stressing over not having the time or energy that is often worse than the act itself.

3. Sleep- after you have worked or gone to school all day, been active, eaten dinner and completed something on your to do list- go to sleep! Don't scroll, don't do anything that raises your stress level. Rest. Dim the lights, put on a meditation or relaxing music, or whatever makes you fall asleep and rest. 

When we are in motion we tend to stay in motion. Disrupting the stress cycle is key to recovering from exhaustion. 

Happy Parenting (and taking care of yourself)!

About the author

Sheryl Gonzalez Ziegler, Psy.D. holds a Doctorate of Psychology, is an Author, Speaker, National Media Contributor, Non-Profit Board Member, Girl Scouts Leader, Girls on the Run Coach and Advocate for children. She has been treating children and families for over twenty years with areas of expertise in anxiety, trauma, divorce, stress management and depression. Dr. Ziegler is the author of the best selling book, Mommy Burnout: how to reclaim your life and raise healthier children in the process, the winner of Best Parenting Book of 2018 as awarded by International Latino Book Awards.

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