Exhausted? This sneaky stress factor may be wearing you out


I was in the checkout line at the grocery store this week when I spotted a copy of her Harvard Business Review. Their headline was How to Lead an Exhausted Workforce, special issue, 18.95.

Since I had recently interviewed a naturopath about adrenal fatigue, I had exhaustion on my mind. Later, I searched for the article online and was surprised to see 2 more cover stories on the same topic, totaling 3 in 3 years’ time. Here’s the gist of the 2022 story:

Stress has a cumulative impact. For the body and brain, there is no difference between deadline pressure, an argument with one’s spouse, financial worries, the dog that won’t stop barking, and the computer that keeps crashing. The patience, self-control, perspective, attentiveness, and wisdom to deal with these situations all tap into our energy reserves.

Yet these struggles started well before the pandemic turned life upside down. “Americans were flirting with symptoms of burnout,” physician Lucy McBride wrote in The Atlantic, noting that we were “among the least healthy populations in wealthy countries.”

Yes, we’re exhausted, but if not the pandemic, what’s behind the rising level of exhaustion and burnout? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), media overload is a fast-growing factor that’s hurting our mental health.

An often-overlooked source of stress that’s increased post-pandemic is doom scrolling. The media sucks us in with a constant stream of hyperbolized bad news. It’s like nothing good is worth reporting.

Overwhelmed by the news

The effects of reading or watching a lot of negative news coverage can increase stress, ultimately leading to fatigue, anxiety or even depression. According to the APA, headline stress can affect anyone. Here are some strategies psychologists suggest for addressing it:

  • (my favorite) First-30 device-free If your typical routine is to roll out of bed and head straight to your cell phone, try a pattern interrupt. This simple shift puts you in the driver’s sea as you intentionally decide what and when to address your to-do list, instead of being sucked into reactionary mode by your cell phone.
  • Turn off smartphone news notifications.
  • Add other daily tech-free periods where possible.
  • Set a strict no-screens (including phones) policy for mealtimes.
  • Set your phone’s timer for 15 minutes at the start of checking social media to limit the amount of time engaged in it.
  • Take action where you can, perhaps by joining or donating to a cause, or signing a petition.

The National Institute of Health recommends selective news engagement. “Watch the news only at specific times of day and make sure you have some activities available after consuming news that will lift your mood, like listening to upbeat music, exercise of some kind, or a good soak in a relaxing, warm bath.”

Ultimately, curating your environment to limit bad news, find sources of inspiration, and reduce stress is an important but often overlooked piece of overcoming fatigue.

Please share this article with anyone you know who needs it!





Image by Freepik

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