Are you struggling to get out of bed in the morning? Is it difficult for you to concentrate on your work? Do you feel anxious and overwhelmed about the same problems over long periods of time? Have you stopped finding happiness in activities that you typically enjoy?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you may be experiencing fatigue in one or more ways. With the end of the year quickly approaching, it is completely normal to feel burnt out as December is often the most stressful month for both students and professionals. Periods of exhaustion are inevitable, but you can shift your actions and mindset in order to continue being a high performer while saving your energy.
By understanding the 4 Facets of Fatigue framework, you can more effectively prevent burnout and develop a sustainable performance strategy.
The 4 Facets of Fatigue framework defines 4 different types of fatigue that you may experience, explains the primary causes of each type of fatigue, and provides strategies for prevention. It is important to understand how each facet of fatigue affects your life, and then take action to address your fatigue before it can escalate into burnout. Therefore, following the 4 Facets of Fatigue framework can lead you to optimise your performance, minimise your energy drain, and maximise your recovery.
The first facet is physical fatigue, which manifests in your body. Signs of physical fatigue include feeling ill or lethargic, experiencing muscular pain, oversleeping, and being unable to stay awake without stimulants. Physical fatigue is caused by too much or too little movement and sleep, poor nutrition and hydration, and illness and injury. You can prevent physical fatigue by engaging in gentle or intense movement, developing consistent sleeping habits, eating more vegetables and less processed foods, and giving ourselves permission to rest without guilt.
The second facet is mental fatigue, which manifests in your mindset. Signs of mental fatigue include the inability to focus on tasks, inefficiency in carrying out tasks, being easily distracted or tempted, and feelings of indecision and disorganisation. Mental fatigue is caused by prolonged periods of focus without rest, negative emotional perceptions of tasks, frequent task switching, and high levels of external stimuli such as clutter and noise. You can prevent mental fatigue by creating daily plans and priority task lists, setting boundaries around work habits to minimise task switching, separating work and rest environments, and engaging in positive self-talk about tasks.
The third facet is emotional fatigue, which manifests in your emotional responses. Signs of emotional fatigue include difficulty in emotion regulation, feeling stuck in thought loops of anxiety, avoiding certain people and situations because of emotions invoked, and experiencing emotional outbursts over small triggers. Emotional fatigue is caused by bottled and unresolved negative emotions, the accumulation of small problems, conflicts with loved ones and colleagues, and unresolved past traumas. You can prevent emotional fatigue by acknowledging and accepting our emotional experiences, minimising self-judgment, setting aside non-negotiable time for self-care, and seeking out dedicated emotional safe spaces to voice concerns and listen without interruption.
The fourth facet is spiritual fatigue, which manifests in your sense of existence. Signs of spiritual fatigue include long periods of procrastination, a lack of motivation to carry out tasks, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and feelings of cynicism or apathy towards others and ourselves. Spiritual fatigue is caused by misalignments between our goals and values, a lack of freedom and choice in our lives and work, high self-doubt and low self-belief in our capabilities, and high expectations attached to certain outcomes. You can prevent spiritual fatigue by detaching our sense of self-worth from outcomes, making time for creative pursuits that we enjoy, tracking quick wins to reinforce positive emotional associations with our actions, and engaging in deliberate gratitude practices.
In summary, having a sustainable performance strategy can help you manage your internal state and then project that into your actions in the external world. You can use the 4 Facets of Fatigue framework to understand the causes of your tiredness, as well as the strategies you can use to address them. To apply this framework in your own life, identify a few strategies that resonate with you most and then experiment with these strategies over a consistent period of time.
The 180DC Global Leadership Team learned about the 4 Facets of Fatigue framework from Kam Taj, a London-based performance coach, speaker, and author who runs his own performance and leadership coaching business and offers online courses and workshops to students. To learn more about Taj, visit his LinkedIn page here!
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