4 reasons why we are more tired than ever

According to writer Cal Newport, we are now in the era of “The Great Exhaustion”, a time where collectively, we’re reassessing our priorities to help reduce deep-seated fatigue.

Coffee in bed

While it’s not surprising to hear that many of us are feeling more tired than ever before, there are plenty of overlooked factors that are contributing to our collective sense of exhaustion. From perfectionism and trying to ‘keep up’ with unattainable standards to neglecting the health of your cells, let’s explore the possible reasons why you might be feeling like your most exhausted self.

Unsustainable lifestyles

It’s never been more difficult to keep up with our inner circle, our to-do list, our fast-paced lives... In our rush to do and be better, many of us can admit to choosing convenience over discipline and long-term gains – and it’s safe to say that when it comes to our health and wellbeing, a lot of us are starting to feel it.

When we look at the blue zones – areas of the globe that house the longest living people in the world – their lifestyles are dramatically different to the ones we are most familiar with. Rather than prioritizing work ahead of everything else, and racing through each day like they’re being chased, people who occupy these blue zones live a ‘human-needs-first' lifestyle by actively prioritizing their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. They do this by filling up their plates with plenty of whole foods, prioritizing regular movement, deepening their social connections and working with a sense of purpose.

People in the blue zones live at a much slower pace, they have less urgency, and they’re not in a rush to be somewhere else – so it’s not coincidental that they live longer, happier lives. People outside of these zones tend to eat more processed foods, strategically squeeze their movement and socializing around the demands of their work and family responsibilities (if they can), and work to live. Many factors that contribute to exhaustion are deeply ingrained in our society, but by prioritizing our wellbeing first and foremost we can start to make small changes to shift the way we experience our day-to-day lives.

Cell stress

Your cells generate energy for your body to function, and since you are almost entirely made up of cells, – having healthy cells is the key for sustained, long-term energy. Despite their size, your cells generate an enormous amount of energy thanks to your mitochondria – the energy powerhouse that reside within almost every cell type. Mitochondria are specialized at providing your cells with the energy to fuel your body, but in the process of generating energy – mitochondria release free radicals as a by-product.

While the body has natural mechanisms in play to mitigate any damage that these free radicals might cause, as we age, the daily grind starts to wear down the mitochondria; and when mitochondria are stressed, they underperform. When your cellular health is compromised, so too is your ability to feel energized. By supporting your cell health and mitigating cell stress, mitochondria are free to function optimally to support sustained energy, resilience and healthy aging.

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Want to avoid cell stress?

Discover the top 5 cell stressors and how to avoid them

Change fatigue

Even if you weathered the pandemic with your mental health still relatively intact, you’ve likely experienced the post-pandemic uncertainty that deeply impacted us (and continues to affect us) as a society. We all have our own capacity for change and how much we can cope with, and physiologically our body is geared to adapt as a means for survival - but the problem is that this adaptation mechanism is wired as a short-term response. When we find ourselves in this state of uncertainty and adaption for an extended period of time without feeling ‘replenished’ or at ease in our new circumstances, the body can start to feel it.

Adaptation to change: explained

Psychological stress is a common reaction to environmental conditions in which there is a real or perceived threat of losing resources. As humans, we strive to secure these resources (tangible things, characteristics or circumstances such as your job, time, salary, promotion or status) to support our survival. Some conditions arise where we are required to use or essentially give up what we have without repleting our resources, but if this loss of resources continues overtime, we can naturally become depleted – and end up feeling exhausted.

Change is a threat to our most valuable resources – as many of us have experienced first-hand during the pandemic – and can be perceived as a significant source of psychological stress. Change fatigue has been defined as an ‘individual’s perception of too much change, leading to a stressed, negative response’. In fact, one thesis captured the key features of change fatigue as resistance to change, change cynicism, psychological uncertainty and burnout.

Since change is a constant in life, mitigating the fatigue we feel from it can be tricky to address. It can be challenging to embrace change, but it helps to adopt the right mindset. A growth mindset sees life as a continual evolution, and change is a natural part of that. People with a growth mindset expect change and view it as a positive opportunity. This means they may exert less mental energy when they’re called to navigate changes and experience less fatigue and burnout as a result.

Lack of purpose

Struggling to get out of bed in the morning may not be related to your diet or your habits – it could be linked to your mindset. Having a sense of purpose in life is a driving force that provides us with the momentum to put one foot in front of the other and bring our best self into every day. Having a sense of purpose will mean different things to different people, but you can contribute to your purpose by pursuing things that feel meaningful to you – whether that be social connection, achievement, self-expression, curiosity or personal growth and impact. Knowing what drives you and brings meaning to your life can support your mental wellbeing and ability to adapt to stress – which naturally encourages a healthier, more resilient (and less exhausted) you.

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