The Art of Working from Home: Why Am I so tired?

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By now you have noticed fatigue has set in while working from home. I am finding that people are a little embarrassed to admit they are fatigued, “why am I so tired when I am home all day”?!

In the current reality of the masses working from home and juggling work, partners, kids, home-schooling, pets, household chores, and perhaps aging parents too, people are exhausted (and a little grumpy too). It is OK to be tired! It’s OK to be a little grumpy. It is normal! Stop beating yourself up (women especially). The beating yourself up and mental flogging is only adding to the fatigue.

The fatigue you are feeling is a result of cognitive overload. You (and the world) had to rapidly adjust to a new reality on all fronts (home, work, relationships, entertainment, social life, health, daily activities/errands, etc.). This massive learning curve mixed with the stress response caused the body and brain to go into survival mode (fight, flight or freeze); when this happens, we get a big dose of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormone) to help us deal with the new reality. We are wired to survive, and these natural neurochemicals help us do so. However, a prolonged dose of adrenaline and cortisol is taxing to the body and brain, hence, fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration, insomnia, stress eating, and other forms of self-medicating. Give yourself a break. Your body and brain did what it was supposed to do, help ensure your survival. The challenge is that survival alone does not lead to a fulfilling, happy, healthy existence.

You’re smart. Your body is smarter. Your body has already adapted to this new reality, for better or worse. Let’s get you set up to shift that body and brain back to a healthy, rested, peaceful and productive place.

  • Hydrate. Keep a glass by your bathroom sink. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning when you wake up. Throughout the day, drink water. For every cup of coffee, drink 1 glass of water (2 if you are an over-achiever). Dehydration makes you feel tired.
  • Quiet, tech free mornings. Start your morning in quiet. Leave your devices plugged in. Resist the early morning scroll.
  • Fresh air. Take your quiet time outside. It doesn’t take long. Sit outside for 10-15 minutes. You might have to wake up 20 minutes early so you can enjoy this time before the rest of the house gets up.
  • Create Office-Hours for yourself. Tell your family and co-workers what they are. For your family, providing “office hours” helps you have some focused and uninterrupted time to work. The younger your children, the shorter the office hours may be. For your co-workers, “office hours” means, “I’m available”; this helps mitigate feeling like you have to be “on” all day/night.
  • Movement Break. Build in a time to move every day. Take a walk late-morning. Build in a post-lunch 30-minute workout to help with mid-day fatigue and crashing. You can also use this movement break as a time to connect with your family and move with them (your kids and partners need to be moving too). Or you can use it as a time to get the kids out and let your partner work in quiet for a while. For teams, you can do movement breaks together and turn them into your team meetings 1-2 x’s a week.
  • Creative Break. Build in time each day to do something creative or that forces you to learn something new. Listen to a podcast. Listen to an audio book. Use your hands. Make lunch. Make dinner. Create a new smoothie recipe. Garden. Do a project around the house. Wash windows. Re-arrange the living room. Move art to new locations. Play with your kids. Play a board game. The goal: Do something away from your computer that inspires you, brings you joy, creates new learning and new ways of connecting. Get away from your computer. You will find when you return to your computer, you have fresh energy and focus.
  • Conscious Consumption: Remember the old term, “garbage in, garbage out”? Be mindful of how it relates to what you put in your body and mind. Consume good things. Manage your news intake. Limit your social media time (set a goal for yourself of X time per day). Eat nutritious, whole food. Limit alcohol. I’m all for having a great glass of wine but be mindful of how many substances you are consuming. The substances we consume take a toll on our ability to rest well at night and on our emotional/mental health. Consuming too many bad things are typically a sign we are avoiding or distracting from something that needs our attention.
  • Do the Deep Work: It is likely you have been triggered during this time of crisis. Times of crisis and uncertainty have a way of bringing up all of our old stuff. Right now there are many resources available online to do some good therapy and/or coaching. Get a therapist/psychologist. Call a former therapist. Get a coach. Everyone needs additional support beyond friends, family and colleagues. You may pride yourself on having grit and being tough, but these once adaptive skills are proving to be more detrimental right now.
  • Pause, Reflect, Re-set: You are in a routine with work, Zoom calls, new business processes, and new ways of managing your households and families. Hit Pause. Ask your people (home and work), how can we re-set our current routine to meet our needs today? Keep in mind many of your current routines were set when the world went on lock down. You have had time to get life and work into a new routine, but is it working? Call time-out, reflect on what’s working and what is not working and be willing to re-set.
  • Breathe and Say, “it will all be ok”. Deep breathing helps reset our nervous systems and gets fresh blood and oxygen into our brains, which also helps us feel more energized and less fatigued. Importantly, you have to believe (sometime forcing the words and beliefs) that it will be OK! Your belief about a thing influences your outcome. Believe you will be ok, and you will. Believe you will thrive, and you will. Believe your team will be successful, and it will. Believe your family will be stronger and healthier, and they will. Beliefs influence the way we behave and our outcomes; so BELIEVE in what you most want!

Lead Well,
Dr. Shanna
Photo Credit: Rachel Maucieri