Understanding Mental Fatigue

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 6, Number 8

August is almost over and we look forward to the fall. As kids go back to school, and snowbirds will soon descend upon us, we would like to remind you that it is hurricane season and our most devastating hurricanes have occurred during the fall. Please check your supplies and be prepared.

Also, in a few weeks, we will be remembering those who died on 9/11 as it will be the tenth anniversary. We would like to ask you to stop and take a minute on that day to remember those who gave their lives and how the world changed.

In this August E-Letter, we present information about Mental Fatigue, our Ask the Doc question relates to stress headaches, and our email of the month is about Two Glasses of Wine. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

Hoarding: We invite you to visit Denise Champagne’s blog about her experiences working with JZ, a hoarder. Her thoughts and pictures of JZ’s home are posted on the following site: http://a-hoarders-journey.blogspot.com. We think you will find it very interesting and you can post your thoughts and comments directly to Denise.

Our first education based program is almost complete. We have received state certification and are in the process of tying up a few loose ends. We will announce this program in the next E-Letter so stay tuned.

As children return to school, some parents have contacted us about whether their child is placed in the proper class. These questions range from whether their child is gifted or whether they have some learning problems that can be helped through educational interventions. A psychoeducational evaluation will determine a child’s learning profile and whether they have any learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, or other problems that may interfere with academic performance. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about your child’s functioning in school and whether they are performing at their potential. You can call us at 954 755-2885 or send us an email.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on mental fatigue which is a state of mental exhaustion often referred to as burnout. It is the result of excessive stress brought on by constant worry, trying to meet too many demands, fear of what could happen financially, politically, and socially, and just plain overwork. It is a feeling of being tired all the time although it is not about sleepiness. People with mental fatigue feel depleted, tired, and weak. Their self esteem is low and they believe that what they do may not have any impact. They worry about meeting demands and often do not take care of themselves. They may eat too much, especially the wrong foods, drink too much, including coffee, and abuse alcohol and drugs. Many believe that the demands of the workplace to do more for less lead to pessimism and they often feel angry in response. Mentally fatigued people often neglect their health, procrastinate, and have great difficulty sleeping. They have little motivation to complete tasks, have difficulty concentrating and paying attention, make more mistakes, and may become forgetful. They have very little fun and become dependent on medications and often food to cope with their exhaustion. Left unchecked, it can lead to serious medical problems including depression and anxiety.

The solution to dealing with mental fatigue is preventative self care. The first step is to look at one’s life and determine if you are mentally fatigued and not just tired. It is important to get routine wellness exams and assess for any medical problems like apnea, hypothyroidism, or a vitamin deficiency that maybe causing your feelings. Consider taking a multivitamin supplement and drink lots of water during the day to stay hydrated. Eat a nutritional diet that does not include excess caffeine, sugar, or junk food. Exercise to increase oxygen in your bloodstream. Get adequate sleep in order to rest and recharge. Consider meditation and yoga to attain calmness and relaxation. Talk to family and friends about your thoughts and feelings but don’t become a complainer. Reduce the amount of news you watch and limit your television consumption. Finally, seek professional help with a therapist to overcome stress, depression and these feelings of exhaustion.

We offer the following information on Mental Fatigue:

“I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink, I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink. I wonder, should I get up and fix myself a drink? No no no.”— The Beatles 1968

What to Know!

  • Mental fatigue is caused by continual mental exertion, constant maintaining attention, and high levels of stress
  • Words people often use to describe mental fatigue include lethargy, tiredness, having no energy, feeling worn out or burned out, being exhausted, and feeling run down
  • Fatigue is a symptom, not an illness, that affects the mind and also the body
  • Fatigue can manifest physically in headaches, aching muscles or joints, muscle weakness, obesity, and slowed reflexes
  • When fatigued, people are forgetful, make more mistakes, and concentration is poor
  • People with fatigue are tired and lethargic all the time and seem to have no energy
  • Symptoms of fatigue include constant tiredness, lack of energy, wanting to sleep, poor judgment, depression, little motivation, little joy, difficulty remembering, poor attention
  • People who are mentally fatigued often have low self esteem as they feel defeated, don’t have the energy to achieve, and often feel inadequate to the task
  • Work productivity often suffers since people tend to procrastinate as tasks and responsibilities are delayed or avoided
  • Fatigue is not drowsiness and not a lack of sleep but exhaustion; both fatigue and tiredness can occur at the same time
  • Usual causes of fatigue include: not enough sleep including insomnia, stress and too much anxiety, very poor diets, not getting the proper vitamins, little or no exercise
  • Another major cause of mental fatigue includes a very stressful work environment consisting of constant pressure, long hours, little appreciation, and excessive demands
  • Some medical causes of mental fatigue include anemia, apnea, diabetes, fibromyalgia, dehydration, eating disorders, depression, abuse of alcohol and drugs, hypothyroidism
  • Mental fatigue can adversely impact the immune system as research has shown that people who are mentally exhausted become sick more often
  • Fatigue can also be a common side effect of medications for anxiety and depression
  • People often cope with mental fatigue by ingesting excessive food, alcohol, and drugs
  • Homeopathic remedies and herbs and minerals are often used to reduce fatigue as they may enhance immune functioning, provide energy, and increase endurance

What to Do!

  • Evaluate your lifestyle to determine whether you are overstressed
  • See your physician for wellness checkups and tests for vitamin and thyroid deficiencies
  • Consider and ask you doctor whether you should take multivitamin supplements
  • Keep hydrated and drink water during the day to replenish body and brain cells
  • Exercise to increase oxygen levels in the bloodstream
  • Have a healthy, nutritional diet that does not include sugar and junk food
  • Reduce and keep stress levels low and find time to relax
  • Stop smoking, limit your alcohol intake, do not use/abuse drugs
  • Consider meditation, yoga, or relaxation exercises daily
  • Talk to friends and family to relieve stress but do not complain
  • Seek professional help if you feel you cannot overcome your mental fatigue

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

BR writes: I have been having a lot of headaches recently. I went to my doctor who examined me and gave me some tests. He said everything was normal and that the headaches were due to stress. He said I should just relax and he gave me some painkillers. Can you explain how stress can cause headaches and what else I can do? Thanks.

Dr. Jim Kaikobad replies: When we feel overwhelmed by challenging events, people, and circumstances we become stressed. Often, our reaction to stress is a series of complex mind-body and biochemical changes that our bodies experience in the face of real or perceived threats to our security. Currently, it may be things like the economic downturn, potential unemployment, marital stress, parenting conflicts, financial burdens, political collapse, etc. Such stressors trigger the fight or flight syndrome by releasing stress hormones (e.g. cortisol and adrenaline) into our blood stream. These hormones rapidly prepare our bodies for protection or avoidance of the stressors by elevations in heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, muscle tension, blood circulation and other changes affecting different organs. If there is unresolved prolonged exposure to the stressors, eventually, our bodies become exhausted and manifest symptoms in our most vulnerable areas. For some it may be frequent headaches, like in your case. For others, it may be low back pain or heartburn. Still for others, it could be depression, anxiety, or panic attacks.

In our society, we are conditioned to find a pill or surgical procedure for every imaginable problem. However, such interventions don’t always address the causes of our symptoms and pain medications will not correct the causes of your stress. Your doctor made the correct diagnosis about your headaches and I agree that you need to learn how to effectively relax. It is my recommendation that you consult a psychologist with a background in mind-body medicine who can teach you cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation training, breathing/meditative/visualization techniques, and stress management skills. Constant support, encouragement, and some coaching will enable you to take better care of yourself and improve the physical and psychological quality of your life.

If you would like to discuss this further, you are welcome to call me at (954) 755-2885.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Al H. for sending us the following email:

Two Glasses of Wine

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of wine.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. Now, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

If you put the sand into the jar first, he continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.’

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical check-ups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. Do one more run down the ski slope. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented.

The professor smiled. ‘I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend.’

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till September…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

If you no longer wish to receive future e-Letter reminders, please send an email to drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com requesting to be removed from this list.

If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this e-Letter to your contacts and friends.

Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.