Why We Are Such an Exhausted Population: Fatigue and What to Do About It

worker fatigue; sleep issues; exhaustion; employee wellbeing; burnout, stress managment
4 min read

The Reasons Behind Fatigue and What You Should Do About It

If you feel like your energy is zapped all the time lately, you are not alone. A recent survey showed that nearly one-third of American adults feel more tired than ever and blame added stress over the past two years from the pandemic, inflation and more.

The reasons behind increased tiredness in our nation are varied, but here are some of the top areas to consider:

  • Chronic stress
  • Burnout
  • Interrupted or poor sleep schedules
  • Too much negative news
  • Depression and anxiousness
  • Poor lifestyle habits (poor diet and lack of exercise)

Fatigue is an impairment. It can impair your attention, focus, memory, impulse control and more.

You simply don’t perform or react as quickly as you would if you were rested. Being tired can be compared to being intoxicated. Losing just 2 hours of sleep can make a person perform similarly to someone who drinks 3 beers. The more tired you are the greater the risk of accidents and injury.
How widespread is this fatigue issue? For the average working American, fatigue and burnout are not new issues. Perhaps they have been more exposed and exasperated by recent world events, but past research indicates the American workforce were at risk before the pandemic. One 2017 survey by the National Safety Council, examined 2,000 workers and their experience with fatigue. The survey also included over 500 HR decision makers. Here are some of the alarming findings:  
The Employee Survey looked at nine risks factors of fatigue and showed the following outcomes: 
  • 97% reported at least one risk factor for fatigue
  • 80% had more than one risk factor.
  • The highest factor was demanding jobs
  • 43% reported sleep loss or not getting enough sleep:
    • Almost 1/2 of our workforce are not getting enough sleep
    • 97% reported decreased cognitive performance
    • 47% reported microsleeps- nodding off during work or driving
    • 16% reported at least one safety incident
The Employer Survey showed the following outcomes: 
  • 90% reported being negatively impacted by fatigue
  • 57% report increased absenteeism due to fatigue
In summary, we have an already exhausted workforce who are now even more exhausted due to the added stress of the pandemic and other world events over the last two years. Overcoming this must begin with understanding and accepting it first.

Where to begin if you are experiencing chronic fatigue:

No one plans to or wants to go through their day feeling unproductive and unfocused. Give yourself some grace and take small steps and goals to overcome this. Here are seven habits you can begin putting more focus on to gradually combat this cycle of exhaustion:
  1. Address your sleep quality and schedule. Establish a routine and nighttime ritual. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Try to incorporate a winding down routine one hour before bedtime. Disconnect and be sure you create a good sleep environment. Talk to your doctor if you think you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or insomnia.
  2. Address your digital habits. Too much screen time can have a direct impact on your energy, mental health, and your sleep quality. You must establish healthy boundaries around how much you are digitally consuming on daily basis if you want to combat fatigue.
  3. Get in the sunlight. Try to get outdoors and get at least a few minutes of sunshine each day. This helps to reset your body’s internal clock and circadian rhythms.
  4. Manage your stress. Stress is a prime energy zapper. An empty mind equals a happy head. Learn to let go, journal, focus on gratitude and smile more.
  5. Breathwork and mindfulness. Practicing regular deep breathing multiple times throughout your day can increase energy and mental focus. This is simple and available to you at any time of the day.
  6. Strive for a healthy diet and regular exercise. This can be a tough goal to focus on if you are already exhausted, but you must gradually improve if you want long-term good health and energy. Small changes and baby steps are the key to lasting habit change.
  7. Talk to your doctor or seek support. A physical illness or mental health issue can be a cause of fatigue and poor sleep. If you suspect there is an underlying cause, addressing these more serious conditions should be the first step you take. 
History is happening right now and despite all our cultural and societal challenges, it is a wonderful time to be alive. We are facing real challenges and there are not easy solutions. It is a crucial time to develop coping skills and create healthier habits and routines for you, your loved ones, and your teams. Build resilience by exercising more, talking about your fears and stresses and building in more time to disconnect and recharge.

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