I was talking with one of our team members the other day and they couldn’t stop yawning. Wow, am I getting that boring? Surely not, although I guess I wasn’t being particularly riveting either. They were just tired.

It seems to be something that happens a lot … and not just when I am the one talking … although, a friend who helps me with my Hindi homework also tends to yawn a lot which he says is because it reminds him of school, so I think I am okay there.

Craig, the brown and white Staffordshire dog, sits on the lawn, looking towards the camera with his tongue out.

There are different types of tired and different things that cause it.

There are of course different types of tired and different things that cause it. I have recently become a grandmother for the fourth time (that is actually a weird way to put it as since the first time, I have stayed a grandmother, but anyway …). Having a baby (and kids in general) brings a special sort of fatigue stress – there are times when you wonder whether you will ever have a full night’s sleep again.

‘He was up every hour.’

‘When she was asleep her big sister woke up.’

‘Why do kids sleep sideways?’

‘Another nappy change? Seriously?’

‘Oh yay! Another load of washing.’

‘Do you really need every toy out?’

‘One day at day care … two weeks of colds …’

‘So this is my life for how long now?’

Even when kids do sleep through and are gorgeously well behaved and healthy, there is the fatigue-causing stress that the responsibility of parenthood can bring.

Then there is the work stress – too many hours, too much responsibility, not enough support – health workers around the world are dealing with this at the moment. Putting in double shifts, struggling to leave work at work, worried about how they are going to cope for the next shift – will there be enough staff?

Sometimes, it’s pure physical exhaustion – pushing the body to the limit where it can’t go any further and just needs to stop. We see this at times with toddlers who keep going until they hit the wall and have a meltdown, or just fall asleep wherever they are.

A toddler, wearing a mid-blue top and daisy-print blue leggings, lays asleep on a small red brick fence, exhausted from playing.

Sometimes, it’s pure physical exhaustion …

Or mental exhaustion – juggling stress, overloading our minds, struggling to cope till our mental health starts to deteriorate and we can’t think straight. Even the smallest task can become overwhelming. Mental exhaustion can so easily become physical exhaustion too.

It can be a vicious circle … we become mentally tired, leading to being physically tired which impacts our mental health. We then become more mentally tired, which increases our physical exhaustion and so on.
You hear it often – when people are not travelling well mentally, they often say ‘All I want to do is sleep.’ Many know it would be better for them to get up and do something, break that cycle … but it can be really tough.

A sleepy leopard lays on a large tree branch, its legs dangling from the branch as it stares towards the camera.

‘All I want to do is sleep.’

When talking to crisis line callers about managing their depression, often the first thing they say is, ‘Please don’t tell me to go for a run’.

So what can we do? How do we break that cycle of fatigue, regardless of why it is happening?
Can we schedule some rest and exercise? It doesn’t have to be massive.

For some, it may be a 60 second rest on the floor with our legs up the wall – just to get some blood to our brain and organs. Or a walk around the block, the back yard, the room.

For others, it may be getting someone to take the kids overnight. Perhaps it is acknowledging that work is hard and demanding, and we are doing the best we can.

A woman stands on a foreshore - overlooking the sea at sunset, the sky gold and pink, filled with clouds.

Give yourself permission to take a break from whatever it is … to just breathe.’

It could be closing our eyes and letting our thoughts wash over us and away, just for a few minutes.
And definitely it is giving everyone, including ourselves, permission to take a break from whatever it is … kids, work, daily tasks, someone’s Hindi homework … to just breathe.

About the Author

Engel Prendergast, Mental Health Consultant, Mental Strides

Engel Prendergast is a Mental Health Consultant, working with organisations and groups to build a culture that supports good mental health.

Engel is an accredited Mental Health First Aid and safeTALK Instructor, and Lifeline Crisis Supporter and Mentor. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Health Promotion), Diploma of Counselling, and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

With natural compassion, a determination to help others and extensive experience in training and facilitation, Engel provides an environment that fosters learning and ownership.

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