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What Are Some Ways to Function While Tired?

Have you ever read Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut? Or seen the 1995 movie, starring a fresh-faced Sean Astin?

Vonnegut’s short story describes a society where everyone’s forced to be average in every way. Ballerinas aren’t allowed to be exceptionally graceful, so they have sash weights tied to their costumes when they dance.

Exhaustion is like an invisible weight that holds you down. You just can’t reach the maximum of your cognitive and physical capabilities when you’re tired.

So what happens when you have to finish a task knowing you can’t give it your all? Too many of us have to deal with working through exhaustion. If you do it too often, working while exhausted can cause major problems at work or at school.

But talking about it will help, so here are some things you should consider about exhaustion and performance.

What Does Tiredness Do to You?

Feeling tired is a subjective experience, but the consequences are impossible to deny.

  • Tiredness reduces your reaction time. This is a huge part of why exhausted drivers cause thousands and thousands of traffic accidents every year. [1]
  • It impairs your ability to concentrate. You become less alert, and your perception of time can be altered as well.
  • Being tired also has a negative impact on your short-term memory.
  • It affects your mood, making you more irritable. Many people become impatient or overly excitable when they’re tired, while others feel apathetic.

There’s another thing you’ve got to take into account. Knowing that you’re too tired to achieve your best performance levels can really mess with your motivation. After all, what’s the point of starting something if you can’t do it as well as possible?

You also shouldn’t forget about the physical side of things. Tiredness affects your nervous system, and you may feel shaky or dizzy. Stinging eyes and headaches are common as well.

So How Do You Deal With It?

Obviously, the best thing to do is to skip work when you’re tired. If you’ve got the chance to put it off for another day, do so. But unfortunately, that’s not always possible.

Maybe you’ve got deadlines closing in, or you had to cut back on sleep because of an unexpected pile-up of work. Maybe you’re a parent and your kids don’t let you sleep through the night yet. You might have some medical issue keeping you exhausted all the time. Plus, time management slip-ups can happen to anybody.

Whatever your reasons for being exhausted, there are a few ways you can make work easier for yourself.

  • A Cold Shower

You can make yourself more alert if you take a cold shower. This improves your circulation, so your brain will have more oxygen to work with.

Experts say that cold showers increase your endorphins [2] too. You certainly need them! The number of impulses in your brain grows when you shower in cold water, which will make your thoughts quicker.

Hot showers? Nope. You want to avoid anything that relaxes your muscles too much. But after you’re done with your task, grabbing a hot shower can be a great way to help yourself unwind before bed.

  • A Quick Snack

Your body is working overtime, so you’ve got to make sure it has enough fuel.

A huge meal will slow you down, so it’s best to keep snacking. Doctors say [3] that sugar is your friend when it comes to improving your memory. You should also consider carbs, which can improve your focus – a few spoons of peanut butter can be a good choice.

  • A Brain Booster

There’s a reason that nuts are a popular choice for all-nighters. They improve your focus, and they contain vitamins B6 and B12. Taking a multivitamin is a great approach too, just don’t overdo it.

What about coffee?

Caffeine can save you if you need to get something finished in spite of exhaustion. It sharpens your focus, and it also speeds up all of your mental and physical functions. But drinking cup after cup after cup will have a diuretic effect, so you may want to look into more practical alternatives.

  • Listen to Your Body and Take Frequent Breaks

In most cases, your body will send signals you should listen to. Trying to ignore it won’t make you more effective, you’ll just lose precious time zoning out and arguing with yourself. Your best bet is to set up a steady rhythm.

Many people like alternating twenty minutes of work with five minutes of rest. Others need twice as long of each. You should absolutely use a timer if you think it will help you keep going.

However, breaks can be tricky. You might be tempted to slip into bed, just for five minutes, and then ten minutes, and then the sun is up and you’re out of time. Another danger comes from checking your phone. Your judgment isn’t great when you’re tired, so it’s best to keep away from any tempting distractions.

Instead, you should go out and catch some fresh air, maybe do some extremely light exercises to shake yourself awake. Frequent stretching is another good idea. 

Why not try some meditation?

  • If Music Be the Food of Productivity, Play On

Your brain needs any boost it can possibly get. By stimulating your senses, you can improve its connectivity.

Small-scale aroma therapy is one way to do that. Take a moment to inhale a pleasant scent of your choosing. But be careful with scented candles! They can distract you or cloud your thoughts.

Music is even more effective. You should choose genres you like, and get an endorphin boost along with the pleasant auditory sensation. Headphones can be great, because they increase your immersion and cut down on any distractions.

But the moment music starts feeling like a source of irritation, turn it off and try working in silence.

  • Maybe You Need a Change in Perspective

What if you’re tired all the time? What if a good night’s sleep can’t help solve your problems?

You should definitely look into any underlying medical issues. You may have some physical or mental illness you don’t know about. You also can’t discount chronic fatigue.

But what if treatment for exhaustion isn’t an option for you at the moment? Or if you’ve chosen a lifestyle where you can’t avoid feeling tired very frequently?

You may need to accept your new circumstances and adapt to them. Even if being tired is your baseline right now, you can get a lot of important work done, and you shouldn’t give up on testing and improving yourself.

Ten Lessons People Most Often Learn Too Late in Life


Hi! We’re Team Neuro, aficionados of all things brain-related, from creativity to working out. With backgrounds in art, science, and athletics, we love delving into all the potentials of the human body.


We also created the world's first sugar-free nootropic caffeine gum that utilizes the effects of caffeine and L-theanine, made to help you optimize your mind — anywhere, anytime. Find out more here.


[1] https://www.rospa.com/road-safety/advice/drivers/fatigue/road-accidents/

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-shower-benefits

[3] https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/healthy-foods-eat-brain-power#2

 

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