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Mental Health

Mentally Exhausted? 3 Experts Offer Their Best Tips for Overcoming It

With everything we have on our plates, it’s no surprise more than half of American women suffer from mental exhaustion. And that kind of exhaustion can be just as debilitating, if not more so, as physical exhaustion — especially if you don’t know the direct cause. To help ease your symptoms, we reached out to a few specialists to get their take. Here, experts share energizing strategies as easy as they are fun.

Tap your inner child.

“Instead of trying to turn off the draining, racing thoughts of the ‘monkey mind,’ gently change the channel,” says psychiatrist Judith Orloff, MD. “The more we shift toward joy, the quieter these thoughts become.” To do just that and eliminate mental exhaustion, Dr. Orloff encourages doing what stirs your heart. “It could be anything from playing with your dog to going for a walk without a destination. When you invite your inner child to come out and play, you’ll be surprised where she leads you.”

Rediscover joy.

Tapping your playful side boosts energy by sparking revitalizing creativity. “It just means injecting more whimsy into the mundane,” says Pat Rumbaugh, co-founder of Let’s Play America. “When I’m doing laundry, for example, I’ll often roll up a T-shirt and ‘shoot’ it into the washing machine like a basket. Or when I’m at the park with my daughter and nine-month-old grandson, my daughter and I will sometimes hop on the swings too! Just ask yourself how you can do things a little differently to awaken more joy every day.”

Spark curiosity.

An overlooked cause of mental fatigue is loneliness, reveals Dr. Orloff. “It’s exhausting because it threatens our sense of security.” To spark an energizing feeling of belonging, engage your curiosity, the intellectual side of “play.” When we learn, we become less inwardly focused, thwarting the draining effects of isolation. “I know a 90-year-old woman who took free college courses online to feel more connected, and she loved every minute of it. Exploring our interests gives us a mental and emotional boost.”

Soak up the small moments.

“I call nature the greatest reset of all,” declares Christine Hammond, a leading mental health influencer, author, and guest speaker. “And I give clients ‘prescriptions’ to gaze up at trees because ‘awe’ expands our scope of vision.” No need to go “big” to feel transported: “Small moments, like looking at a photo of your family on your desk, can be just as awe-inspiring — when we’re no longer narrowly focused on todo’s, our energy returns,” she adds.

Reboot with 20-20-20.

Simply put, electronics brew mental exhaustion. “Being interrupted by messages puts our brain on ‘high alert,’ decreasing our attention span,” says Hammond. While ditching our devices isn’t an option, looking away from them is. “I borrowed this idea from my eye doctor, because it has very real psychological benefits: Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. When you’re not hyper-focused on your screen, your body chemistry changes, allowing your brain to relax.”

Soothe decision fatigue.

The stealthiest of all “energy vampires” are the decisions we make every day. “Our brain wasn’t designed to make that many choices, and it’s draining,” says Hammond. To boost your mental energy, she urges making “autopilot routines,” like only returning calls at a certain time of day or creating a relaxing bedtime ritual, so you don’t have to think about it. “Give yourself permission to find rituals that soothe your brain and body,” she says.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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