Overcome mental fatigue (burnout) and boost your brain power with these easy practices

In a world of change that never stops, where the demands of everyday life can drain your creativity and leave you mentally fatigued. Creative people in particular are prone to burnout. How do you know if you have mental fatigue, besides the obvious.

Here are eight symptoms of mental fatigue

  1. Creative Burnout: This is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion around creative work. The symptoms of creative burnout can include constant exhaustion, inexplicable stress, morning dread, harmful habits, irritability, self-doubt and struggling to do basic work, among other symptoms.
  2. Sleep Deprivation: Inadequate or poor-quality sleep is likely the most significant contributor to mental fatigue. Sleep is essential for cognitive functioning and overall well-being.
  3. Memory Problems: You may experience forgetfulness and difficulty recalling details or information that you would normally remember easily.
  4. Slower Cognitive Processing: Your thought processes may become slower, making it harder to think, analyze, or respond quickly to situations.
  5. Increased Irritability: You may find yourself becoming more easily annoyed, impatient, or irritable, even in response to minor stressors.
  6. Physical Symptoms: Mental fatigue can manifest as physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, and a sense of heaviness in the head or body.
  7. Emotional Changes: You might have mood swings, increased emotional sensitivity, or heightened emotional reactions to situations that typically wouldn’t affect you as strongly.
  8. Procrastination. If procrastination lasts longer than a few days, it could be a sign of burnout, but it could also be a sign of fear.

If you are suffering from mental fatigue or burnout, there’s hope. Science has discovered that your brain is far more adaptable than once believed. You have the power to rewire your mind, unlocking hidden potential. You can enhance your creative energy through a holistic approach that cares for your body, mind, and spirit. (Please note that if you have severe symptoms please see a healthcare professional.)

1. Prioritize Relaxation and Good Health:

Creative thinking thrives in a relaxed and healthy environment. To keep your body and mind operating at their best, consider the following:

2. Be Sure to Exercise:

Exercise isn’t just about keeping fit; it’s a powerhouse for your brain. Here’s why:

  • It provides essential nutrients to your brain in the form of glucose.
  • Exercise also spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the connections between brain cells (synapses).
  • Exercise boosts oxygen in your bloodstream, fueling your brain.
  • Post-workout endorphins give you that euphoric feeling.
  • The rhythmic motion of activities like running, walking, or swimming can quiet your mind, paving the way for imagination.
  • It improves your executive skills, including planning and focusing.

3. Overcome Mental Fatigue with Yoga Breathing:

Yoga breathing is an excellent way to develop a practice of mindfulness, by staying present in the moment and paying attention to your breathing. Anytime you drift off into thought tell your mind to focus on your breathing. There are many types of yogic breathing, and Alternate Nostril Breathing is a great practice. I have been using this breath as part of my morning meditation for over 30 years.

Deep breathing and alternate-nostril breathing slow your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure. With regular practice, alternate-nostril breathing can bring better balance to your nervous system and have a positive effect on mental health by reducing stress and anxiety.

Alternate Nostril Breathing instructions

  1. Gently exhale all air. Close the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand and inhale slowly and deeply through the left nostril.
  2. Close the left nostril with the ring finger, releasing the thumb, and exhale through the right.
  3. Inhale through the right nostril, then close it with the thumb and exhale through the left. This makes one round.
  4. Begin with 10 rounds and gradually increase to 40. Imagine a brilliant clear light in the middle of your head as you do this. This exercise purifies the mind and calms the emotions.

4. Aromatherapy:

Aromatherapy can help relieve pain, improve mood, and promote a sense of relaxation. A few drops of essential oils can relax and refresh you. Some scents to consider are:

  • Lavender, rose, orange, bergamot, lemon, and sandalwood reduces stress and anxiety, promoting relaxation.
  • Rosemary: Enhances memory and concentration, increasing alertness.
  • Peppermint: Improves focus and energy, stimulating creativity.
  • Lemon: Boosts mood and motivation while cleansing the air.

Warning: Don’t use aroma therapy at work if you share office space. Some oils can cause allergic reactions, and some can pose a danger to pregnant women. Do not expose your skin to sunlight if you have applied bergamot and other citrus oils.

5. Feed Your Brain with Herbs, Vitamins, and Minerals:

Support your brain’s health and creativity with:

  • Gingko biloba and gotu kola to increase blood flow.
  • Boron, found in nuts, beans, fruits, and vegetables, is essential for cognitive performance.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil or foods like salmon and walnuts, reduce inflammation and enhance neural communication.
  • Magnesium, found in dark chocolate, spinach, pumpkin seeds, and almonds, to reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and prevent migraines.

Read what Dr Amen has to say about diet, nutrition and optimizing brain function

6. Build healthy habits

  • Stay organized to declutter both your physical and mental space. Clutter is stress-inducing.
  • Prioritize tasks by making a to-do list before bed to plan your work effectively.
  • Batch similar tasks together to save mental energy.
  • Reevaluate your energy expenditure; focus on what truly matters.
  • Learn to tackle rumination and avoidance head-on instead of escaping from your problems.
  • Relax with techniques like meditation and mindfulness to de-stress.


How to Treat and Prevent Mental Exhaustion by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst and Crystal Raypole. Healthline.com March 21, 2023

Mental health resources from Berkeley Extension 

Further reading

Want to learn more tools and techniques?
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