Managing fatigue

Is your workload exhausting you? When running your own business, it’s easy to find yourself working long hours or burning the candle at both ends.

Perhaps you’re taking your work home with you, or worrying about work outside of work hours. If the strain of running your own business is wearing you down, physically or mentally, you might start feeling the effects of fatigue.

I think with small businesses, this is one downside that you’re a part of everything, you are responsible for everything and it’s really hard to switch off.

Emma, Education and training

Fatigue is more than just tiredness. Physically you might be feeling heavy or lethargic, as if you can’t muster the energy to do the things you need to do. Mentally, you might feel like you are simply unable or unwilling to focus.

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, fatigue “refers to physical and mental symptoms such as slower reaction times, poor mood, inattention and trouble focusing”. These symptoms can reduce your ability to work safely and effectively and can lead to more serious mental and physical health issues.

The good news is there are ways to recognise and treat fatigue that go far beyond just trying to get more sleep, or supplementing with caffeine or sugar (both of which are unhelpful in the long term).

Reducing fatigue: Good for you and good for business

Research shows that fatigue can impair a person’s abilities in a similar way to alcohol , and the effects of fatigue can increase risk of further health problems such as heart disease and strokes.

When you reduce fatigue, you are likely to:

  • have sharper memory and clearer thinking
  • make fewer poor decisions, act with less risk and make less mistakes
  • have improved eyesight and better reaction times, meaning you are less likely to injure yourself.

What can you do to prevent or treat fatigue?

Fighting fatigue starts with thinking about what work and lifestyle factors may be impacting on your energy levels. Try some of the following tips to decrease your risk.

  • Keep routines for work, play and rest: Where possible, try to keep your work and non-work hours separate. It’s easy to start feeling like you need to be responsive to work clients or associates 24 hours a day. Remember that you are in control of how you spend your time outside of work.
  • Eat smaller amounts more frequently: Choose foods that release energy slowly and avoid skipping meals, or having large meals.
  • Check your weight: By carrying excess weight can exhaust your body and put strain on your organs, which might be making you tired.
  • Drink more water: Focus on having between 2-3 litres per day (depending on your body requirements) and reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Don’t forget to exercise: An active body stimulates a naturally deeper sleep.
  • Take a break: If the costs to your health are outweighing the benefits to your business, consider whether you can take some time out to recharge your batteries.
  • Get professional help: Talk therapies (talking to someone who is trained to help you manage negative feelings) can be useful in treating fatigue. You can talk to a counsellor or psychologist by getting a referral from your GP.

Further information and links

Switching off: Is anyone else awake at 3am?

A personal story from a small business owner on sleepless nights and tips on how to calm down those nocturnal thoughts.

flyingsolo.com.au/live-smarter/health-and-wellbeing/switching-off-is-anyone-else-awake-at-3am

ReachOut Worrytime App

A mobile app to help control everyday stress and anxiety by giving you a place to store your worries, and alerting you when it’s time to think about them.

au.reachout.com/tools-and-apps/reachout-worrytime

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