How To Deal With Fatigue Of The Mind

Fatigue makes cowards of us all

Erik Brown
Dec 3 · 6 min read

There’s a part in all of us that wants to be a hero. You want to put on your best face as you take on a challenge. We’re told to take on the world “head-on”. Obviously, it’s much easier said than done.

It’s easy to be this hero when you have the energy to do it. However, challenges often present themselves to you when you’re in a miserable state. They generally hide from you when you’re well-rested and on top of the world.

They’re smart and devious. Challenges appear when you’re worn down. They wait till their friends kick at you and poke at you for a while. They appear when you’ve had enough and you don’t want anymore.

The thing that makes a hero a hero and a champion is a champion accomplishing things when they’re not up to it. It’s easy to fight when you’re well-rested, but it’s a whole other thing when you’re exhausted.

Exhaustion Getting The Best Of You

“I was slow. That’s the best way to put it. I saw punches and kicks coming at me and my brain recognized them. It would tell me to block and move, but my body just couldn’t respond. I functioned like a punching bag with arms and legs that day.”

The description above is an explanation of an ass-kicking I took sparring in a martial arts class. We’d gone a number of rounds switching between opponents. The mixture of breathing with a mouthpiece and going hard had sapped me.

I found myself doing things that we are advised not to do. Instead of side-stepping attacks, I found myself moving backward. Once you do this, you get steam-rolled and can’t recover.

People who I handled easily previously now were mowing me down.

Instantly I turned from the sender to receiver. That inner warrior just checked out.


Because I was tired.

USPS issued a stamp honoring Vince Lombardi in 1997 — US Postal Service [Public Domain]

We’re well aware of the effects fatigue can have on performance physically. Any athletic coach can tell you that. It’s rumored the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said:

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

But, this fatigue also extends to your mind. Your will and mind can become tired when you’re besieged with problems and challenges. Just like I mentioned before, they don’t wait till you’re rested and ready.

This mental fatigue will turn you into a coward just as quickly as physical fatigue will. Being mentally tired will press you to quit as quick or quicker than physical stress.

This mental fatigue can also be caused by endless repetition. Having a job, schedule, or normal life often requires this. There will be things needed to be done on a schedule and repeatedly.

That boring repetition can wear you down just like that continued physical exertion.

Mental Fatigue

Sisyphus By Titian 1548–1549 Via Wikipedia Creative Commons

Ryan Fan penned an excellent article about finding purpose. It also applies well to dealing with mental fatigue. In the article, he talks about the Greek figure Sisyphus. This poor guy happened to anger the gods and found himself punished for eternity.

If you’re not familiar with Sisyphus, his punishment was to push a rock up a hill forever — only for it fall back and have to be pushed upwards again. Ryan writes:

“Although Sisyphus is a mythological figure, we can use his punishment to reflect on ourselves. Do we not also get ourselves to push a rock up a mountain every day and endure strenuous tasks for only a brief moment of relief and reward? No matter our reward and accomplishments, we have to go back at it. Push another rock up a mountain. It’s a never ending cycle.”

Often we’re part of this never-ending cycle as well. You just can’t stop the world from spinning. No matter how worn down you are, there are things that must be done. Troubles with their associated challenges continue to poke at you.

Unlike my sparring class, life doesn’t conveniently end when the session is over. Mental sparring must continue. But, how does one deal with this accumulation of fatigue in your mind?

Dealing With Mental Fatigue

How you visualize things is how they will be. It sounds stupid, but if you see everything around you as pointless, it will be pointless. That’s just not a saying you’ll find in a fortune cookie. It’s been proven scientifically.

According to an article in Psychology Today by AJ Adams:

“Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization. It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow …”

Philosophy also describes the benefits of how you visualize your world.

The ancient Roman stoics had a concept which they called Amor Fatilove of fate. By this practice not only do you accept the life you’ve been dealt with, but love it. Sounds difficult, huh?

It may be difficult, but it’s very possible. There happens to be a living example of this practice in our own time.

Nick Vujicic speaking at a school in Florida — Picture By Copeland.Powell on Wikipedia Creative Commons

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms and legs. You may have seen pictures or videos of him. He’s just a torso with a little foot at the bottom of his body. When he was 8 years old he told his mom he wanted to kill himself and when he was 10 he tried unsuccessfully. He would say this in an interview:

“When I was 13 I read a newspaper article about a disabled man who had managed to achieve great things and help others. I realized why God had made us like this — to give hope to others. It was so inspirational to me that I decided to use my life to encourage other people and give them the courage that the article had given me. I decided to be thankful for what I do have, not get angry about what I don’t. I looked at myself in the mirror and said: ‘You know what the world is right that I have no arms or legs, but they’ll never take away the beauty of my eyes.’ I wanted to concentrate on something good that I had.”

Today he’s a motivational speaker who’s speaking to crowds of thousands. He also has tried skydiving, likes to surf, swims, and has traveled to 50 countries. He found a way to love the hand of fate he was dealt with in life.

Nick actually found purpose in the things around him that caused the mental fatigue. He changed the way he visualized the challenges around him. He learned to love his fate.

Science and stoicism show one can deal with mental fatigue by changing their view of it.

Mental Fatigue Doesn’t Have To Make A Coward Of Us All

Fatigue may wear you down, whether it be physical or mental — it’s only natural. But, you don’t have to be done in by the never-ending supply of mental fatigue. You don’t have to fall apart.

A change in the way you visualize the endless mental fatigue can do you a world of good. It’s been proven by science and philosophy.

You may have endless challenges in your life that make you want to quit. But, you can’t have the troubles that Nick Vujicic encounters every day — both mentally and physically.

As Ryan Fan says in the previously mentioned article:

“But pressing forward, I aspire to live a little more like Sisyphus…Who most likely saw pushing the rock up the mountain not as punishment, but as a reward. He had a different rock with a different shape and texture each time, pushed it a different way each time, and had a different sensation of happiness when he reached the top of the mountain each time.”

Our mental fatigue isn’t fated to turn us into cowards. We don’t have to retreat backward from life. We can visualize the monotonous challenges as different each time we encounter them.

We can also learn to love our fate.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read, please share.

Live Your Life On Purpose

Get Purpose. Get Perspective. Get Passion.

Erik Brown

Written by

Work out fanatic, martial artist, student, MBA, and connoisseur of useless information.

Live Your Life On Purpose

Get Purpose. Get Perspective. Get Passion.

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