There’s tired, and then there’s overtired.
For the purposes of this blog post, when I say “overtired,” I’m referring to a chronic level of exhaustion that teeters on the edge of burnout.
Here are some signs that you may be overtired and some initial tips for how to care for yourself.
“I’m too tired to get out of bed”
We all know the feeling of wanting to sleep in a little longer and hitting the snooze button a couple of times. Usually we’re still able to get ourselves out of bed in a reasonable amount of time to get ready and show up to work or drop our kids off at school.
When that feeling lingers long enough that it disrupts your day, despite all efforts of your will to never sleep through the morning meeting at work again, it’s a sign that you may be overtired.
When you’re sending your children to school in their pajamas with a bag of potato chips for lunch because you slept too late to get them ready in time, it’s a sign that you may be overtired.
I’m not talking about when you sleep in too late to catch your morning workout before the rest of your day starts. I’m talking about when you’re too tired to even get to the rest of your day in time.
If this sounds at all similar to your mornings, you may be overtired. Your body is telling you to get more rest. A lot more rest.
“I don’t want to be here right now”
If on a daily basis you find it hard to focus or be mentally present during your daily tasks – whether it be work, school, or caring for your kids – it may be a sign that you’re overtired.
I’m not talking about zoning out during the mandatory work meeting that you don’t see the point of attending. I’m talking about zoning out in the middle of tasks that are at the core of what you most value about your day-to-day life – especially if they are tasks that you once had little difficulty focusing on.
This is also true for daily tasks you once found enjoyable but are no longer able to find joy in.
Filling your schedule with lower-priority tasks
If you notice that instead of doing the most important tasks for the day you end up focusing on lower priority items as a primary coping strategy to get through the day-to-day, this may be a sign that you’re overtired.
I’m not talking about when you put off laundry by a day and end up sending your child to school wearing something of slightly questionable odor for the day. I’m talking about when you can’t bring yourself to do laundry despite having ample time to do so for days on end, and instead you find yourself busy keeping up with your favorite TV show, app, or social media.
I’m not talking about when you put off your paper due in two weeks and instead hang out with your friends for an evening. I’m talking about when your paper is due tomorrow and you’re cleaning your kitchen instead of starting to work on your paper when you’ve known about it for the past two weeks.
You have to stay up late in order to wind down
When we’re overtired, we override our normal internal clock mechanisms that tell us when it’s time to rest or sleep, and force ourselves to push through on adrenaline. When we do this on a chronic scale, our bodies often don’t know how to “shut down” the adrenaline and we find ourselves staying up late at night when we’re in desperate need of rest.
I’m not talking about when you stay up late on a Friday night talking with friends until you start nodding off. I’m talking about when you have to stay up late every night before you can get ready to fall asleep because you feel wide awake even though you know your body is tired.
How to be less exhausted
If you’re seeing some combination of the above four signs manifesting in your life, I strongly urge you to take an inventory of how you’re living your life. Is there anything in your schedule that you’re doing to please someone else or that doesn’t align with your core values? If you can recall a season of life when you felt well rested, what was different about that time? Can you incorporate anything that’s helped you feel rested in the past? Is there anything in your schedule that’s creating more stress than is worth the time you’re giving it? Invite some creative thinking into your process.
I’d like to note here that it’s normal for some seasons of life to be incredibly tiring to the point of exhaustion: raising a newborn; walking with a loved one through a major illness; experiencing significant disruption in life like moving, changing jobs, or starting school; and journeying through grief. There are times that we may need to ask for help from others when being overtired is inevitable. I encourage you to ask trusted loved ones or mentors for help in any of these scenarios.
I went over some of these same tips in my video on “How to Avoid Burnout.”
As a final disclaimer, I’d like to be clear that this blog post isn’t intended as professional counseling or clinical advice. If you’re in need of support, please consider speaking to a professional to be evaluated. Feel free to read my blog on when to seek counseling to learn more.