You know that feeling. Work ends. You stand up, and immediately feel dazed. The journey home is a blur. You don’t remember what’s happening. You’re simply putting one feet after another. You wonder
Why am I so tired after work?
Whilst this article doesn’t aim to remove your tiredness, I hope it offers you a different conception of your tiredness, so that you’re able to look at it positively.
Tiredness is not always a bad thing
There are two types of tiredness. One is when you feel a sense that what you’re doing is pointless.
The other is when you feel fulfilled. But tired. Because your mental faculties have been exhausted throughout the day as you’ve engaged in meaningful work.
That’s a good thing.
The meaningless tiredness
The problem is thus with the first type of tiredness, where you feel like what you’re doing is mundane, meaningless, and maybe, somewhat soul-crushing. There doesn’t look like there’s a meaning to being so tired and spent, for something that you don’t even believe in.
That’s what this article aims to look at.
How do you get rid of that mind-numbing tiredness that comes when you know that the work you’ve engaged in is somewhat pointless?
Can you do that without changing your job? Because not all of us have the luxury of quitting our jobs, without another job lined up.
I think you can. Before we look at how though, there are certain myths we might need to explore.
Myth 1: Meaningful work will resolve this
We sometimes think that if we change our jobs, we will be less tired. We live with the ‘what-if’. What if I moved into a helping profession? Maybe I would find more meaning there.
You may not.
I speak from my personal experience within the helping profession. I used to think that helping others would build a deep sense of fulfilment. It can. But when you have certain unresolved issues within you, you may use the problems of others to mask your own need. Looking at the problems of others can distract you from your own tiredness, and prevent you from getting the help you need.
Furthermore, the tiredness you feel after work may be because of three things. The physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life.
Physically, you may be tired simply because you don’t have enough sleep.Whilst sleep seems like a small, and unimportant thing (remember the times when people said sleep is for the weak?), it’s actually the most important thing that evolution has given us.
If you think about it, wouldn’t it make sense to naturally select for humans that don’t sleep? But yet somehow, the course of history has shaped us to require 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each day. It has selected for humans who have that amount of sleep. Because we need rest to perform well.
And if you imagine your ancestors, hunting in the bushland, you can almost picture how ludicrous sleep would have seemed. You are surrounded by lions and predators that could destroy you. Why sleep?
Because, as Matthew Walker points out in ‘Why We Sleep‘, sleep makes us better performers.
And that’s why today, one of the reasons why you’re so tired after work… is because you’re not sleeping enough.
You may have some unresolved pain that’s causing you tiredness. If that’s so, speak to someone about it. Often, we may be tempted to brush off emotions because they seem so vague and iffy. After all, you can’t see them. Why bother so much about them?
But emotions have a place in your life. They are a reflection of what’s wrong and they may be gently prodding you to look at what’s going on.
Whatever your beliefs, spirituality is a belief in something larger than yourself.
Sometimes, you may feel a deep sense of unease because of how you feel disconnected to something larger than yourself. Finding that involves a willingness to disconnect from the world, and to dig deep, and look deeply within yourself.
When there’s so much noise around you, pings, notifications, emails, getting connected to what’s around you may seem difficult. But doing that can help you to fill the spiritual emptiness within you.
Here’s some ways that can help.
Reduce the fixation
There is some value in acknowledging that tiredness is a phase. It is not permanent.
Like waves, it can come and go. The problem becomes when we fixate ourselves excessively on it, and end up thinking that tiredness must go away for us to be happy.
It is a phase. We all have phases of our lives. The problem becomes when we fixate on the phase and think of it as something permanent, rather than something temporal.
Look at it this way. Think of your moods. There are days when you’re happy, and days when you’re sad. These emotions will pass. (If you find these sad days consistently appearing for weeks on end, you may need to see a professional.)
What can be helpful in reducing the fixation is to tell yourself – this too shall pass.
This too shall pass.
This mantra, often said in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, remind people that what comes, will also go. It is a useful mantra that reminds you of the hope that can come in time.
Remind yourself that tiredness is purposeful
Tiredness has a purpose.
It reminds us that the world doesn’t rest on your shoulders. Often when you are stressed out about something, it can be tempting to think that the buck stops at you. That you’re solely responsible for what will come.
You aren’t. Tiredness reminds you that you’re human, imperfect, and that you can’t do everything. Tiredness is a reminder perhaps, that you are doing too much and that you need to learn to hand off to others. We aren’t robots. We will tire. We need to eat. Sleep. And as Montaigne ‘playfully informed his readers in plain French,
Kings and philosophers shit and so do ladies.
(Thank you School of Life for pointing that out.)
The world doesn’t rest on your shoulders. That’s why you’re tired.
You can reach out for help.
Build something to look forward to
I used to blame others for my unhappiness. I would blame my loved ones for not taking an effort to connect with me. Or my friends for not doing more for me.
Then one day, I read Dr Glover’s ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’. In it he argues,
No one is put on this Earth to make you happy.
That statement changed my outlook towards others. By reducing the expectations towards others to make you happy, and taking personal responsibility to making yourself happy, you begin to realise the power you have within you to make yourself happy. You no longer hand off the power to someone else. Often, when we become angry at others for not taking the initiative to do something that will satisfy us, we give the power within ourselves to others. That leaves you feeling helpless.
Rather, when you start taking personal responsibility, you realise that no one owes you anything. You take your own personal responsibility to make yourself happy. You take your own personal power back.
Taking your own initiative to make yourself happy can start from taking the initiative to plan out your weekends. Rather than waiting for your friends to initiate a meeting, why not do that? Why not be the connector that people look to?
It’s not for others. It’s for yourself.
It’s going to be okay
It’s okay to be tired. It’s not wrong.
I want to close with this story. One morning, after a run, I heard this roadsweeper singing. He was perspiring under the hot sun, with beads of perspiration rolling down his face. He was dressed in a long sleeved shirt, with a fluorescent vest worn outside. Somehow, that struck me. No one was listening to his songs. But he hummed, and would occasionally burst out into song whenever he reached the chorus. He would wave delightfully to those around him.
And as I heard him, it occurred to me that he was clearly tired. After all, sweeping up all the leaves at his age, must be backbreaking task. And maybe it didn’t seem very meaningful. After all, more leaves would drop from the trees surrounding the road, and he would have to repeat his job all over again.
But he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he was singing.
And perhaps that offers a lesson to you and me in dealing with our tiredness.
That sometimes, maybe it’s recognising that whilst it’s great for life to have meaning and fulfilment and joy and purpose, sometimes there isn’t. And that’s okay. And it’s okay to be tired. And it’s okay to sleep.
And most importantly, it’s okay to be human.