We should always keep in mind that a certain amount of fatigue at all age levels is to be expected. From time to time, things go on in our bodies that are not completely normal, but not necessarily serious. Slightly erratic functions of the organs of the body may reduce our normal quota of daily energy, taking the edge off our usual zest.
Don’t worry about occasional fatigue!
The time to be concerned about fatigue is when you are constantly and unduly tired and do not bounce quickly back to normal. Then you must be sure to see your doctor.
But, if you have had a clean bill of health, if your organic house is in order, you should find in one or more of the following suggestions the weapons with which you can win the war against fatigue.
1. Be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep.
Too many tired men and women think sleep is a waste of time. Remember, the minimum amount of sleep you need is eight hours daily. But don’t be afraid to experiment if you are more fatigued than usual. You may find that nine or even ten hours of sleep daily is just the thing you need to combat fatigue.
2. Do not give in to boredom.
As we have seen, boredom is the most common and most insidious cause of fatigue.
Maybe you’re tired of your job, of doing the same thing day in and day out, of meeting lacklustre problems, of endless decisions. Perhaps the glitter and challenge of your job is gone. It is easy to say, change your job. But I know that this is not readily accomplished. Most of you will simply have to accept your jobs and make the best of them.
On the other hand, you can successfully combat boredom of any kind, whether on the job or in household work, merely by breaking up the routine, changing the scenery!
Remember how we used to welcome the momentary recess brought on by the fire drill in school? It relieved us of the humdrum of class work. What a miracle that fire drill wrought! Somehow, when we got back to our classes, we felt we could see the day through without collapsing.
Create your own fire drills!
Take another coffee break. Walk around the block. Get up and talk with someone you like. Turn on the radio. Pick up a newspaper. Telephone a friend. Talk about the weather.
I know one office worker who is an ardent newspaper reader, and, on his way to work on the commuter train, he reads every page except the sports section. That, his favorite part, he saves for reading during a mid-afternoon coffee break, and he says it is the best “pep pill” he could take.
We may laugh at the housewife who, after the kids have been sent off to school in the morning; is constantly on the telephone between household chores. But those calls probably do more to help her combat fatigue than anything else in the world, especially when you consider that household work is perhaps the most agonizingly routine and boring job of all. More power to her and the telephone.
The point I want to stress is this: Any change at all is effective in destroying boredom.
A leading utility company in the East once wanted to find out what affected the productivity of a group of girls who were doing rather boring work. For a year, a number of experts, including psychologists and doctors, studied the situation. They suggested a variety of changes in the girls’ working conditions, affecting such factors as lighting, rest periods, starting hours, quitting hours, length of lunch periods, and fresh air circulation. The most startling discovery of all was that whenever any change was introduced – good, bad or indifferent – the change itself was sufficient to increase job output and give the girls a lift. Some of the girls said that knowing the company was experimenting to make their work more pleasant was in itself enough to help them combat fatigue.
It is not abnormal to be bored. It is wrong not to be honest with yourself about it.
3. Avoid loneliness.
Most of us enjoy being alone at one time or another for greater or lesser periods. Perfectly normal. But you can be lonely without being alone.
A Purdue University professor of management made a study of working women in a factory and discovered that the same women were invariably fatigued at the end of every day. In contrast were the women who usually came alive at the end of the day. Further study disclosed that the non-fatigued women were the ones who usually looked forward to a date or a party or a neighborly visit in the evening. The fatigued ones were those who usually had nothing to anticipate for the evening. Think back and you will surely remember those occasions when you were considerably braced up by turning your thoughts to pleasant moments ahead. Remember how you were dragging your feet all day, and suddenly, at quitting time, there was a bounce in your walk?
4. Keep physically fit.
Exercise is one of the best antidotes for fatigue. Try to maintain a regimen of regular exercise. At the very least, you can do more walking. But don’t be a week-end athlete and abruptly plunge into vigorous exercise after an entire week of doing nothing more strenuous than pushing a pen or getting in and out of your car.
There was a time when doctors treated fatigue by prescribing complete and absolute rest. Sometimes we would even advise patients to get out the rocking chair. Now we know better, and even surgeons will order their patients out of bed as soon as possible after an operation. Physical activity prevents what Dr. Klumpp has so aptly called “atrophy through disuse.”
“Rest is not a universal panacea for fatigue,” says Dr. Klumpp.
“Many patients can be reduced to a vegetative existence and plied with sedatives and still be tired.”
5. Be careful not to overeat.
Most of the “tired” businessmen I know are simply guilty of eating too much, particularly at lunch. The quickest way to feel utterly fatigued all day is to stuff yourself at lunch. The cocktails and temptingly rich dishes of the business luncheon are more readily absorbed by your expense account than by your stomach, especially if you drag the pressures of business into your luncheon.
6. Review your work habits.
You expect the authorities to periodically inspect the elevator in your office building or apartment house for safety. But how much thought have you given to inspecting your own working habits for better and more healthful living? If you feel that your fatigue is caused by overwork, ask yourself some pertinent questions. Are you overworking because you need a defense mechanism to cover up some personal problem? Are you sure you could not delegate some of your work to others? Are you taking work home too often? Have you ever tried to experiment at all with changes in your routine? Could you rearrange your time to get some relief through a sort of “fire drill” recess? One of the wealthiest and hardest-working brokers on Wall Street breaks up his day by leaving his desk just before lunch to walk around and talk with shopkeepers. “Idle talk,” he calls it. But he says it helps him maintain a sense of humor about his work so that the business luncheons, which he must invariably attend, do not tire him for the day.
The habit of taking work home is one of the surest causes of fatigue. I can count by the dozens the number of harried executives who have been cured of their inexorable fatigue merely by being told to take less and less work home with them, until they took none at all.
7. Get plenty of recreation.
When you leave the shop or office at night, perhaps nothing can give you more of a lift than turning your thoughts to a hobby or some other form of recreation. The fact that so many of our busiest and most successful business and political leaders have hobbies is the best proof in the world that recreation is a vital weapon in any war against fatigue.
Sir Winston Churchill went in for bricklaying as well as painting. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was an ardent stamp collector. A famous admiral repairs clocks for friends, neighbors and family members. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas is an indefatigable hiker. Anything you enjoy doing is recreation, and all recreation is good for you.
8. Make the most of your vacations.
Your vacation is the most important single event during the year. It is your chance to sweep away those mental cobwebs. Relax. Don’t take work with you on vacation. Make every effort to forget your work. There is a great tendency these days toward taking long, three-day weekends instead of two or three consecutive weeks of vacation. This is a mistake. You need more than a weekend to unwind a year’s pile-up of stress and strain.
9. Take an interest in other people.
The most buoyant feeling in the world is to know that you are wanted and needed. I like to repeat what those well-known writers on the human mind, Harry and Bonaro Overstreet, have written. “… it is one of the basic facts of human life that the ungiven self is the unfulfilled self.” The most spirited people I know take an active interest in community and church affairs. Indeed, I often find it absolutely necessary to prescribe such activity for patients with chronic fatigue. The rewards of taking an interest in your fellow men can be rich; I can relate volumes of instances in which men and women have not found time to be fatigued because they are too busy thinking about helping others.
10. Do not rely on stimulants.
We have heard a great deal about the so-called “pep pills,” such as benzedrine tablets, to overcome fatigue. It is not usually dangerous or harmful to take an occasional stimulant. But if you do use them, there should be some special reason of an emergency nature for doing so.
Perhaps you want to drive all night because you must get home. Perhaps you have an exceptional amount of work to accomplish to meet a deadline and want to be sure of staying alert and awake. I have often advised stimulants under special situations like these. But before you take anything, be certain you have no other alternative, and never take a stimulant without your doctor’s consent.
More importantly, don’t take stimulants as a regular means of overcoming fatigue, and certainly not as a means of “pushing” yourself. You may end up going to a doctor with more ailments than the extra push is worth. Stimulants do not cure fatigue, they conceal it. In recent years, authorities have been cracking down on all-night drivers-truckers and traveling salesmen-who have been taking “pep pills” to stay awake. Ample evidence has been acquired to prove that “pep pill” drivers are frequently involved in accidents when the effect of the pills wears off and sudden fatigue strikes.
If you must continually push yourself, maybe the time has come to ask, “Am I enjoying life?”
It is really no trick to beat fatigue. Among the suggestions you have just read, surely you can find one or more weapons with which to arm yourself in the war against fatigue-the curse of millions.
What to Remember about Fatigue
1. It is quite normal to feel fatigued occasionally, but when you are constantly and unduly fatigued and do not quickly return to your usual vigor, it is time to see your doctor.
2. If illness or organic dysfunction is not the source of your fatigue, you may find the cause in your attitudes and habits of living.
3. The principal cause of fatigue for most people is boredom.
4. Boredom can be an insidious obstacle to your health and sense of well-being because it touches a vicious cycle of bad habits.
5. You can defeat boredom by seeking a constant change of scenery, which in its broadest sense means getting more exercise and recreation and seeking one or more distractions from your routine at home or on the job.
6. You can also defeat fatigue by getting adequate sleep, avoiding loneliness, fighting the tendency to overeat, changing your work habits, making the most of your vacations, taking an interest in other people and in church or community affairs.
7. Never take stimulants or the so-called “pep pills” as a regular means of overcoming fatigue. Certainly do not take them without your doctor’s consent.