Mental And Physical Fatigue: Find Out The Difference

Photo by Stacey Gabrielle Koenitz Rozells on Unsplash

We all experience the feeling of fatigue — whether physically or mentally. Although sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish between the two.

It can feel overwhelming when you don’t know the exact cause of your fatigue and how to treat it. This can result in frustration and sometimes even disappointment — especially when you set daily goals to complete.

It is encouraging to know you can overcome these feelings with some help and some self-care methods.

Physical Fatigue Symptoms

Physical fatigue is often present when a person experiences an extreme state of exhaustion in the body.

These feelings of being physically drained can often result from over-exercising, poor sleep, or muscle cramps. Typical signs of physical exhaustion are exhibited when a person has a hard time doing physical activities they usually do regularly, like lifting or climbing.

The good news is that physical exhaustion can quickly be relieved by resting or changes in lifestyle and habits.

It’s important to understand that physical fatigue is different from mental fatigue. However, both can occur simultaneously and share similar symptoms, as suggested by multiple studies like this one. Here are a few below:

Physical Signs:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle strains
  • Body aches
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mild or severe fatigue
  • Decreased motivation
  • Mental fatigue

Mental Fatigue Symptoms

Mental fatigue is commonly caused by prolonged cognitive activity or during extended periods of stress.

In recent years, many studies underline how long-term mental exhaustion has implications on the brain’s cognitive functions, extending to overall health complications if left untreated.

Mental fatigue symptoms can often exhibit a variety of behavioural or emotional signs. If prolonged stress is added, many people can also exhibit signs of mild to severe burnout. Besides hindering cognitive performance, mental exhaustion can also impair the physical body and suppress endurance.

It’s essential to recognize the symptoms of mental exhaustion even if you are not currently exhibiting any signs. Pay close attention to your well-being to steer you away from excess fatigue or burnout.

Behavioural Signs:

* Negatively influence work performance

* Difficulty concentrating/procrastinating more

* Slow reaction

* Exhibit more errors in work tasks

* Withdrawn from activities and social events

Other Signs:

* Constantly feeling tired

* Frequent drowsiness

* Heightened anxiety

* Depression

* Reduced alertness

* Lethargy

* Decreased motivation

* Apathy

* Frequent headaches

* Change in appetite

* Weight fluctuations

* Decreased immunity

Mental Fatigue Causes

Most times, mental exhaustion stems from prolonged stress or the feeling of being overworked.

However, this may not always be the case for everyone. Since each body responds differently depending on the circumstances, they are faced with. While there are a variety of causes for chronic fatigue, here are a few common ones:

Mental Fatigue Causes:

* Long working hours

* Restlessness

* Job dissatisfaction

* Chronic illness

* Anxiety

* Depression

* Chronic stress

* Financial problems

* Severe lifestyle changes

* Grief

Physical Fatigue Causes:

* Back/chest/arm/leg/hip/knee pain

* Recent injury

* Arthritis

* Poor posture

* Heavy lifting

* Weight fluctuations

Fatigue Treatments

There are a few at-home remedies to treating both types of exhaustion. Some of them include;

  1. Yoga:

Setting some time for yourself to do a few simple stretches goes a long way for mental and physical well-being.

Yoga increases blood circulation by stimulating oxygen levels. Daily practice can also improve digestion, relieve muscle strains, ease back pain, aid arthritis symptoms and promote better sleep quality.

Yoga also develops self-awareness and can tremendously reduce stress levels among those experiencing any form of exhaustion.

Try a few poses like The Standing Forward Fold before bed to relax the mind, or start the day with a simple but energizing morning sequence or do both for maximum relief.

RELATED | Yoga Style Quiz: Find Your Unique Type (2021)

  1. Meditation:

Stress is a significant barrier to self-happiness.

Often prolonged stress can host a variety of other negative emotions like anxiety, depression, self-doubt, worry, and restlessness.

A 2020 study revealed how long-term meditators could remain calm even when faced with an abrupt situation that typically would raise cortisol levels (stress hormones) — other studies identified how ten minutes of mediation could reduce symptoms of depression by more than 50%.

The list goes on and on; if you’d like to read more about the positive benefits of meditating, continue reading HERE. If you are unsure what meditation technique best suits you, try taking this Meditation QUIZ.

2. Resting

Rest is critical to any recovery treatment, whether mental or physical.

Taking some time off your day to take a break and recharge can tremendously be an essential part of treating fatigue. This can mean taking a five-minute meditation session, making yourself a warm drink, going for a brisk walk, talking to a friend or scheduling an excellent bedtime routine to get more sleep.

You will be surprised just how these small techniques can do wonders for reducing stress and boosting energy,

3. Healthy Dieting

Nutrition has a lot to do with how we feel. Eating a diet packed with leafy greens, iron-rich food, healthy carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables can hugely impact how the body feels.

Such can be seen when a person experiences chronic fatigue.

When the body doesn’t receive the proper nutrition, it can cause the loss of motor neurons, resulting in atrophic muscles. When diagnosed with atrophic muscles, an individual may experience bad posture due to an imbalance of the limbs, body aches, worsening arthritis and mental frustration.

Similarly, poor nutrition can likely lead to drowsiness, short temperament, reduced motivation and lack of focus in individuals with mental exhaustion.

It’s important to understand that good nutrition can address fatigue and improve overall health.

If you are not much of a vegetable person, start incorporating leafy greens, fruit and vegetables in daily smoothies.

4. Affirmation

There is a saying: what you think is how you feel.

Although affirmation may not be the best solution to treating physical fatigue caused by muscle soreness or recent injury — encouraging yourself with a few mantra-like quotes each day can effectively raise your mood and reduce mental exhaustion.

The ‘science’ behind self-affirmation is quite simple. Regular practice is often associated with boosting brain activity responsible for long-term memory, focus, and motivation.

Affirmations can also effectively help you stay clear on your core values and goals. Here are a few affirmation quotes to get you started:

  • I am comfortable going at my own pace
  • I am loved and supported
  • I am valued and worthy

RELATED | 25 Affirmations That Will Get You Feeling Good

5. Gratitude Journaling

Gratitude journaling is a powerful tool that can help keep a positive outlook during difficult situations.

Negative thoughts can often affect how we feel, which causes mental fatigue if left untreated. A 2017 study outlined how daily gratitude can reduce stress, self-doubt, lack of motivation, and sadness.

One way to express gratitude is by journaling; however, it’s important to underline that there are plenty of techniques other than journaling if that doesn’t interest you.

When expressing gratitude, think of a feeling, memory, object or someone in your life that brings you joy and happiness.

6. Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes at-home solutions are not enough to combat mental or physical fatigue. If that is the case, It is important to seek professional help.

A medical professional such as a family doctor, therapist or nutritionist can help identify the causes of your fatigue and start creating a treatment plan that will work for you. For example, your doctor may suggest relaxation techniques, therapy or diet plan to reduce negative symptoms and get your life moving in the right direction.


Mental and physical exhaustion can stem from multiple causes. The important thing to understand is when to stop, identify the problem and find the proper self-care treatment moving forward.

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We believe that wellness comes from a happy mind and a healthy body. We inform mindfulness, meditation, and healthy living practices.

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