Fatigue is real.
It’s not laziness. It’s like being on complete empty all the time. Even the things you want to do seem impossible. Sometimes you can muster up the energy to do menial tasks, but anything that requires thinking, forget it.
I suffer from fatigue & over the last almost 18 months it’s been compounded by long term Covid effects.
For the first time in ages, I couldn’t manage my music endeavors or many of my business related tasks. It’s been a bit of a nightmare. Here I am, the guy who wrote the book on “make music, not excuses”, feeling like an absolute fraud. It’s truly the worst feeling ever. If you haven’t experienced this level of constant tiredness, foggy brain & inability to focus or self motivate, consider yourself lucky. It isn’t pretty.
I’ve experimented with a number of things to try to fight this situation the best I can & I’ll share some things that have been helping, in the event this has been an issue for you. Even if you have lesser issues with fatigue or focusing on your music, this may be useful. Hopefully 1 or all of these are helpful to your mental health.
Short listing – Making a short list of bite sized actions taking no more than 30 minutes before bed. This primes your brain when you wake up & makes it easier to focus on what’s important to do the next day. Put no more than 3 tasks. Don’t beat yourself up if you only get 1 of the 3 done. It’s progress.
Just 1 more – Try pushing yourself to do just 1 more small thing before throwing in the towel. Exercise that willpower muscle just a little bit. It’s almost like not feeling like flossing so you say to yourself “We’ll just floss 1 tooth and if I can’t do anymore than that’s fine”. It rarely fails to give you just enough juice to finish a small task.
Eat light meals – I definitely noticed I was even more useless after eating. There was an almost immediate need for a nap. This makes sense, because a big part of your total daily energy goes straight to food digestion. Lighter meals that are easily digestible like soup & salad seemed to be helpful.
As I currently practice a slow carb diet, I tend to eat the same things a lot during the week & then I allow myself to pig out on saturday.
I start my day with 2 eggs & a bowl of red lentils. for lunch I’ll have a salad (spinach, carrots, cucumber, red onion, garlic & avocado topped with pepper, olive oil & balsamic). As a snack I might make some edamame. I usually have my last meal at 4pm, so I am also practicing intermittent fasting. This means eating within a 6-8 hour window, leaving your stomach empty for 16-18 hours. It was difficult in the beginning but I usually find if I drink a lot of water, food cravings go away.
Also, even when I feel hungry at night, I never wake up with the same hunger. For example, as I write this, it’s 9am & I haven’t eaten since 4pm yesterday. I’m not starving, but I’ll eat breakfast after I finish this post.
Light exercise – This one was tough for me, because when you’re exhausted, exercise is the last thing you think to do. I will say that any more than light exercise of more than 10-15 minutes pushed me back to nap time. So I just try to get my heart rate up with some beginner level cardio & basic workout stuff.
To be fair, longer workouts on a regular basis may have given me more energy in the long term but it didn’t work for me in the short term. When I feel this much fatigue I reward myself for just small amounts of effort. I don’t beat myself up for not doing more.
Dopamine fast – I am currently experimenting with a dopamine fast. In my case, this means not going on social media at all unless I am responding to a friend’s direct message. I’ve cut out browsing YouTube videos as well. I’m also greatly limiting my netflix or cutting it out completely.
The idea here is that when I give myself cheap empty thrills, it depletes the motivation chemical needed to do tasks that matter. Doom scrolling on any media platform is a mindless way to get dopamine & if the brain can get it this easily, why put effort into more important things.
By restricting “junk food” pleasures for the brain, it begins to reset dopamine levels needed for more important tasks. When you give yourself no lazy options, you start regaining motivation on more important tasks. In my case this is my business, my music & painting.
I’ll probably keep this up for a couple of weeks, that way my brain largely replaces the need for mindless tasks & makes me more productive overall.
Breathwork – I’ve started doing breathwork in the form of Wim Hof & the priming practices of Tony Robbins. It seems to remove stress & put me in a more relaxed & centered state of mind. This helps remove the foggy brain & bring focus back for a bit. Sometimes Wim Hof’s breathwork feels a bit intense & makes me uncomfortable & dizzy, so I have been doing Tony Robbins’ breathwork because it’s easier.
Cold showers – This used to be quite the challenge because I hate being cold, however now it’s a really pleasant experience that I’ve learned to enjoy. I’ll admit I don’t always feel like doing it but I do it anyway & am always happy I did. The idea here is by doing something you don’t want to do first thing in the morning, it starts you off feeling accomplished & ready to take on other tasks you might not be so motivated to do.
On top of that, cold showers are incredibly healthy for you as it actives all your cells & increases bloodflow to your brain which helps with concentration, alertness & mental clarity.
When I started, I would just take a regular shower & at the end turn the water to the coldest setting for about a minute. Now I just go straight to cold & tell my body “let’s do this” and walk right in. After the initial shock it begins to feel not as cold & almost pleasant. I proceed to do all my showering tasks in the cold. My showers not seem to only take my about 3 minutes, so I am saving water too.
After you’ve done this several times, it trains your brain to look at the challenge, even when it doesn’t feel like doing it & think, “We’ve done this before & we made it through just fine & felt great after”. When you are able to do a task like this, other challenging tasks seem like less of a big deal.
Now I still haven’t solved all my fatigue issues, but I am managing things better & I hope to have loads to share with you in the future. If you fight fatigue & have other techniques that have helped, definitely feel free to share. I’ll report back with any new discoveries on my journey to regaining my energy and focus.
Happy music making & good mental health to you all!