How to deal with different types of fatigue

Fatigue describes a state of extended tiredness or exhaustion. Although fatigue is not a medical condition itself, it can be a symptom of a disease if it is chronic or the condition identified as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

For those experiencing it, it often creates limitations in cognitive, social, emotional, and physiological functioning. In the worst case, it can dramatically impact productivity, performance and quality of life.

Most of us have experienced some level of fatigue at some point in our lives, but did you know that there are different types of fatigue and that applying the wrong recovery strategy can actually worsen your fatigue?

Physical fatigue

This type of fatigue follows physical activity and exertion. Your body might feel weak or drained, an arm seems too heavy to lift, you’re too weary to move. While someone’s advice to “go do some exercise and you’ll feel better” might be well-intended, in this case sleep, relaxation, or a massage might be more effective remedies to help your body recover its strength.

Mental fatigue

This fatigue comes from expending a lot of mental energy and is often associated with cognitive symptoms such as brain fog. What can help are “mindless” activities that do not require a lot of brain power, such as (bounded) watching TV, browsing social media, or reading trivia. If physical energy still allows for taking a walk or light sports, this is an even better way to unwind and reenergize.

Emotional fatigue

This type of fatigue follows intense emotions, such as grief or anger, if experienced for an extended period. It can take a lot of energy to go through those feelings and the remedy may depend on the situation. Consider spending time in nature, listen to sad music or watch sad movies for a cleansing cry, call a friend, journal or just sit and reflect.

Social fatigue

This is the fatigue you might feel after socially engaging with other people. Someone with a strong extroverted preference, who gains energy from interacting with others, may have a hard time understanding this and therefore tends to advise to “go out, meet people and you’ll feel better”. However, dealing with social fatigue may require the opposite: solitude, silence and temporary social withdrawal.

Screen fatigue

We’re adding this one because this is what many of us experience these days. It can be incredibly tiring to look at screens all day. This one can easily be mixed up with mental or social fatigue (or simply aching eyes), so deliberately choose to allow your eyes a break, to disconnect for a while or get up and exercise. Find what works for you, then do it!

Next time you experience fatigue, we hope you will scan your body for what type of fatigue you might be feeling, so you can treat it with the self-care and recovery strategy it requires. Contact GAIA Insights for a personal conversation if you struggle to find your balance. We’d love to help you implement strategies to improve your energy, well-being and ultimately your performance.


Authored by Martina Mangelsdorf, Chief Strategic Dreamer at GAIA Insights.

Also read other blog articles on the topic of “Balance”.