Attempting to teach and lead and grow during a time of stress, causes fatigue… the enemy of creativity and growth. Often, one anticipates a more scholarly or fancy recommendation from a life coach. Yet, when I analyzed my last five encounters with typically successful folks who were struggling either personally and professionally, there was a common theme: fatigue. So let’s deconstruct the word itself:

Fatigue: a state of weariness. That’s pretty standard, right? But dig a bit deeper, into the Latin root of the word and one finds this:  Fatigo: To tire or weary OR To vex or torment.

Now, we’re getting somewhere. Fatigue has both physical and emotional attributes. One feels tired to the point of being “tormented”. And, in a state of virtual torment, it is impossible to make progress. One must deal with the fatigue at both the source and with the symptoms. It is no easy task, but that is why one has a Life Coach.

The Background

How bad is the problem in America? According to the National Safety Council, 38% of adults are clinically sleep deprived, that’s more than 1/3.

In a new White Paper on the “High Cost of Fatigue” in the workplace, we find this: “Fatigue – the feelings of tiredness, reduced energy and increased effort needed to perform tasks – makes it difficult to think clearly and react quickly. In workplaces, fatigue decreases productivity and increases risk of injuries. While the signs may not be obvious, fatigue is a safety risk in the workplace, and nearly every worker in America is at risk. “

Lack of sleep isn’t the only cause of fatigue, though it is probably the most direct and systemic. Other causes include:
*Thyroid and hormonal imbalances
*Long commutes
*Obesity and poor diet
*Long hours and shift work
*Demanding clients and families
*Difficult and cumbersome regulations and requirements in the workplace

Interestingly, when one examines the job description and typical working conditions of educators, it is likely that multiple factors contribute to chronic and overwhelming fatigue. As we have discussed in previous articles and features in this journal, the work of teaching and leading requires energy, creativity, and stamina. Fatigue is not our friend, though it may be an unwelcome companion. How bad is the problem in your world? Let’s see.

The Quiz

Please respond to each statement with a rating of 1…2…3, with 1 as the lowest level of occurrence and 3 as a high level. Total your responses and then use the key for an assessment of your risk.

  1. I typically sleep fewer than 7 hours per night. 1…2…3
  2. I feel too tired to do my job well. 1…2…3
  1. I feel overwhelmed by fatigue.  1…2…3
  1. In the past month, I have missed work because of fatigue, either mental or physical.   1…2…3
  1. I find myself forgetting important details because I’m in a “brain fog”.  1…2…3
  1. I cannot keep up the pace that I once did.  1…2…3
  1. I have lost my temper with a parent or colleague because I was too tired to think rationally. 1…2…3
  1. I often feel joyless and empty.  1…2…3



20-24 points: You may need an energy vaccine. Fatigue is draining your joy and your creativity. A thorough physical and even a referral for a sleep study may be in order.

11-19 points: You have a normal level of fatigue for an individual in a high stress profession. It may be helpful to add more exercise to your regimen or to set up opportunities to boost energy and creativity.

8-10 points: You have a healthy level of energy and have probably learned good habits for rest and rejuvenation. Your goal: guard your boundaries and health commitments especially is there are life changes looming in the future.


Why Does It Matter?

What I want you to hear first is that fatigue is a natural part of the work-life paradigm, but it is not necessarily normal. You can be tired, but not exhausted. You can be weary, but not wasted. You can be deflated, but not destroyed. We are talking here about a level of tired that is traumatic to you and those around you. This kind of fatigue puts you at risk for:

*Memory Loss
*Relationship problems
*Deep dissatisfaction at work

Finally, ask yourself this question: How often to I find myself saying: “I’m tired” in some variation? Has it become your mantra? If it has, then read on.


Fighting Fatigue

Let’s consider 7 strategies gathered from a number of medical research sites and from my own work on the brain and stress. We will use the acronym FATIGUE.

F Feed your body in smaller, protein rich doses. For example, an ounce of nuts or a small container of hummus with crisp veggies will keep energy up and fatigue at bay.

A Add a glass of water to every hour of the workday. Dehydration contributes to fatigue and a mere 2% drop in hydration triggers memory and concentration issues.

T Take a walk. Instead of a meeting across the desk, take a walk and talk with colleagues. Build in a daily walk with your pet, spouse, or BFF. Movement accesses BDNF, a brain chemical associated with neurogenesis.

I Increase time outdoors. Fresh air and sunlight are natural fatigue tonics. Start by scheduling at least one residents’ activity outdoors each week.

G Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night in order to avoid a “sleep debt”. You may have to reconfigure your day in order to fit this in, but nothing else can substitute for the brain fueling time.

U Unplug from technology and connect with people who make you laugh. A happy heart is good medicine. We call this social capital and it builds energy and creativity, the antithesis of fatigue.

E Explore all your health numbers. Blood pressure. Healthy weight. Thyroid numbers. Joint flexibility. If you are in pain, it is an instant energy drain. Don’t avoid the numbers. Deal with them.



As we pull things together, I summon this quote by the scientist Nikola Tesla:    “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”  Now, he was talking pure physics, but in the end, aren’t we each finely woven bundles of energy? Our ability to maintain, harness, and direct that energy, sending it out into the universe in the form of communication, interaction, and engagement makes us unique and gives us power. Fatigue is a threat to that beautiful, vibrant energy. Make an assessment of your fatigue levels today and whether they are at risk or you simply want more out of life, consider ways to make that happen.

Life Coaching Words to the Wise (Sidebar)

Bedtime Routines
Sacred Spaces for Rest
Sleep Debt
Sleep StudyUnplugged

About the Author:  Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is the author of 34 books including “Rich Brain, Poor Brain: Bridging Social and Synaptic Gaps in Schools” and has given keynotes and training in 45 states. Her consulting firm “Education InSite” is a leader in educational training.