What’s Hyper-Fatigue—and is Your Job Giving You It?

Picture this: it’s 7:00 am on a Monday morning and your alarm clock goes off. You wake up exhausted, even though you slept soundly, and trudge through the work day feeling heavy-headed, overwhelmed and desperately in need of a nap. 

Recently, you’ve been feeling like this every workday. Even though you sleep well, eat your five a day and exercise when you have the time, you constantly feel tired—and it’s starting to impact your wellbeing.

Sound familiar? Then you might be suffering from hyper-fatigue. 

Hyper-fatigue: The symptoms

Hyper-fatigue is more than just regular tiredness. It’s a state of burnout, the result of long-term stress on the mind and body without proper rest. 

If you’re experiencing it, you probably feel what Jacky Francis Walker, Psychotherapist at the Harley Consultancy, calls “bone tiredness.” This is an unpleasant combination of intense lethargy, plummeted motivation, resentment towards your job, and heightened emotional fragility. 

As well as feeling miserable, hyper-fatigue also means your work performance may suffer. “You’ll be unable to effectively tackle ordinary tasks,” Walker explains. “Everything feels like too much of a struggle.” 

That’s not to say you won’t be able to work at all. Rather, you’ll find it much harder and more draining than your optimum self usually would. You may forget things, react emotionally to requests from colleagues or your manager, or space out for long periods at your desk. 

Why you’re in a state of exhaustion

According to research from YouGov, one in eight people lives in a constant state of exhaustion. While there are many possible reasons for this, Walker believes a combination of stressful work and world events is to blame. 

“Since the pandemic, we have all had to deal with unusual amounts of fear, uncertainty and anxiety on an almost daily basis,” she says. “The world of work has become even more challenging, the cost of living has escalated, and global and environmental events face us with the prospect of chilling new futures which are difficult to come to terms with.” 

Not only are these affairs stressful, but we also hear about them constantly—on TV, social media, or the office canteen. Studies show that people became more sensitive and neurotic during the pandemic, and a lot of that is down to the emotional exhaustion people felt when surrounded by constant fear and stress. 

“The long-term overload of digital content we are surrounded by has substantially reduced our mental and physical resilience. For many of us, there’s simply not enough left in the tank,” Walker says.

Combine digital overload with a difficult, or perhaps, unsatisfying job, and it’s easy to see how hyper-fatigue creeps in. After all, we spend an average of 40 hours a week at work. If our jobs are pushing us too far, and there’s no respite in our personal lives, we easily can end up feeling physically, emotionally and mentally diminished, Walker says. 

Your recovery action plan for hyper-fatigue 

While hyper-fatigue is distressing, complete recovery is possible. Here are the three steps to take.     

1. Recover your resilience 

No surprise here! The first thing to do if you’re suffering from hyper-fatigue is to rest ASAP. “Emotionally, mentally and physically, you urgently need down time,” says Walker. 

She suggests finding an activity that rejuvenates you, such as being in nature, disconnecting from social media for a while, taking a nap, or spending quality time with your loved ones. 

If you can, schedule some time off work to give you plenty of space to recover too, Walker advises.  

2. Decrease your mental load 

Think of your mental load like a car fuel tank: you can only use so much cognitive energy every day before you become depleted. If you’re hyper-fatigued, you’ve likely been pressing the gas pedal even when you’re out of fuel. 

To rectify this, Walker recommends cutting down on the activities that take up your mental load, both at work and at home. “Are there work tasks that can wait? Can your partner be responsible for weekend plans? Perhaps you’d benefit from declaring a ‘decision holiday’ or instigating a regular digital detox,” she says.

As well as reprioritizing, Walker recommends tackling any perfectionistic tendencies that could be contributing to your stress. For example, are you putting pressure on yourself to make every work task exceptional or feeling like you need to reply to your friends’ text messages within a certain amount of time?  

“It’s common to feel we need to stay on top of things, but sometimes just accepting that this isn’t always possible can take a real weight off our shoulders,” she says. 

3. Find the root cause 

Rest and self-compassion are important steps towards beating hyper-fatigue, but to truly overcome it, you need to get to the root cause. “Hyper-fatigue is a sign that something is wrong. The skill is in understanding what needs to be changed,” Walker says. 

Generally, work-induced hyper-fatigue falls into one of two buckets: fixable stress or time-to-job-hunt stress. 

“If this is a temporary phase you are going through, fixing the problem should resolve any hyper-fatigue,” says Walker, citing common causes like taking on too many responsibilities at work or getting to grips with a new promotion. 

“Talk with your boss about ways of lightening your load whilst you get back on track. This might include reduced hours, delegating some tasks, confirming priorities or getting support.” 

Sometimes, though, hyper-fatigue isn’t the consequence of too much work or an intensely busy period. It’s actually a sign that you’re in the wrong role altogether. 

“In some cases, we are that proverbial square peg," explains Walker. “Our role is just not right for our interests or skill sets—and no amount of trying will make it so.”

This kind of hyper-fatigue isn’t mendable simply by reducing the number of things on our to-do lists. It’s a sign from our minds that we are unfulfilled, dissatisfied, and not living up to our potential at work. 

“If we’re not a numbers person, we probably won’t fit well in a numerical role,” Walker says, explaining the importance of finding roles that suit our personalities. “Or, if we are creatively inclined, we probably won’t thrive by conforming to routine. It might be time to think about which career direction would suit better.” 

Bottom line? Finding a job that energizes you

Of course, knowing what career will suit you better than your current one isn’t easy. With so many vocations and industries out there, looking for a new job can be fatiguing in itself. 

The solution to this is introspection: discovering more about your core values, strengths and interests, so you can choose a job that’s truly fulfilling. Tools like Truity’s career aptitude test can help, offering a quick, fun way to learn more about the vocations that harmonize with your personality.  

While it can be daunting to make a career change, you ultimately need to give yourself the opportunity to thrive. Whether that’s making changes within your current role, or switching industries altogether, taking action now is the best way to beat hyper-fatigue and find work that’s enjoyable, meaningful and energizing. 

Hannah Pisani
Hannah Pisani is a freelance writer based in London, England. A type 9 INFP, she is passionate about harnessing the power of personality theory to better understand herself and the people around her - and wants to help others do the same. When she's not writing articles, you'll find her composing songs at the piano, advocating for people with learning difficulties, or at the pub with friends and a bottle (or two) of rose.