Why Does Grief Make You Tired?
Grief can feel like a heavy blanket draped over your mind and body. Simple everyday tasks may take three times as long to complete. It’s like you’re living underwater, fighting resistance in every direction. With several demands on your system, grief takes enormous energy to manage. Over time, It begins to take a toll on our minds, bodies, and overall mental health. The shock of a loss reverberates through your daily life, upending everything from social interactions, daily chores, work, and even self-care. Peace and comfort may still be elusive long after the memorial service has ended. Here are five reasons why grief can make you tired.
The stress of adapting to life without a loved one can be unbearable. The mind simply can’t quiet down when it’s burdened with sadness. Grief at night can be the most challenging time for many people. The silence can be deafening as you try to lie down for the night. There are no distractions. The mind has nothing to do but fixate on loss and despair. While you may be exhausted, insomnia can keep you awake night after night, depleting you emotionally and physically.
Losing a loved one can make the bereaved feel like a rug has been pulled out from under them. Their sense of safety and security has been threatened. Making sense of their life without their loved one is difficult. The trauma of the loss can make it challenging for grief-stricken individuals to feel safe. Hypervigilance is a response to trauma, such as the death of a loved one. It’s a defense mechanism the brain produces to keep you on edge, ready to run at the slightest hint of danger. While hypervigilance is meant for short durations, grief can cause it to stay in effect for much longer. The demand on your nervous system can cause great fatigue.
When faced with the traumatic experience of a loss, the brain becomes overwhelmed by the heightened activity. So many thoughts and feelings are pouring through a grief-stricken mind. Unable to keep up with the demand, the brain shuts down certain signals out of self-preservation until it can handle all the activity. Simple activities such as getting dressed or brushing your teeth can become much more difficult because of “grief brain”—the disruption of signals due to a flood of neurological activity. With so much energy expended to keep up with the demand, the bereaved can feel very tired from the experience.
Grief and Only Grief
Because grief can be all-encompassing, there is little room for other things in the lives of the bereaved. As the mind fixates on the loss, daily activities and life can fall by the wayside. While consistent, negative thoughts can be enough to cause fatigue, it also has a ripple effect for greater exhaustion. Dwelling on the loss can sap motivation to do other things, such as exercise or eat a decent meal. As this pattern continues, the bereaved will feel run down and tired.
Losing a loved one can completely alter life for the bereaved. With the loss comes great change. Certain lifestyle routines may no longer be possible. Finding a way forward while still carrying the pain and sorrow of a loved one’s passing is a great challenge for grief-stricken individuals. Under the blanket of grief, the overwhelming task laid before them can be tiring.
Dealing with the Tiredness That Comes With Grief
If your grief is making you tired, there are several things you can do to reclaim your energy.
If nothing else, start taking small moments out of your day to focus on your well-being. It all starts with baby steps. Make sure you have a nice hot shower or bath. Feeling clean can be invigorating. You can also try a fun activity like putting a puzzle together or reading a book. Shifting your mental focus away from thoughts of loss can be a welcomed respite, allowing your mind to calm itself.
When we exercise, the brain releases endorphins, making us feel good. Also, regularly moving our bodies can make you feel more energized. Try going for a walk, a bike ride, or returning to an exercise that brought you joy.
Create a Sleep Routine
Setting a bed routine helps tell your brain that this is the time of the day when you unwind and sleep. Try to stick to a regular bedtime. Create a space that is conducive to sleep. Consider removing electronics, such as a TV or other screen devices. Otherwise, you risk overstimulating your mind just as you ask it to wind down. A white noise machine can help soothe you to sleep. They offer several different sounds, such as rain. You can also add lavender to your bedroom for a calming scent.
Make sure you’re eating regularly. When dealing with grief, skipping meals or losing motivation to eat can be easy. Try adding nutritious fruits and vegetables to your diet. If you've been crying a lot, staying hydrated is critical.
Reach out to friends or family and get together. Knowing you have a plan to look forward to will motivate you to get your day going. It also helps to get you out of your negative thought cycle. What you talk about doesn’t matter, but interacting with others can help restore your energy.
It’s completely normal to feel tired when experiencing grief. Just know that it won’t last forever. Be good to yourself and give it time. Soon, the good days will outweigh the bad ones.
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