Spending long days in front of a computer screen can leave you tired, even though you haven't physically exerted yourself, writes Katie Heaney for New York Magazine.
Most days for Heaney are spent writing—be it a story, an email, or a transcription. After a while, she shares that she begins feeling exhausted both mentally and physically. She wondered why, so she asked experts. Here are four science-based reasons they shared with her for feeling drained after your time in the office.
Reason 1: Thinking is real work
The brain doesn't necessarily distinguish between stress from physical activity and stress from mental effort, according to Steven Feinsilver, director of sleep medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital. He explains that the brain reacts similarly to both kinds of exertion, and will, for example, increase your adrenaline whether you're running from danger or just thinking about something scary. Feinsilver cites a study that found the brain actually requires about 20% of the total oxygen that the body consumes. Feinsilver says your brain depends on this— just like how your body depends on oxygen during a marathon, he adds.
Reason 2: Other people radiate their exhaustion
If there are people around you who can't stop talking about how tired and stressed out they are, eventually you'll start feeling that way too, according to Curtis Reisinger, clinical psychologist at Zucker Hillside Hospital. The nonstop negative vibes you get from people around you start influence your emotions, he argues.
Reason 3: You're worrying about failure
When you're working on something, you may be thinking about all of the worst case scenarios: you don't get it in on time, you don't do well on it, etc. The brain's constant anticipation of possible outcomes can make us feel exhausted, according to Reisinger. He points to research by Lisa Feldman Barrett, director the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern University and author of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, who argues that emotions are rooted in the brain's predictions about all the possible outcomes of your current actions.
Reason 4: You aren't resting properly
Just as we would recovery after a long workout, the mind also needs a period of rest. If you're sitting all day long, you need to add some periods of physical activity to balance it out, according to Feinsilver. Drinking water can help as well, because sitting for long periods can cause dehydration, which can be deleterious to how you feel, he adds (Heaney, New York Magazine, 7/19).
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