3 Types of Fatigue and How to Fight Against It

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This article is an excerpt from the book, We’re Stronger than We Look: Insights and Encouragement for the Caregiver’s Journey. Jill and David Brown lived full and healthy lives until David took a violent fall off his bicycle and into a wheelchair in 2009. Jill now serves as his primary caregiver.

Which do you picture more clearly?

A car . . . or a blue Honda Civic.

A dog . . . or a young, high-spirited Irish Setter.

A person . . . or a middle- aged woman with a nose ring and fading tattoos.

Some categories are just too big and generic to get a grip on. That’s true for me, anyway. Dividing them into smaller, detailed pieces gives a chance to step back and really see them. That happened recently when David was listening to his Audible Audiobooks account and called me over to join him. “I think you’ll like this,” he said and punched the play button.

A deep voice rolled out. “The alternative to soul-acceptance is soul-fatigue.”1

Fatigue. I knew the word well. It’s the neighborhood bully. When fatigue comes swaggering in, even thankfulness runs for cover. There you stand, all on your own, feeling heavy, hopeless, and fuzzy-brained. You can’t imagine ever not being tired.

Fatigue that Attacks the Body

“There is a kind of fatigue,” the narrator said, “that attacks the body.”

He gave examples. Staying up too late, like one night when we had a disastrous catheter change. Compensating for shortage of sleep with coffee in the morning and an energy drink in the afternoon. Not exercising. Eating unhealthy foods.

Not much new there, but then he said,

Fatigue that Attacks the Mind

 “There is a kind of fatigue that attacks the mind.”

Information overload. Screens everywhere. Carrying around “mental lists of errands not yet done and bills not yet paid and emails not yet replied to.” Trying to stuff our negative emotions, “like holding beach balls under the water.” All this, he said, makes the mind grow weary.

Fatigue that Attacks the Will

Then he talked about “a kind of fatigue that attacks the will.”

So many choices. So many decisions. And so many of them we’re not qualified to make. How do we know when to say yes and when to say no? Sometimes we just say yes to everything because our will is too worn out to choose.

The neighborhood bully looks crushingly big. But what happens if we divide him up like this? If we can identify which part dumps the most weight on us—fatigue of body, mind, or will—maybe we can do something about it. Divide and conquer.

In the past, I would have said, “This is great! I need to read the whole book.” David got a lot out of it, and so did I from hearing just that one small section. I’d like to know more about soul-acceptance, since the author calls it an alternative to soul-fatigue. It sounds hopeful.

But “books not yet read” fits into his description of mental lists and mind fatigue. So, yes, I’d like to read it. But I don’t have to. Maybe I learned all I needed to from that book, at least for now. Maybe now is the time to use what I already learned.

Is it my imagination, or did the bully just shrink a little?

Now he might even fit into that blue Honda Civic with the young, high-spirited Irish Setter and the middle-aged woman with a nose ring and faded tattoos.

Jill Brown

s on staff with The Navigators, where she provides part-time pastoral care for those serving in ministry. She has been the caregiver for her husband, David, who is also on staff with The Navigators, since his bicycling accident in 2009.

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