I finally got hit with COVID and I was scared.
After two years of avoiding coronavirus, I found myself nursing a very painful sore throat and a fever that gave me chills one minute and had my body burning up the next. It was hard to sleep while my bones ached and my muscles and joints wrestled with pain. Lying on my bed, feeling like I was hit by a ton of bricks, what surprised me was how demoralizing it felt to lose my sense of smell and taste. I had no appetite and the comfort foods that used to soothe me, like chicken soup and Chinese fried rice, offered me no relief. It felt like I was chewing on cardboard pieces and it affected my morale.
What was even more unexpected was the fear and worries filling my mind as I lay there exhausted. Logically, I knew I’d likely be okay and it was only a matter of time before I’d recover. But all those news articles I’d read over the years about health scares gripped my mind. What if I don’t fully recover? What if I can’t shake this fatigue?
Even more discouraging was that I was facing a deadline for my fourth book due the same month! One stressful thing might not be so bad, but when multiple circumstances are layered on top of each other, chronic stress can settle in. I was suffering from brain fog and mental fatigue. My inability to focus felt debilitating. I lost track of my thoughts and struggled to concentrate.
Do you find yourself struggling with mental fatigue or chronic stress, too? Brain fog doesn’t just affect those with COVID. Mental fatigue happens when we juggle too many things, while also pushing our emotions to the side. Our brains can only handle so much information. We become overloaded. We figure we’ll process how we’re doing later, after whatever personal crisis is hitting us. Yet, without space to stop and breathe, our brains start to tire.
When your brain is exhausted, it becomes harder to think, reason, and focus. Stress negatively affects our well-being and emotions. When we carry stress over time, inundated with the deluge of information, we can experience mental fatigue.
Helping my brain recover didn’t require a big overhaul. Little changes can make a big difference! Have you ever opened up so many tabs on your computer that you suddenly get the spinning, colored wheel and your system freezes? That’s what happens to our brains when we’re overloaded. So, by simply closing those “tabs” of activity and stress, our bodies and emotions can breathe and recover.
To reduce mental fatigue and relieve brain fog, here are three soul care tips to rest that helped me, and I know they’ll help you too!
1. Choose grace, not guilt.
Extend yourself the kindness and comfort you generously give others. Ironically, the times we most need God’s comfort are times we deprive ourselves of care. We may feel selfish. Yet, God says we can comfort others only with the comfort we first receive ourselves (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Prioritize your well-being. Ask for help. Or simply say no to extra demands or others’ requests temporarily, so you can say yes to taking better care of yourself. I asked for a book extension, even though I was afraid of disappointing my publisher. By asking for support and help, I received it!
2. Take microbreaks.
Studies show taking a microbreak, just thirty seconds to five minutes every thirty minutes, to disengage from your work and move your body reboots your brain and calms your body.
One simple way to take microbreaks and take better care of yourself is by drinking water. Studies show that drinking water keeps stress levels low. But not drinking enough water increases the stress hormone cortisol, inducing anxiety and stress responses, such as an increased heart rate, nausea, fatigue, and headaches. Studies show dehydration affects our moods. When we stay hydrated, our bodies run better, leading to wellness. Water is God’s natural stress reducer!
3. Let the Spirit intercede.
Even when we’re too stressed to pray, the Holy Spirit helps us by praying for us. Romans 8:26-27 promises, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Verse 34 assures us that Jesus Himself is also interceding for us! Ask Jesus and the Spirit to pray for you so you can prioritize your well-being.
As I gave myself permission to take a break from obligations and commit myself to a season of rest, I focused on God’s goodness: “But as for me, the nearness of God is good for me; I have made the Lord God my refuge” (Psalm 73:28 NASB).
Your loving Savior Jesus whispers, Come to me all who are weary and burdened. And I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). God is faithful to provide all you need.
You are God’s beloved.
For tips to stress less, download Bonnie Gray’s FREE Stress Less devotional here! Also, listen to Bonnie’s popular wellness podcast, BREATHE: The Stress Less Podcast. Listen and subscribe anywhere you listen to podcasts.