Fatigue and Apathy

Fatigue has been broadly described as “a feeling of weariness, tiredness or lack of energy”. 

In general, short term tiredness is easily resolved by reducing stimulation and activity, increasing relaxation and passive activities and getting more quality sleep.

Where there is on-going unexplained fatigue, listlessness and lack of energy, it can be associated with other health issues. If you have suffered an illness, including COVID19, and experience on-going fatigue, you should seek help from your GP or medical professional.

When fatigue is caused by psychological factors – emotional exhaustion from trauma, shock or fear, then talking to your GP or medical professional will help. Fatigue and apathy are often associated with each other and can explain when a person is experiencing a decrease in motivation and a loss of interest previously engaging life events. It can also explain dissociation or disconnectedness.

In workplace settings, fatigue can have a harsh impact on our performance. Energy, enthusiasm, and motivation are all necessary for healthy relationships with colleagues, staying alert and contributing effectively to our work. Fatigue is commonly associated with nonstandard schedules, such as night shift work and extended work hours, which disrupt or shorten sleep. Fatigue can also be associated with other workplace factors such as stress, physically or mentally demanding tasks, or working in hot, cold, or sensorial-challenging environments.

Fatigue can result in slower reactions, reduced ability to process information, absent-mindedness, decreased awareness, lack of attention, underestimation of risk, reduced coordination etc. Importantly - fatigue can also lead to errors in work processes, serious incidents, ill health and injury in the workplace. 

Signs of Fatigue

  • Sleeplessness and giddiness interspersed.
  • Loss of appetite and digestive problems.
  • Increased vulnerability to illness.
  • Depression (this could also be a premeditating cause of fatigue or fatigue could lead to depressive symptoms).
  • Emotional disconnectedness and apathy.

 Triggers that can make you vulnerable to fatigue include:

  • irregular working hours,
  • dim lighting,
  • high temperatures,
  • limited visual activity,
  • noise levels,
  • comfort levels, 
  • repetitive or monotonous tasks, and
  • task deadlines.

 Fatigue can decrease our ability to:

  • make decisions, 
  • communicate effectively,
  • remain productive,
  • perform complex tasks/plan,
  • react in a timely manner to risk,
  • remember detail, and
  • handle job stress. 

Fatigue can also increase risk of accidents at work, increase levels of illness and absenteeism.

    Tips to reduce fatigue

    Healthy Diet

    We may be inclined to snack more, eat more unhealthy foods or have a reduced appetite when we are fatigued. What and how we eat can have an effect on our physical and mental health, energy levels, and sleep. A cut down on caffeine and alcohol and an increase in water can help with fatigue.

    Avoid Sugary Foods

    Eating foods with a high sugar content can lead to a “sugar crash”, where your blood sugar drops making you feel anxious, irritable or confused. A poor diet can worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

    Healthy Diet and Improved Energy

    A balanced diet helps the body convert food into energy and maintains stable energy levels and mood throughout the day. 

    Healthy Diet and Better Sleep

    Avoid sugary/ fatty foods that only provide short bursts of energy and that can lead to an energy slump. High sugar or hard to digest foods can make it difficult for your body to rest. Our diet is the best source of important nutrients that help your body renew and repair itself overnight. Eating a healthy diet is key to getting a good night’s sleep, as well as setting yourself up to feel your best when you wake up. 

    Adequate sleep

    Getting enough sleep is important for our mental and physical wellbeing, but not being able to get to sleep can be incredibly frustrating. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, you may be more prone to disturbed sleep or nightmares. 

    Sleep hygiene tips

    • Go to bed at the same time and aim to get up at the same time. Set the alarm for the same time every morning for seven days a week, at least until your sleep pattern settles down.
    • Avoid daytime naps. When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night – which may cause sleep fragmentation and difficulty initiating sleep, and may lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation.
    • Allow for “wind down time” in the evening. Avoid anything mentally demanding within 90 minutes of bedtime.
    • Avoid heavy exercise late in the evening.
    • Avoid caffeinated substances or stimulants before bed.
    • Do not drink alcohol before bed.
    • Create a comfortable quiet environment. Turn off the lights, comfortable bed and the room is not too hot or too cold.
    • Avoid using smart phones or other devices, which emit ‘blue light’ late in the evening/night as this can disrupt normal sleep schedules.
    • Do not try to fall asleep. Enjoy relaxing even if you do not fall asleep at first. Your body will go to sleep naturally.
    • Develop and maintain a routine even if working shirt work. Routine allows the body to adapt and time for adequate rest.
    • Avoid excessive noise.
    • Avoid driving when tired.
    • Take frequent movement breaks.
    • Look at your work area- temperature/lighting/screen.
    • Break up respective and monotonous tasks.


    When experiencing fatigue, exercise can be the last thing on your mind. However, regular exercise provides the body with energy and can help combat fatigue. Exercise boosts endorphins, which make us feel more energised, increases oxygen levels in the blood and is both psychologically and physiologically beneficial. It improves cardiovascular and respiratory efficiency; enhances the quality of life and promotes wellbeing.

    Start with a small amount of exercise, even a 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost. The benefits increase with frequent physical activity.

    If you are struggling with ongoing Fatigue in relation to work you should speak to your employer and/or to your local GP or medical practitioner. 

    Further supports are available at:

    HSE’s www.YourMentalHealth.ie  

    Pieta House – www.pieta.ie / Freephone 1800 247 247 every day 24 hours a day / Text HELP to 51444 - standard message rates apply.

    Samaritans - www.samaritans.org / Contact jo@samaritans.ie  / Freephone 116 123 every day 24 hours a day