Professional Fatigue – what to do when you can’t even reach your bootstraps…

By Karen Amos

‘Fatigue’ seems to be the word of the moment.  I’m hearing it everywhere.  From managers, business owners, workers, head teachers and parents.  I usually come into the bracket of positive, or at least pragmatic in the face of challenge (to the consternation of the nay-sayers!), but even I’ve succumbed to bouts of negativity and fatigue in the last week or so.

Some of the most positive, chilled out people I know have told me they don’t recognise or even like the person they are at the moment – they’re fractious, complaining, negative, angry… The fact is people are exhausted – mentally and emotionally drained.

So what’s happened to cause this?  It’s not that long ago that everyone was lauding the positive ‘New Normal’, of a slower, kinder pace of life and this is what they were going to take forward from now on.

There’s probably no single reason for these feelings, but here are a few possible causes.  Of course, being a coach, this isn’t just a moan-fest, so I’ve also included some first steps and coaching questions to lift us out of this situation.


Change is mentally and emotionally challenging at any time, but we’ve had relentless change for over three months and there’s no sign of this letting up – which brings…


We have no idea what’s coming next. Is it right to be optimistic? What if we are and our hopes are dashed? How long will this situation go on for? The questions are endless and often unanswerable.


Responsibility can be both personal and collective.  People working in positions of responsibility know the day to day challenges they face around the wellbeing of their staff and stakeholders, but now the potentially catastrophic effect of their decisions, both physically and financially, is front and centre.

Constant giving of support can leave personal reserves depleted, particularly when there are difficult decisions to be made around working conditions and employment.


Most people now have a clear idea on where they sit on the ‘homeworking/office working’ spectrum.  Many have recognised their needs aren’t been met when solely working from home, particularly if they’re child-wrangling/home-educating at the same time.  Virtual office ‘quiz nights’, simply can’t replace the required level of social interactions for those who need this.

Lack of control:

This has rightly been explored in detail throughout the pandemic.  The issue is that the lack of control continues, not just at a government level, but also societally.  We’re given rules to follow, but other people aren’t necessarily conforming and we have no control or even influence over their behaviour.  This in turn introduces the issue of…

Personal Values:

This is our inner voice – the one that gives us direction in our lives and governs our decisions and behaviour.  When other people behave in ways we don’t morally agree with, our emotional response can be extreme.  This can quickly lead to feelings of anger, overwhelm, hopelessness and inevitably, exhaustion if we can’t reconcile these.

So, what to do?

Be Mindful:

This is often a necessary first step in self-care.

This isn’t about gaining some kind of Nirvana-like state, but merely acknowledging and being aware of how you’re feeling.  It’s not always easy to admit, even to yourself, that you’re behaving or thinking in a way you don’t like, that may not fit with your values.

Hit the pause button and take a few minutes out, however briefly, to think about what’s going on for you right now.  Accept that it’s natural and normal in the current circumstances and that it won’t be permanent.


On what’s causing your fatigue?

Try this coaching question:

Identify what the underlying reasons are.  There will likely be at least a couple.  Finding and isolating the cause will help put a brake on your internal mental hamster-wheel, bringing some rational thinking into the equation.  You then have a starting point to begin taking practical steps to resolve some of these.

We’ll look at more tips and coaching questions to improve your wellbeing and productivity in our next blog.

If you would like to find out more about how you and your teams can improve their time management and productivity, whilst minimising stress and overwhelm, check out our new Positive and Productive online programme.  

For schools

For Business and VCSE organisations

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.