13th January 2017

Concentration Fatigue: what is it and how it can affect you

duvet

Concentration Fatigue is a thing.

I found the term and was incredibly inspired by an article on a website called Hearing Like Me, where Ellen Parfitt explains her experience with Concentration Fatigue and everything she mentioned just clicked inside of me. It was like I was talking to myself.

I always put it down to constantly being tired, or potentially just feeling lazy, but now I’ve actually found a word for it, it now all makes sense.

If you’ve read my previous deaf awareness blogs, you’ll know my hearing loss story and how I’m all for embracing it and how I want to influence others to not feel ashamed.

But sometimes, concentration fatigue can really SUCK. Because I’m 22 years old and it can make you feel like you’re loosing your marbles a bit. I shouldn’t be feeling as tired as I am all the time at my age.

I still don’t think even my closest friends and family understand why I am so tired all the time. My job requires me to concentrate  a lot by listening to work colleagues and clients everyday. I have to ring new people everyday and listen to what they want me to write for them, which requires a lot of effort considering I have to listen with one and a half ear!

I get annoyed easily because I am a productive person and I love to keep busy. But I can’t do that if I’m tired all the time.

So what is Concentration Fatigue? Concentration Fatigue is a term which means the overuse of the brain’s inhibitory attention mechanisms. In other words, Concentration Fatigue is caused by heavy amounts of concentration whilst doing normal day-to-day activities. It usually kicks in when deaf people have to listen to people for long period’s of time. I have one good ear, and one ear with 40% worth of hearing.

I never realised until now why I used to struggle so much back in school. I would always find myself getting tired during the day and coming home and having a nap before dinner!

Even at University, I struggled most of the time to get through a whole day and nothing was better than having an afternoon nap. I just thought I had lazy student syndrome… now I know why.

So what are the affects from Concentration Fatigue? Well, here’s my thoughts on how it makes me feel:

You zone out, sometimes completely! – Have you heard the term “staring into space”? I feel like I’m staring into space all the time. If I’ve been concentrating for long periods of time, my brain will just switch off and I’ll go into my own world and sometimes I end up missing conversations. I’ll sometimes find myself completely stopping what I am doing.

Constantly feel the need to sleep or nap – Yep. I’ll sometimes go to sleep stupidly early because my brain has just had enough. On the weekends, if I’m not out and about doing something, once the clock hits 3pm-4pm, my body just shuts down and I have to have a nap in order to feel awake later on in the evening if I’m going out. I’m 22 going on 60 because I can sometimes feel physically and mentally drained.

Headaches – This is the worst. I tend to get quite a lot of headaches and this is when I’m concentrating for a long time without any breaks. It’s happened a few times when I was at University and it wasn’t fun.

You miss crucial information or conversations – Again, this is due to zoning out or not paying attention, not purposely! I found myself yesterday completely zoning out and I didn’t even realise my director was talking directly to me… I felt awful!

People assume you don’t get enough sleep – I’m constantly being asked by my family why I am so tired all the time and if I am getting enough sleep. Yes, yes I am getting enough sleep. Sometimes I even get TOO much sleep because I find myself falling asleep so early and waking up at a reasonable time that I wake up feeling like I’ve had no sleep at all. It’s sometimes a never ending cycle.

Now I know Concentration Fatigue is a thing, how do I handle it? Examples are things like lots of fresh air, so constantly being out and about in order to ensure I’m not doing nothing and end up falling asleep.

Drinking lots of fluids helps me. I always have a big bottle of water by me because I feel drinking a liquid whether it’s a cup of tea or coffee, a fizzy drink or bottles of water help me to keep concentrating.

Being in a quiet room by myself can help me too. Sometimes if it all gets too much for me, I tend to go upstairs to my room which is my personal space anyways, and it helps me to relax. Or if I’m at work, simply going for a drive to Tesco and taking 5 helps me to get my bearings back.

Sometimes when I come home, all I want to do is to be on my own and not be spoken to… (sorry, family) but my brain completely shuts down after an 8 hour day.

I feel Concentration Fatigue is something that isn’t spoken about in the deaf community, so I wanted to voice my own opinions on the subject. I hope there are people out there who can relate to this.

And if you do, I’d love to hear of your experiences.

I’m going to end this post by saying to anyone who does suffer with hearing loss, that it’s okay to be tired and it’s okay to take time out. It’s not your fault and you shouldn’t feel bad for taking a break.

We’ve got this!

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