Calculator says no: the mathematics of fatigue

hands on faceSince finishing high school I’ve rarely used the complex mathematics I studied. While I certainly have never felt the need to find, oh say, the anti-differentiation of sin, or some such horror, over the past fatigued year I have developed my own mathematical formulas…

Some are simple, for instance:



…so I try and always have a rest day pencilled in.

But some are more complex. Not in the steps the mathematicians would need to take, but the realisation that I – once a busy, multitasking girl – have to run equations to see my friends, exercise and think. So I run through the list:

Morning walk + driving to Melbourne + reading a book + talking to friends + listening to friends + dealing with sensory overload of a large restaurant. Well, I’m no mathematical genius but I think this ends up with me hitting the wall…


Similarly I can stand up at the beach and throw a ball to the dog and call back my recalcitrant hound for 20min or I can walk the 600m to the beach, but add both together and I’m going to need to sit on the wet sand and get a wet bum; driving to the beach is the better option. And when I venture up to Melbourne to see my friends I make the mistake of catching up with too many people. I should just do one catch up and then go home, the rational side of me knows that, but I’m so excited to see these favourite people that as soon as I’ve scheduled in one lunch date I schedule in another friend for coffee and another for dinner and I’m almost asleep in my meal by the end of the day.

A recent question was: should I go to Melbourne Cup Day? It would be so much fun, and I’d see some great friends and brilliant horses and experience such an amazing atmosphere… But, if I calculate the energy needed it’s not such a good idea:

Long walk into the racecourse (most likely in heels) + all the talking + all the laughing + all the standing up + watching the races clutching my betting slip in excitement + the drinking (and I know I will) + … +… + …  would see me curling up on the ground to sleep, ruining whatever fancy outfit I was wearing and feeling thoroughly miserable, and, more importantly, once I hit the wall I would have to walk hundreds of meters before I could find a taxi to take me home… Hmmm, calculator says no.

cup day eq


On the other hand I sometimes accept that the fatigue will be worth it; such as when I went to a friend’s engagement party four hours away, drank champagne, danced all night and went to bed at 2am. I was well aware I’d feel like crap the next day as I swigged Red Bull from the bottle in my purse, but I wanted to be there. It was an awesome night that I payed for with a week of mental absence and horrible pain and fatigue but to me it was worth going as I would have sat at home horribly grumpy if I hadn’t gone, it was a good friend and it was a once-off; there’s always next year’s Cup Day.

Another weird thing with fatigue is that it isn’t so much what I’ve done today, but what I did yesterday. So if I drove my car and had lunch with friends and wrote a blog post and cooked dinner I’m probably going to need to take it easy the next day. In the same vein if I know I am going to be busy tomorrow I will force myself to be still and rest today: I won’t sleep all day but I’ll have a few naps; I’ll sit and listen to an audio book instead of reading a paperback book; I’ll use dry shampoo on my hair instead of expending energy washing and drying it; I’ll watch a movie rather than stand up baking and I’ll take time to just sit outside in the sun with a dog and be still.

For a girl that used to multitask everything (I literally used to take my laptop to the bathroom so I could watch a movie while I had a bath!) I am now very aware of how things add up and that I really need to choose what I do. I don’t scroll through Facebook on my phone while watching the news anymore, as I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on in the world at the end of 30 mins (unless I change my Facebook feed to include less Buzz Feed quizzes and more articles from The Economist). I no longer sit down and read a book and listen to music while my baking is in the oven, as I will completely forget about it and it will burn; instead I sit on the kitchen bench and stare with a watchful eye at the browning peaks of my lemon meringue pie. I had lunch the other day with friends (one of whom has the cutest baby) and when Eddy the 7-month-old was on my lap I was not eating, I was not talking, I was just playing horsey and bumping him on my knees while the others talked and ate. It is interesting how much slower the world is if you just stop to do one thing at a time.

The crappest thing about fatigue though is when you run the equation through your head but your mathematics are wrong: you crash in public places, you miss the exit on the freeway as brain fog has descended, caffeine has no effect on you, your planned catch up with a friend is cancelled as you can’t even form a sentence and you spend a whole day in pain and in bed despite doing nothing the day before. At that point I’m likely to behave as I did studying maths in year 12 and throw the textbook across the room in a fit of anger as the answers in the back of the book are just plain wrong, I was supposed to be right.

hoodie anger


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