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Why You Want to Nap at Work, and What to Do About It


Need a nap? If you’re at work, that’s probably not a good thing. The key is to figure out why you’re tired. Sometimes, we stay up too late, but fatigue can also be a chronic condition, or a response to stress. If we understand why we’re sleepy, we might be able to examine our own situation and gain more energy at work.

(Photo Credit: reynermedia/Flickr)

Fight or Flight

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Perhaps you have heard of the “fight or flight” response in animals and people. When we’re in danger — or thing we are — there’s an adrenaline rush and a call to action. In the wild, animals choose to fight to defend their territories or flee to preserve their lives. Humans are more affected by these ancient instincts and tendencies than many realize.

Your boss yells at you at work. You feel surprise, then some embarrassment, then a sense of being violated, and then you feel angry. Your adrenaline rush is calling you to action. You may fight, and yell back. Doing so will feel good at first, but afterward, you will likely see that you made your situation worse.

Fleeing would mean leaving, and is likely a bad choice. At some point, you will have to return and deal with the problem. When you do, you will have to answer for your storming out. If you don’t go back, then you don’t work there anymore.

Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness” refers to how we react in situations which we have little to no control. For example, you work for a boss who yells, and you don’t appreciate it. You can’t yell back or there will be bad consequences, and you can’t quit; you really need the job. You learn that you are helpless to change the situation.

The combination of stress and the feeling or belief that you cannot change the negative situation causes “the nap response.” The nap response is a normal and surprisingly typical response to stress. If you find yourself often fatigued at work or desperately needing a nap consider the possibility that you are dealing with stressors that you may not be able to control.

Action Is Necessary

As the nap response comes from a feeling of helplessness, you must act to address the stressors that result in fatigue. Step one is to take a cold, hard look at the situation. Be honest when you ask yourself what you find stressful. Make a list.

Step two is to separate out what you can and can’t control. In the above example in which a rude boss often yells, you cannot control the yelling. You can never control somebody else’s behavior. What you can control is your response to it.

We have already ascertained that stooping to the boss’ level and yelling back could have serious repercussions. Therefore, this response is ruled out.

We have already ascertained that simply quitting and walking away is financially unfeasible. Therefore this response is ruled out.

Brainstorm other options, such as:

  • Quietly look for other opportunities. You may not be able to quit right away, but exploring your options may feel empowering. And you might find a new possibility. 
  • After the boss has yelled at you, consider responding immediately in an appropriate tone of voice. Consider telling the boss you don’t appreciate being yelled at. 
  • If you can’t talk to your boss, ask yourself if there is somebody you can speak with. This is not about tattling or getting your boss in trouble; it’s about your concerns about your work environment.

Ask a trusted friend or loved one to help you brainstorm, because there are often more possibilities in any individual situation than we can thing of, on our own.

Stress turns into fatigue when we feel helpless and out of control. When people address the stressful issue, they are likely to feel energetic and empowered. Focus on the things you can control.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you react to stress by wanting to take a nap? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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