How to Recognize Emotional Exhaustion and What to Do About It

Emotional Exhaustion

If you work a lot and you feel extremely tired or exhausted at the end of the week, this might be a sign of burnout. Emotional exhaustion is one of the main symptoms of burnout, which means that a person is no longer able to find joy and positivity in what they do. Burnout can make you feel emotionally drained and have a significant negative impact on both your professional and personal life.

According to statistics, 52% of Americans are experiencing burnout. There are several different types of burnout. One of the most common types is occupational burnout, which is caused by work-related activities. Besides, sometimes people experience emotional exhaustion because of stress factors associated with relationships and social life.

One of the worst things about mental exhaustion is that people often fail to recognize signs of burnout until it becomes completely unbearable. People with tight work schedules and numerous responsibilities, as well as people with chronic stress or mental health problems and those going through major changes in their lives are all at a particularly high risk of mental exhaustion.

If left untreated, emotional exhaustion can affect one’s sleep, mood, and the overall mental well-being. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of burnout and know what factors can contribute to the development of this problem so that you can prevent and cope with it.

Overcoming emotional exhaustion may require you to make adjustments to your lifestyle and figure out why certain risk factors are present in your life. For instance, if you experience burnout because you tend to take on too many responsibilities at work, you may want to understand why self-sacrificing became an option, in the first place. In this case, therapy is the best solution.

Now let’s take a closer look at the symptoms and effects of emotional exhaustion and consider some tips on how to overcome it.

 Mental Exhaustion: Symptoms

Emotional exhaustion can have not only emotional but also physical effects. In this regard, burnout isn’t different from many other mental health issues. For instance, mental health problems may lead to sleep disorders, which in turn can affect physical health.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of mental exhaustion.

  •  Mood changes

First of all, emotional exhaustion can have a significant impact on one’s mood. For example, when you’re exhausted, you may feel more pessimistic or cynical than usual. You may also be less motivated and avoid activities that used to bring you joy.

Quite often, burnout makes people more irritable, and it can also contribute to the development of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. The reason is that burnout can make a person focus on failures and negative aspects of their professional and personal life, feeling not only exhausted but also hopeless.

  •  Cognitive difficulties

Emotional exhaustion can also affect one’s memory and cognitive abilities. It leads to problems with concentration and makes it difficult to keep track of your tasks. Cognitive difficulties can be particularly easy to notice when dealing with a massive workload and stressful situations.

Research data shows that emotional exhaustion caused by burnout causes a decline in the three crucial cognitive areas, which are memory, attention, and the planning ability, which is also known as executive function.

  • Sleep problems

When a person experiences lots of daily stress, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can turn into a challenge. Emotional exhaustion can make it difficult for you to fall asleep despite feeling tired.

Emotionally exhausted people may also oversleep or have problems with staying asleep at night. When emotionally exhausted, you may lack motivation to get out of bed on time, and a bad mood may seriously affect your plans.

  • Physical symptoms

One of the main reasons why emotional exhaustion can affect physical health is that it impacts the levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Stress hormones are an important survival mechanism, as they make us more alert and allow us to react to threats faster.

Once the danger has passed, levels of cortisol and adrenaline are supposed to get back to normal. However, chronic stress, which often results in emotional exhaustion, keeps our levels of stress hormones high, and a continuous release of these hormones can have a significant impact on one’s health.

For instance, chronic stress and emotional exhaustion can lead to increased levels of blood sugar and high blood pressure. Besides, while prioritising survival, cortisol also impairs processes that are not crucial for it, leading to problems with the immune, digestive, and reproductive systems.

  • Personal and professional life

All the effects of emotional exhaustion mentioned above can affect a person’s work and personal life, interfering with their ability to perform everyday tasks, decreasing work performance, damaging one’s self-esteem, and eventually leading to relationship problems. For instance, emotional exhaustion often causes social avoidance.

What to Do If You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted

  • Acknowledge your exhaustion

First and foremost, you won’t be able to solve a problem if you ignore it. We’ve already mentioned that many people deal with emotional exhaustion because of work-related burnout.

Quite often, people who prioritize work over their personal lives and well-being don’t recognize the signs of burnout and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist or downplay its importance. Unfortunately, ignoring the problem can only make mental exhaustion symptoms worse.

  • Figure out what causes your emotional burnout

Although work-related stress and emotional pressure are among the most common causes of emotional burnout, it’s important to keep in mind that all kinds of chronic and intense stress can make you emotionally exhausted.

For example, if you’re dealing with relationship problems or going through challenges in your family life, such things can also be emotionally exhausting. If you’re not sure what exactly drains your energy, you can talk to a therapist — therapy can help you analyze stressors in your life and cope with the symptoms of mental exhaustion.

  • Take your time to switch focus

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you need to take a break. Even if you have a lot of work to do, you should keep in mind that taking a break is necessary because burnout damages productivity and doesn’t let you reach your peak performance.

No matter how tight your deadlines are and how many responsibilities you juggle, your mental health must be your main priority. You need to recover so you may consider taking a few days off. If your relationships contribute to your burnout, you may also take a break from your social life.

Use this time to focus on yourself and your emotional health. Get enough sleep and switch your focus from things that make you nervous to anything that brings you joy and helps relax. Try breathing exercises, yoga, or some of many other effective ways to relieve stress.

  • Practice self-care

If you’re feeling emotionally exhausted, getting back on track may take some time and effort. You may need to make some adjustments to your regular lifestyle. For instance, you need to take care of your body to help it recover from the consequences of stress, so you may switch to a healthier diet with lots of vegetables.

Exercise regularly and be realistic about your plans. Make sure that you can work at a comfortable pace and don’t take on more responsibilities than you can handle. Don’t be afraid to say no and practice self-compassion. Everybody gets tired, and everybody needs a break sometimes.

  • Try therapy

A licensed therapist can help you figure out what factors cause your emotional exhaustion and provide the necessary support, helping you cope with it. Therapy can also help you come up with an effective plan so that you can avoid burnout in the future.

If you’re too busy, you may not have enough time for traditional in-person therapy, but the good news is that you can use online therapy platforms like Calmerry so you won’t need to commute to a therapist’s office. You can talk to a video therapist from virtually anywhere and get the necessary support remotely.

 Wrapping Up

Emotional exhaustion is a common sign of burnout. While many people ignore the symptoms of exhaustion, it’s important to keep in mind that it can have significant negative consequences for one’s productivity, mental and even physical health.

If you feel emotionally exhausted because of your work or troubles in your personal life, the best solution is to take a break so that you can refocus and dedicate some time to your mental health. Figure out what factors contribute to your exhaustion and think of what you may need to change in your lifestyle to minimize stress.

Therapy can help you better understand what causes your emotional burnout and come up with effective solutions. Even if you don’t have enough time to commute to a therapist’s office, you can use online therapy and talk to a licensed professional remotely. Learn more about therapy so that you will know what to expect from your first conversation.


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