It is normal to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted sometimes. If you, on the other hand, constantly feel drained and lower than usual, you may be experiencing emotional exhaustion.
This is especially true if you feel like you’ve reached your breaking point or just can’t take it anymore. Left unchecked, emotional exhaustion can take a toll on both your physical and mental health.
Emotional exhaustion is the state of feeling emotionally tired, drained or worn out. It can happen when stress starts to accumulate due to the challenging things you are currently dealing with or have to deal with. Emotional exhaustion tends to build up over a long period and can cause you to become emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted, with a feeling like you can’t bounce back.
Emotional exhaustion is also a common sign of burnout. Overwhelming tasks, high-pressure deadlines, and lack of support from loved ones can deplete your emotional resources and can cause you to lose motivation to do anything.
It can also make you feel stuck or emotionally tired and disconnected, diminishing your capacity to take care of yourself and others.
How to cope with it? Why seek help from therapy? Let’s find out.
What causes emotional exhaustion?
Emotional exhaustion usually happens after a long period of stress. This can be due to work-related issues or stress associated with personal and family problems.
The triggers, however, vary from person to person because everyone has a different stress tolerance. What might be overwhelming to one might not be stressful to someone else.
Here are some of the things that can trigger or contribute to emotional drain or exhaustion:
- Having demanding or high-pressure jobs (such as physicians, nurses, educators)
- Working long hours at a job you hate
- Low job satisfaction
- Working in a high-stress environment
- Living with a chronic illness
- Being a caregiver for a family member
- Relationship difficulties like a break-up or divorce
- Losing a loved one
- Having a baby and raising kids
- Poverty or financial stress
- Being homeless
- Lack of social and emotional support in times of stress
- Poorly regulated emotions, thoughts, and behaviors
What are the symptoms of emotional exhaustion?
If you’re emotionally exhausted, you are likely to experience both physical and emotional symptoms. Repeated and constant stress can also cause your body to feel like it’s always under attack, releasing more stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This can disrupt different body processes such as sleep, metabolism, and immunity.
Physical symptoms of emotional exhaustion include:
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling exhausted all or most of the time
- Stomach issues/digestive problems
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss or gain
Emotional exhaustion can also affect your mood and feelings. It may cause you to feel low or unmotivated, constantly tired, and incapable of getting any work done, even simple tasks. The sad part is these feelings can become stronger and cause you to feel trapped, powerless, or detached.
Emotional symptoms include:
- Lack of motivation
- Crying for no reason
- Feeling nervous most of the time
- Forgetfulness or brain fog
Feeling overwhelmed or emotionally exhausted can also affect your work performance and personal relationships. Common symptoms include:
- Poor performance
- Constant absences
- Failure to meet deadlines
- Inability to emotionally or personally connect with others
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of motivation/enthusiasm in work and personal life
How to treat emotional exhaustion?
It starts with knowing or identifying the things (e.g., work issues, relationship problems) that emotionally drain you and then minimizing your exposure to them.
If it is your work environment, for instance, you may consider transferring to another department or changing jobs (if possible). If you can eliminate the cause of your stress, you can feel a little lighter and ease your symptoms.
There are cases, however, where it is impossible to change or eliminate the stressor. If this is true for you, you can try focusing on the present, as well as the positive or even ordinary things happening around you.
This can help you put things in perspective or even realize that your stressor is not dreadful as it may seem initially.
How to cope with emotional exhaustion?
Since eliminating your source of stress is not always possible, positive lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms of emotional drain or exhaustion.
Take care of yourself
As emotional exhaustion can have physical symptoms, you need to acknowledge and attend to your physical needs. This can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body, which will then help you adapt or cope better emotionally.
Fill your diet with nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Be sure to avoid overeating, especially loading up on sugary snacks and processed foods.
Any type of physical activity releases endorphins, which can boost your mood and help you feel good. You can try walking, running, cycling, or even following an exercise routine online. This can help take your mind off the things you are trying to avoid. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
Get enough sleep
Emotional exhaustion can affect your sleeping patterns or cause problems like insomnia. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Develop healthy sleeping habits by sticking to a regular bedtime schedule, limiting screen time before bed, and keeping naps short. Keeping your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet also helps.
Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol
While these may boost your mood temporarily, their effects are likely to wane off, causing you to feel worse than before. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, talk to a trusted loved one or mental health professional. Don’t try to lift or soothe your mood with these substances.
Mindfulness or being fully aware of the present and your surroundings can help relieve stress and boost your mood. Practicing such techniques can direct your attention from draining thoughts or negative thinking.
It enables you to focus on the here and now, so you’ll become less preoccupied about the past and help build your capacity to deal with challenging events in the future.
Here are some mindfulness techniques you can try:
Connect with a trusted friend or loved one
If you’re dealing with something stressful or overwhelming, talking about it to a trusted friend or loved one can help ease your burden.
That person doesn’t have to offer you advice or solve your problem, just being there and listening to you without judgment can go a long way. You can also talk to a counselor or a clergy member if you don’t have anyone close to confide in.
Maintain a work-life balance
Working long hours, including weekends and holidays, can lead to emotional burnout or exhaustion. Aim for work-life balance by taking scheduled breaks and rest days. Don’t let work or other tasks rule your life.
Here are a few things that can help:
- Say “no” to the things you don’t want to do
- Avoid overtime; stick to your work schedule as much as possible
- Make time for your hobbies or the things you enjoy doing (at least weekly)
- Don’t push your body. If it tells you that it’s tired or done, stop working or take a break
Talk to a mental health professional
Positive lifestyle changes are important, but so is therapy to help treat emotional exhaustion. A mental health professional can help you navigate your difficult emotions and work through your stress or other mental health issues. They can equip you with the right tools or techniques to tackle the triggers or causes of your emotional exhaustion.
The best part is you can do this at the comfort of your home through online therapy on Calmerry. You can choose the mode of communication you’re comfortable with, which includes text messaging, audio messaging, or live video sessions. This is more accessible and flexible than face-to-face sessions but can be as effective as traditional therapy, according to a review of studies.
If you think you’re suffering from emotional burnout or exhaustion, don’t hesitate to see a mental health professional. This is particularly helpful if you’re unable to manage your symptoms or are experiencing anxiety or depression. They can help you create a plan to feel calmer and more balanced, as well as heal and move forward with life.