Feel emotionally drained

How to Deal with Mental and Emotional Exhaustion |Banner

When you’re exhausted, it’s not just physical strain that can take a toll. Overdoing it mentally or emotionally can also be exhausting.

Mental exhaustion stems from too much mental strain—you’re overtaking your brain with tasks that require thinking. Ever have a long day at work and feel like you don’t have the capacity to decide what to eat for dinner or to choose a TV show? That’s mental exhaustion.

When you are mentally exhausted, you’re overworking your cognitive abilities and executive functions. “Mental exhaustion can develop when you have to spend a lot of time on complex tasks, such as analyzing data or making critical decisions,” said Srinivas Dannaram, MD, a psychiatrist with Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.

When you’re mentally fatigued, you won’t be as alert as you normally are. It will take you longer than usual to complete tasks. You may not be as interested in your work and your performance may suffer.

Over time, mental exhaustion can lead to trouble sleeping, stress-related headaches, digestive system problems and ulcers.

Emotional exhaustion develops in response to feelings. You may develop it when you process sadness, anxiety, loss, frustration or similar emotions. You might face emotional exhaustion when situations at home or work leave you feeling lost, separated or helpless. It often develops as a result of life changes or transitions.

Long-lasting emotional fatigue can shorten your attention span and concentration. And you may feel sad, hopeless, anxious or irritable. You may have trouble sleeping. Over time, emotional exhaustion can lead to psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety.

Mental exhaustion and emotional exhaustion are related

“Mental exhaustion can lead to emotional exhaustion and vice versa,” Dr. Dannaram said. When you are mentally exhausted, it can be challenging to balance your emotional responses since your ability to process stress is limited. You may become irritable, angry or anxious.

And when you are emotionally exhausted, it can affect your attention span, concentration and ability to retain and process information. It can limit your ability to make decisions.

It can be hard to recognize mental and emotional exhaustion

One of the big problems with mental and emotional exhaustion is that you often won’t realize you’re experiencing these problems. Being mindful of triggers can help. “We all tend to stretch ourselves in times of stress and transition,” Dr. Dannaram said.

Changes can disrupt your system, so you’re at risk of mental exhaustion when you start a new job or role—you’re likely to set unrealistic expectations at these times, and mental fatigue can set in. You’re at higher risk for emotional exhaustion when you experience interpersonal changes such as the end of a relationship.

How you can cope with mental and emotional exhaustion

“Mindful changes in your lifestyle can help you adjust to new situations, prepare for stress and prevent exhaustion,” Dr. Dannaram said. He recommends exercise, yoga and getting enough sleep.

Some other strategies can also help:

  • While it’s not always possible, once you’ve identified the cause of your mental or emotional exhaustion, see if you can reduce or remove it. Can you delegate some of your work tasks or get more help with household tasks?
  • Work a break into your schedule. A vacation is ideal, but shorter blocks of time can help, too. Take a full hour away from your desk at lunchtime, clear an evening and spend time with friends, or simply take every nonurgent task off of your calendar for a few days so you can recharge.
  • Avoid or limit napping. When you feel exhausted you might want to cope by resting, but too much daytime sleep can make it hard to get the restorative rest you need at night.
  • Practice gratitude. Gratitude can combat the negative thoughts you’re likely to experience when you are feeling mentally or emotionally exhausted. You can keep a gratitude journal or take a minute to think about something you’re grateful for.
  • Take a walk, ideally outside. Exercise doesn’t have to be a hardcore weight workout or a cycling class that leaves you dripping in sweat. Gentler forms of physical activity can boost your mood.
  • Choose healthy foods and drink plenty of water. When you’re feeling low you may reach for high-carb, high-fat comfort foods. But a balanced diet is better for your mental health.

If you’re not getting the relief you need, seek help. And connect with a behavioral health professional if you:

  • Feel sad, helpless or hopeless for more than a week or two
  • Aren’t able to keep up with your responsibilities
  • Can’t sleep well
  • Aren’t eating well
  • Have low energy levels

The bottom line

Exhaustion isn’t just physical. You may not recognize the signs, but mental and emotional stress can leave you feeling fatigued, too. If you think you may be mentally or emotionally exhausted, reach out to Banner Health for help.

Other useful articles

  • Work Burnout: Stopping the Career Killer Quickly
  • How to Stop Overthinking and Defeat Decision Fatigue
  • Toxic Positivity: What It Is and How to Deal with It

Behavioral Health

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Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and More

What is emotional exhaustion?

Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn-out and drained as a result of accumulated stress from your personal or work lives, or a combination of both. Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout.

People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation.

Lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion. Over time, this chronic, stressed-out state can cause permanent damage to your health.

Anyone experiencing long-term stress can become emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. In difficult times, emotional exhaustion can sneak up on you, but it’s never too late to get help.

The symptoms of emotional exhaustion can be both emotional and physical.

People experience emotional exhaustion differently, but generally symptoms include:

  • lack of motivation
  • trouble sleeping
  • irritability
  • physical fatigue
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • absentmindedness
  • apathy
  • headaches
  • change in appetite
  • nervousness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irrational anger
  • increased cynicism or pessimism
  • sense of dread
  • depression
If you need someone to talk to

Emotional exhaustion, feelings of hopelessness, and lack of life purpose can be overwhelming. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Employers whose employees are overworked and emotionally exhausted may begin to notice changes in job performance and overall team morale. For example, they might start to notice that their employees have:

  • failure to meet deadlines
  • lower commitment to the organization
  • more absences
  • high turnover rate

Experiencing some daily stress and anxiety is normal, but over time, chronic stress can take a toll on the body. Emotional exhaustion is caused by a long period of constant life stress, whether from personal stress at home or stress related to work.

What triggers emotional exhaustion differs from person to person. What might be stressful for one person can be completely manageable for another person.

Some more common triggers of emotional exhaustion include:

  • high-pressure jobs, such as nurses, doctors, police officers, and teachers
  • intense schooling, such as medical school
  • working long hours or working at a job you hate
  • having a baby
  • raising children
  • financial stress or poverty
  • homelessness
  • being a caregiver for a loved one
  • prolonged divorce proceedings
  • death of a family member or friend
  • living with a chronic illness or injury

You can make certain lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms of emotional exhaustion. These techniques won’t be easy to carry out at first, but they’ll get easier as you begin to form healthier habits.

Making small changes in your daily habits can help manage your symptoms and prevent emotional burnout.

Once you recognize the signs of emotional exhaustion, try the following:

Eliminate the stressor

While not always possible, the best way to treat stress is to eliminate the stressor. If your work environment is the cause of your emotional exhaustion, consider changing jobs or companies. If your manager or boss is causing your stress, you can also consider transferring to a new department or asking to be placed under a different manager.

Eat healthy

Eating healthy means choosing a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, while avoiding sugary snacks and fried or processed foods.

We’re told to eat healthy all the time, but it can make a world of difference when you’re stressed. Not only will it help you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but it will also improve digestion, sleep, and energy levels, which can have a domino effect on your emotional state.


Any sort of physical activity raises endorphins and serotonin levels. This can improve your emotional state. Exercise also helps take your mind off your problems. Try to exercise for 30 minutes per day, even if it’s just a long walk.

Limit alcohol

Alcohol may temporarily boost your mood, but the feeling will quickly wear off, leaving you more anxious and depressed than before. Alcohol also interferes with your sleep.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for mental health. It’s even more effective if you plan your bedtime for roughly the same time every night. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Developing a routine at bedtime can help you relax and ensure better quality sleep. Limiting caffeine can also have a positive impact on your sleep schedule.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a term you probably hear a lot, but mindfulness techniques are much more than just a fad. They’re scientifically recognized to reduce stress and anxiety and can be the key to balancing your emotions.

Mindfulness is the act of engaging with the present moment. This can help direct your attention away from negative thinking. There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Examples include:

  • meditation
  • yoga
  • breathing exercises
  • going for a walk, especially in nature
  • keeping a journal to write down your feelings and thoughts

Researchers recently even found evidence that a single session of mindfulness meditation can help reverse the effects of stress on the body.

Connect with a trusted friend

Talking face to face with a friend is a wonderful way to relieve stress. The person listening doesn’t necessarily have to fix your issues. They can just be a good listener. A trusted friend or family member can listen without judging you.

If you don’t have anyone close to turn to, check if your employer has an employee assistance program with counseling services.

Take a break

Everyone needs a break at some point. Whether you take a vacation or simply find the time to take yourself out to the movies, every little bit helps.

Meet with a professional

Along with making lifestyle changes, it’s important to seek professional help to treat emotional exhaustion. A professional, such as a therapist, can give you the tools you need to work through a stressful period. Some of the techniques used by professionals include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy
  • applied relaxation techniques

Talk to your family doctor

In some cases, your primary care provider may suggest medications to help manage your symptoms. Antidepressants, such as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety medications, or prescription sleeping aids have been used to help treat emotional exhaustion.

Medications such as benzodiazepines can be addictive and should only be used on a short-term basis to lower the risk of dependency or addiction.

The stress responsible for emotional exhaustion puts you at risk for a total burnout. Over time, it can lead to health problems. Chronic stress can affect your immune system, heart, metabolism, and overall well-being. Emotional exhaustion puts you at risk of:

  • high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease
  • frequent colds and infections
  • weight gain
  • insomnia
  • premature aging
  • anxiety
  • depression

Emotional exhaustion is a treatable condition. The best way to treat it is to eliminate the stressor or the stressful event. If emotional exhaustion is being caused by your job, for example, it may be time to consider changing jobs.

If you’re unable to eliminate the stressor, take advantage of resources available to cope. Talk to your primary care provider or a mental health professional about ways to manage stress and anxiety.

8 real reasons why you feel exhausted

You can sleep for eight hours a night, keep a routine even on weekends, give yourself time to rest, love your job and try to maintain physical activity, but still feel weak at times , emotionally burnt out and morally exhausted. In order to find the true cause of this condition, you must take a step back and analyze what is happening in your life now and what you can do wrong. Sometimes internal restlessness or unpleasant thoughts can cause fatigue and exhaustion. nine0003

Of course, first of all, you should pay attention to stress, or rather, to its sources. Your daily life is full of stress factors (hurry, anxiety, fears, etc.) that are invisible to you. When these factors accumulate, overlapping one another, you feel bad.

If you don't understand what is the cause of your negative state, and remain confident that you are doing everything right, wait a little while drawing conclusions. We've rounded up some real reasons why you feel exhausted. nine0003

1. No goals

Every person should have at least one goal in their life that meets their needs and desires. It is a clearly defined goal that will guide you on the right path, give you the motivation to wake up and get out of bed in the morning, make you work on yourself and enjoy the process of achieving it.

It may seem to you that life without a goal is much easier and more pleasant: there is no need to strive for anything, there is no point in worrying about failures and mistakes - you just live and enjoy it. But in fact, a purposeless life can lead you to depression, apathy, burnout and, of course, mental exhaustion. nine0003

Set goals for yourself. Let them not be as global as you would like, but at least you will understand what you need to strive for. Ideally, make a list of everything that you would like to try or achieve, and try to implement at least one item of the plan every few months.

2. Financial stress

If you are in a difficult financial situation for a long time or you have to limit yourself due to financial obligations, this can cause great stress, anxiety and exhaustion. You lose the ability to enjoy life, constantly returning to the thoughts that you have debt, credit or mortgage payments hanging on you. No matter how much you sleep, relax, communicate with family and friends, you will feel the weight of financial obligations until you completely solve your problems. nine0003

3. Long working hours

Moral exhaustion can appear if you go beyond the eight-hour working day, spending 12-14 hours a day on work or adhering to a daily schedule. When you spend so much time at work, you stop having normal rest and time for family, friends and your hobbies. As a rule, the realization of how few hours you have at your disposal drags you down and leads to problems with mood and well-being. After just a few weeks of working in such a busy schedule, you need a long weekend or vacation. nine0003

4. Working in stressful environments

Some professions are directly related to stressful conditions. Rescuers, doctors, teachers, support staff - they all spend a lot of time at work, constantly faced with negativity from other people and the need to make difficult and quick decisions. As a result - professional burnout and a sense of moral exhaustion, which are reflected in their results, communication with loved ones and leisure activities.

10 things not to do when you are stressed

5. Feeling unwell or sick

Many people, when they feel unwell, ignore the advice of a doctor and decide to just wait until the pain and discomfort go away on their own. Such neglect of one's own health is accompanied by severe stress experienced by the body. Instead of eliminating the cause of the anxiety, you try to come to terms with the fact that day after day you feel bad. nine0003

Some people choose to ignore health problems for months or even years. They suffer from pain in the body, congenital diseases or acquired diseases, which cannot but affect their emotional state.

6. No distractions

If you don't make any effort to organize your leisure time, you will eventually start to feel exhausted. You can’t waste time just doing work, cleaning the house, cooking and sleeping. A person needs communication, hobbies, walks, new emotions and impressions. Buy tickets to a nearby city for the weekend, go to a movie at the cinema, ask a pretty girl out on a date, do anything that can make you feel happy and content with life. nine0003

7. Putting things off until later

Putting things off until later is a bad habit that can provoke you to a constant feeling of anxiety and anxiety, leading to moral exhaustion. When you put off tasks for too long, you start to worry about burning deadlines, spend more time and energy on not forgetting anything important, delay the start of work, because you realize that an immense pile of tasks hangs over you that you need to take on. . nine0003

If you want to reduce stress and get rid of fatigue and apathy, just start doing everything at once, even if you don't feel like it. Get over yourself, and soon the feeling of exhaustion will recede.

8. Mess

Maybe your life is a constant rush, work affairs and personal meetings, so you don't have time or even don't try to keep your house in order. Whatever the reason for your decision, know that clutter plays a huge role in your mental exhaustion. When it's dirty, dusty around you, things are not in their places, the situation in the apartment is no longer conducive to relaxation and pleasant pastime. Clutter also negatively affects your productivity, activity, and attitude towards work. nine0003

10 ways to get your affairs in order and improve your life

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for life

Burnout syndrome: symptoms, prevention, treatment

Burnout is worse not because depression is more serious and destructive ( this is not the flu, but relative diseases, the severity of which cannot be judged just like that). It's just that the majority of Russians do not believe in the existence of a strange disease with a ridiculous name. When a person says that they seem to be suffering from a similar burnout, they are mockingly asked: “Are you like emotionally over?” nine0003

The question sounds sarcastic, although it is not without a grain of truth. Emotions, as a rule, are associated with character, upbringing, gender, nationality, and anything else, forgetting that this is primarily a reaction of the psyche, connected by various systems - digestive, respiratory, nervous, and endocrine. Excessively strong emotions become stressors that tire, exhaust and depress the body. Imagine that you have eaten too much and your digestive system cannot cope. It is difficult for the body to process so much food at once. In the case of emotions, the story is about the same - you experience them so much that the nervous system begins to malfunction. It's just that controlling the amount of food you consume is much easier than empathy, responsibility and the desire to empathize. The result of an emotional meat grinder in which you stay for a long time is emotional burnout. nine0003

What is it?

A person who communicates a lot with people every day (this process usually causes emotions), often finds himself in stressful situations and takes on great responsibility, sooner or later faces emotional exhaustion. He begins to feel indifference to his work, loved ones and to life in general. In a literal sense, this really means that a person has run out of emotions. He used up all the resources, completely emptying the tank. Not all doctors consider burnout syndrome to be a disease. And many mistakenly diagnose depression or a phase of bipolar disorder instead. nine0003

What are the symptoms?

The reason for medical errors is that the symptoms of emotional burnout are similar to those that occur in patients with depression and bipolar disorder (during the depressive phase). A person who is faced with this problem hardly opens his eyes and gets up in the morning, even if he has had enough sleep. He has no strength initially, and not because he is tired. The patient does not want to eat or sleep, it is difficult for him to perform any household activities. No matter, even what you liked before (this applies to work, hobbies, and meetings with friends), does not cause positive emotions. Any leisure person would prefer to lie in bed and look at the ceiling. At work, he does not feel any responsibility, he is not afraid to disappoint his superiors and receive a fine for not completing the task. He simply does not care about what is happening in his life - he is not pleased with the positive moments and does not disappoint the negative ones. In parallel, he begins to doubt his abilities, prospects and desires. It seems to the patient that he is not capable of anything worthwhile and is doomed to failure. nine0003

What causes the syndrome?

It is believed that burnout syndrome is an ailment of people associated with medicine, charity, helping and saving others. They are responsible for the life, health and well-being of those in need. Because of this, they experience strong negative emotions and are under stress. For the same reason, many surgeons and law enforcement officers suffer from alcoholism. But in fact, anyone can experience burnout. Usually this overtakes those who are initially in love with their profession, are ready to work a lot and put their career first in life. Such people constantly live in a time pressure mode - they strive to complete all tasks (and this is simply impossible, because each completed task gives rise to a new one), work overtime, react very emotionally to failures and failures, and take any criticism to heart. In the end, the body gets so tired of worrying and being nervous that it simply scores on everything. Imagine that you have been running at the limit of your abilities for a very long time and now your strength is over. And even if you really want to continue to fly forward rapidly, you simply cannot. I don't even have the strength to stand on my feet. It is logical that the body will leave you no other choice but to lie down and do nothing. Emotional burnout is a long process, you do not suddenly, do not suddenly lose interest in life. But to recognize the syndrome in the early stages - when you seem to no longer want to go to work and everything is in order, but nevertheless the fuse to do something is present and you still get pleasure - it is extremely difficult. In most cases, a vacation will help you - if, after returning to work after a vacation, you feel that you are full of energy and desire to topple mountains again, then everything is fine with you. You're just really tired. nine0003

Who is at risk?

Most likely, if you are an indifferent quitter who is relaxed and easy about everything in life, you are not threatened with emotional burnout. But if you strive to help everyone, do an excellent job, have time to do everything and even more and not let anyone down, then you can burn out. At greater risk are those whose careers are associated with the constant need to communicate with people (we are all a little energy vampires who suck strength and positive emotions from others) and with saving lives. This is the biggest responsibility that can be on someone's shoulders. And when a person understands that because of his actions someone can die, his body and mind work to the limit, and exhaustion comes faster. nine0003

Should I go to the doctor?

Yes, you need to make sure that you have a burnout syndrome. For example, during depression, it is also very difficult for a person to get out of bed and force himself to do something. He, too, begins to doubt himself and to be cynical and negative about everything in life. Approximately the same feelings are experienced by a patient with bipolar disorder during the depressive phase (during mania, everything is exactly the opposite). A psychotherapist will help you figure out what kind of illness you are facing. Please note that it is impossible to make an accurate diagnosis in one session. You will have to visit the doctor several times and as honestly and openly tell him about your feelings and sensations. nine0003

How to deal with it?

You can deal with burnout on your own. The patient's task is to replenish resources, and for this, which is logical, the first thing to do is to get out of the emotional meat grinder. Most often, work becomes the main catalyst for the syndrome. Less often, very difficult relationships with a family or partner can lead to exhaustion, which also plunge into constant stress and force you to permanently experience unpleasant emotions. In any case, you need to get out of emotional hell - quit, move (to another apartment, city, country), leave, interrupt communication.

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