We are likely all familiar with stressful times. During times of acute stress we may even have intense stress for a period of time, but this is usually finite and followed by periods of recovery when we have less stress. When stress becomes chronic or long-term however, we can enter a state of emotional exhaustion. Emotional exhaustion can impact us on both physical and emotional levels, impacting the quality of our sleep, lowering our energy and motivation, and creates a cycle in which being emotionally exhausted makes it harder to recover from being emotionally exhausted.
Common symptoms of emotional exhaustion include:
- Change in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of powerlessness or being trapped
- Increased cynicism or pessimism
- Irritability or irrational anger
- Jaw or tooth pain (if clenching or grinding teeth at night)
- Lack of motivation
- Low motivation
- Muscle tension or soreness
- Physical fatigue
Treating Emotional Exhaustion
Treating emotional exhaustion primarily centers around lifestyle changes. At times our state of emotional exhaustion can make it difficult to make these changes, but by making changes we can lay the groundwork for feeling better.
Awareness is often the first step. Developing an awareness of one’s state of emotional exhaustion. Then expanding that awareness to identify sources of stress. Stress can come from a variety of sources. Jobs that are high pressure, or require working long hours, or school that is challenging or has high levels of homework. Finances, housing insecurity, safety concerns can all be sources of stress. Parenting, relationships, and caregiving also contribute to stress levels. When one is emotionally exhausted there may be one primary source of significant stress, but there can also be consistent stress from multiple roles or factors that in combination is overwhelming.
Once we are aware of the sources of stress, we can evaluate what changes can be made to reduce or resolve the stressor. Not all stressors can be eliminated, but it may be possible to change the stress level by engaging help or support resources, and it is worth exploring the possibilities to see if changes can be made.
When we have made the changes we can with regards to the stressors we are experiencing, the next option is support our physical and emotional wellbeing to help us managing the stress. When we are physically feeling better, we increase our capacity to cope.
Ways we can promote our physical wellbeing:
- Healthy Eating
- Getting enough sleep
- Limiting Alcohol
Ways we can promote our emotional wellbeing:
- Practicing mindfulness (which can include meditation, yoga, journaling, etc.)
- Connecting with friends
- Taking a break (whether is a self-care break, or a vacation)
- Seek professional services (psychotherapist, counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist)