One of the most common signs of burnout we see at The Anti-Burnout Club is emotional exhaustion. When you’re emotionally exhausted, it can be really hard to do much of anything without feeling even more drained. Emotional exhaustion is common for those in caregiving roles or high-stress jobs, but pretty much anyone can experience it.
If you’re feeling emotionally drained, here are six tips to help clear the mental fatigue.
Symptoms of Emotional Exhaustion
Before we dig into the ways to feel less emotionally exhausted, let’s first establish what the signs and symptoms are.
- Brain Fog – One of the telltale signs of emotional exhaustion is brain fog, which can impact your memory, creativity and concentration.
- Lack of motivation – If you’re struggling to motivate yourself to do much of anything, then it could be down to emotional exhaustion.
- Cynicism or pessimism – When you’re emotionally drained, it can be hard to feel upbeat or positive. You may find yourself feeling cynical and/or pessimistic about the world.
- Physical fatigue – Emotional and mental fatigue can also lead to feeling physically fatigued. It may impact your sleep, making it harder to fall asleep or harder to get up in the mornings.
- Apathy – If you’re feeling quite apathetic then it may be due to emotional exhaustion. You may fall into unhelpful thinking patterns such as “What’s the point.”
- Low self-esteem – Being emotionally exhausted can also make it difficult for you to feel very confident about yourself. This can also lead to withdrawal and isolation.
- Physical symptoms – Headaches, sore muscles, and changes in appetite are some of the physical symptoms you may experience with emotional exhaustion.
As you can see, many of these are similar to the general symptoms of burnout and that’s because the two go hand-in-hand. Those who are emotionally exhausted are, generally, on their way to burning out. That’s why it’s vital to understand if you are suffering from mental exhaustion and put tips in place to help.
6 Tips to Help You Feel Less Emotionally Exhausted
Now we know the warning signs and symptoms, let’s look at some of the ways you can feel less emotionally exhausted. You can often use general burnout prevention techniques to help with mental fatigue, as these often focus on curing the symptoms. However, we have six top tips specifically for those who are feeling emotionally exhausted below.
1. Recognise the cause
Your first step is to recognise what it is that may be causing these feelings of emotional exhaustion. In most cases, the cause is chronic stress at work or at home. High-pressure jobs, long hours, raising children, and/or becoming a caregiver are all some of the most common causes of emotional exhaustion. However, anyone can feel emotionally drained at any point in their lives.
Ask yourself what the root cause of the issue is. What is creating chronic stress? Is it work? Is it something at home? Jot down some of the key stressors in your life and how they’re making you feel right now.
2. Focus on what you can control
There’s a lot of advice out there on the internet telling you to just limit the causes of emotional exhaustion and you’ll be fine. But what if you can’t? If you’re feeling emotionally exhausted due to bringing up children or caring for someone you love, for example, then you can’t necessarily limit that cause!
With this in mind, go back to your list of root causes and stressors. Which of these things are entirely out of your control and which of these things can you control? For example, you may not be able to hire help at home to keep on top of the housework, but you can stop saying yes to people who are draining your time and energy.
Highlight each of the stressors that are within your control and write down three things you could do to limit or remove them from your life.
3. Set boundaries and put your needs first
Setting boundaries is one of the best things you can do when you’re feeling emotionally exhausted or close to burning out. Often, those who are keen to do everything for everyone else are the ones who suffer from emotional exhaustion the most. Whilst being generous with your time and energy is admirable, that should never be to the detriment of your own mental health and wellbeing.
Look at that list of stressors again and consider if there is anyone that needs firmer boundaries in place. Is someone taking up a lot of your time and energy? Perhaps it’s a family member or your job. Don’t be afraid to say “I can’t do that right now” if people are trying to put too much on your plate.
And remember, however cliche it sounds, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Ensure your needs are met first and then you’ll be a better person for those around you.
4. Create healthy habits and routines
Now we’ve established that looking after yourself should be your number one priority, how do you go about doing that? There are many ways to look after yourself and focus on self-care, that can help reduce stress and emotional exhaustion too. For example:
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating feel-good foods
- Physical movement
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Drinking enough water
- Starting a gratitude practice
- Even just getting 10-minutes to yourself to do something you love
Start by integrating one of these healthy habits into your daily routine and build from there. We also have a list of 35 good habits to do every day that you can pick from. Remember, find what works for you and do more of that!
5. Connecting with others
Mental exhaustion can be isolating, so it’s important to spend time with other people who don’t make you feel emotionally drained! This could be a group of friends, a wellbeing group at work, or even a community group (like the gorgeous one we have at The Anti-Burnout Club)!
Find people that are happy to listen and will do so without any judgement. This may also be in the form of a counsellor or therapist, or an EAP (employee assistance programme) if you have one. Human connection and talking through our stressors is vital to our wellbeing, so don’t skip this tip!
6. Take a break
Finally, sometimes the only thing that is going to help when you’re feeling emotionally exhausted is to take a break. Perhaps you need to take some time off work, or ask someone if they can look after the kids for a few hours. Removing yourself from the situation and have some time to focus on yourself is vital for dealing with chronic stress.
As we’ve already said, putting your needs first will ensure that you’re feeling happier, healthier and more resilient. If you spend a lot of time looking after other people, then don’t be afraid to offer yourself the same courtesy in return.
If you’re really worried about mental exhaustion or your mental health, then we always recommend you speak to a medical professional as your first port of call.
We really hope this guide has been helpful and you can start taking the first steps towards feeling less emotionally exhausted and happier once more.