Have you ever had one of those days where you had to drag yourself out of bed and force yourself to go to work? Perhaps during the day, you felt like you were just going through the motions. Every task felt tedious, and you felt no desire to have conversations with your coworkers. Your mind was in a fog, and you had a short temper, which is unusual for you. Maybe you’ve felt like this for days, weeks, or months. If this sounds familiar, you could be experiencing emotional exhaustion.
Taking care of emotional exhaustion is important because it will impact your personal life, fraying relationships with family and friends. No matter how you categorize it, being emotionally drained also leads to adverse health effects, decreased productivity, and less job satisfaction.
In this article, learn about what emotional exhaustion is, the most common symptoms, some of the causes, and how to treat it.
What is Emotional Exhaustion?
Emotional exhaustion is a feeling of being drained and stretched thin. Generally speaking, it comes with feelings of being trapped with no way to escape.
For the most part, these feelings come from heightened levels of stress related to problems in one’s personal life or issues at work. The Mayo Clinic sometimes refers to the latter as job burnout, which can even lead to serious health problems if people don’t address the issues that come from being emotionally drained.
In other words, while emotional exhaustion sounds like only a mental health issue, it can have an impact on physical health.
The Symptoms of Emotional Exhaustion
When you’re emotionally exhausted, you may feel a variety of symptoms that limit your effectiveness at work. Many of these can lurk just below the surface, only popping up occasionally. Others may be constant to the point where it can be difficult to remember what life was like without them. Knowing the symptoms of emotional burnout can help you identify them in yourself before they become too serious.
- Fatigue (physical and mental)
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of dread of hopelessness
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mind fog
- Outbursts of anger
- Increased pessimism
- Changes in appetite
- Soreness and muscle tension
Signs Your Team Members May Be Emotionally Exhausted
As a leader for your team, you should be on the lookout for outward signs that your team members may be emotionally drained. Only when you recognize the signs will you be able to step in and help. Be vigilant in identifying the following signs.
- Increase in absences: If one of your team members has been absent more often, that may indicate they are suffering from emotional burnout.
- Less excitement and commitment for the company: It’s wonderful to see people have a passion for the work they do and the company they work for. If you notice someone’s passion, excitement, and commitment diminish, there might be an underlying issue.
- Missed deadlines: It’s not unusual to have an employee miss a deadline from time to time. However, if it becomes a recurring pattern, emotional exhaustion may be the culprit.
- High turnover: Does your company or team suffer from a high turnover rate? If employee retention is a significant problem, workers may not be able to handle emotionally exhausting work.
Common Causes of Emotional Exhaustion
If you notice signs of emotional exhaustion in yourself or others, it may be helpful to address the causes. If you eliminate or at least alleviate the causes, it can also prevent problems from appearing in the first place.
Causes of emotional and mental exhaustion can be work-related or come from what’s happening in people’s personal lives. The following are some of the most common causes.
- Jobs with high stress
- Long hours at work
- Death of a family member of friend
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Having and raising children
- Financial difficulties
- Having a lack of support
- Drugs and alcohol
- Being a caregiver
How to Treat Emotional Exhaustion
Having an emotionally exhausting life can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. Even if it doesn’t seem serious at the moment, the longer you suffer from emotional exhaustion, the more likely it is for significant problems to develop. Don’t simply wait for things to get better. Actively seek to treat emotional exhaustion now. The following methods can help.
1. Diet and Exercise
To fight emotional exhaustion, try changing your diet to include healthy food items. A healthy diet has vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products. Be sure to avoid fatty or sugary foods. At the same time, get some exercise. Even if it’s for a short period of time each day, a little exercise can go a long way. A healthy body leads to a healthier mind and emotional state.
2. Get More Sleep
A lack of sleep can be one of the causes of emotional exhaustion. To counteract this, try to get as much sleep as you can during the night. Aim for eight hours by keeping a strict sleeping schedule, such as going to bed at 10:30 p.m. and getting up at 6:30 a.m. If your sleep schedule is erratic or doesn’t fit in the right amount of time, you’ll feel added fatigue. That makes you more susceptible to burnout.
3. Practice Self-Care
In addition to taking care of your body, you need to take care of your mind. Self-care keeps a close eye on your emotions and mental health and makes sure to regulate them. Some common self-care practices include meditation or taking a hike through nature. While these ideas can help with your physical health, they do wonders for your mental health by reducing stress. You can even do visualization practices to increase your confidence and enthusiasm.
4. Take a Break
If work has been getting to you lately, schedule some time off. Many companies now allow for mental health or personal days outside of regular sick and vacation days, giving people the chance to unwind and relax.
Taking a break helps you to remove yourself from a stressful situation. If work is a major source of emotional unrest, you may even consider seeking a new place to work, especially if management doesn’t take your emotional well-being seriously.
5. Seek Professional Help
In extreme situations, you may even need to seek professional medical help. If emotional exhaustion has led to physical harm, schedule an appointment with a physician. If most of the trauma is mental in nature, see a mental health specialist like a therapist. These experts have the training and knowledge to get you back on your feet and functioning with clarity and purpose.
6. Become More Emotionally Intelligent
As a leader, you must have concern for the emotional state of your team members. This requires having high emotional intelligence (EI). Being emotionally intelligent means being aware of one’s own emotions and the emotions of those around them.
EI in the workplace means understanding that your words and actions have an impact on others’ emotions. Pay attention to what you say and do and recognize how that affects your team members. If some are becoming emotionally exhausted, perform some self-introspection to see if you may have had a hand in it.
Handling Emotional Exhaustion Today
Emotional exhaustion isn’t a unique phenomenon for our day. Anna Katharina Schaffner, author of Exhaustion: A History, explained in an interview with Psychology Today, “Anxieties about exhaustion, and the loss of physical and mental energies, are present both in fiction and in the medical, theological, and philosophical literature from classical antiquity onwards. Exhaustion is a timeless concern related to fears about death, illnesses, and the gradual waning of our energies as we age.”
Understand that emotional exhaustion can happen to anybody. Even if you have a passion for your job, high levels of stress can lead to emotional and physical fatigue. If you feel you suffer from emotional exhaustion, try the following tips right away. You’ll soon notice a positive difference in your well-being.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day.
- Sleep a full 8 hours.
- Meditate 15 minutes a day.
- Have a serving of fruits and vegetables every day.
Looking for more information about burnout and retention? Start by reading the following articles: