We are all familiar with the draining impact of physical exhaustion, the result of a long day out with friends, a challenging workout session or going for too long without adequate sleep. However, we often overlook the impact of mental and emotional exhaustion on our overall well-being.
Otherwise referred to as ‘burnout’ in our society today, mental and emotional exhaustion often comes as a result of trying to handle too much stress, too many emotions, too much emotional strain for a long period. This may not sound like something all that concerning, after all, it’s just stress, right? However, burnout often leads to other problems in our lives ranging from a lack of productivity and a detachment from life to more serious mental health struggles. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms and take steps to tend to your mental and emotional health.
While there is no way to completely avoid the risk of burnout in today’s society (unless you intend on completely removing yourself from our stressful society, living off the grid and cut off the rest of the world in your own little bubble), there are ways you can promote better mental health.
First, take steps to reduce stress where possible, with the biggest solution coming from learning the power of the word ‘no’. Prioritize your day, and don’t take on more than you can personally handle, even if you are being pressured to do so. While we like to blame others, claiming we’re super busy because our boss is piling on the projects, or family members refuse to accept that we only have 24 hours in a day, here’s a little tough love for you – The biggest reason you have too much on your plate is likely YOU. Many of us set impossibly high expectations for ourselves, believing that we should be able to take on the world with no help and no limitations, only to find ourselves completely overwhelmed.
The second important consideration is the inclusion of ‘self-care’ in your daily routine. We spend time and money improving our diets and increasing our physical activity in order to promote better physical health, why not put the same effort into our mental health? Self-care doesn’t have to be something major, simply carving out 20 minutes for a nice hot bubble bath so you can distress or finding the time each morning to enjoy your morning coffee in peace before heading out into the crazy world of Corporate America can have a huge positive impact.
Here are 11 warning signs of mental and emotional exhaustion that you should watch out for:
#1 – Nausea and Dizziness
When we consider mental and emotional health, we rarely consider the fact that our struggles may manifest with physical signs. However, when we are completely overwhelmed with stress and on the verge of completely shutting down, our bodies will manifest physical symptoms like nausea and dizziness as a last-ditch attempt to force us to pay attention.
#2 – Lack of Motivation
As the burnout starts to set in, our outlook on life can shift. This leaves us feeling as though the world is a darker, more negative place than usual. If you find that you now have the drive to try because you already believe any efforts are going to fail, this is a sign that you need to recenter your thoughts.
#3 – Regularly Getting Sick
As we mentioned in the first point, sometimes mental and emotional struggles can have a very real physical impact on our bodies. High stress levels have been associated with poor immune system performance, meaning that you are more susceptible to picking up a cold, flu, or other infection.
#4 – Avoiding Responsibilities
Whether you’re the kind of person who may be a little reluctant to take on responsibility on a regular basis or someone who generally embraces it, there will come a time where you just have so much on your plate that you can’t handle anymore. At this point, you will start going to great lengths to avoid taking responsibility in any situation which can make you appear to be a bit of a flake. Rather than coming down on yourself for this, step back and address the reason why.
#5 – Easily Irritated
Do you always feel like you’re right at the end of your rope, with the littlest thing pushing you over the edge? We don’t always notice all of the negativity that surrounds us, but if you take a step back and assess the situation you may find your irritation is the result of A LOT of little things all adding up – the negative co-worker you work with, demands from family, financial stress, the negative news, and more. Everyone needs a break from stress at one time or another, ALL stress.
#6 – Numbness
When we are struggling with high-stress situations, they often trigger painful or challenging emotions. The more stress we take on, the more these emotions take hold in our lives. If this becomes too much, however, in an attempt to save ourselves, the mind will simply shut our emotional selves down. How do you know this has happened? You suddenly find yourself feeling numb to the world around you, not feeling good or bad in any situation, just feeling nothing. It may seem nice at first, but a world without positive emotions isn’t one you’ll want to live in for long.
#7 – High Anxiety
As your stress levels rise, you will find that more situations in life will leave you feeling anxious. You begin to worry about things that never would have concerned you before, always focused on the worst possible outcome. This negativity is only going to add to your stress, creating a vicious cycle.
#8 – Always Late
It’s not that you don’t want to make it to things on time, but you somehow always feel as though you’re a step behind in life. This may just be a sign that you’re trying to cram way too much in the time you have. This is putting an unbelievable demand on your time and energy, so why not give yourself some much-needed downtime?
#9 – Overwhelming Emotions
Just before you hit the point of numbness mentioned in point 6, your emotions must first come to a head. At this point, the emotions, stress, and anxiety you are experiencing are so intense that the littlest trigger can completely set you off. You may not even know what happened, suddenly crying or lashing with no explanation at all as to why.
#10 – Difficulty Sleeping
When we are right on the brink of burnout, all the stresses and concerns from the day are often running constantly through our minds. Our inability to shut this off further adds to the stress that we’re feeling while preventing us from being able to sleep. Try meditation before sleep to clear your mind, and definitely establish a bedtime routine that doesn’t involve working right up to the moment you climb into bed.
#11 – Difficulty Concentrating
Just as we mentioned in point 10 that you can’t sleep because you can’t shut your mind off, this also hinders your ability to concentrate. With a million thoughts running through your mind at any given moment, it’s nearly impossible to focus on the task at hand. This can have a horrible impact on your productivity at work.