Working long hours makes you long for rest and relaxation. But just as long work physically exhausts you, it can emotionally exhaust you as well.
A Gallup study of more than 7,000 workers found that one-quarter of Americans feel burned out very often. 44% more report feeling burned out sometimes.
Many people know about how workers take time off to deal with their burnout. They think that burnout is physical. But emotional exhaustion is a major component of it. It is also a problem in its own right.
We must become aware of the signs of being mentally and emotionally exhausted. Here is a quick guide on those signs and their treatments.
Signs of Emotional Exhaustion
There is no scientific definition for emotional exhaustion. In general, it is a state of feeling worn-out as a result of stress.
As with many mental conditions, people experience emotional exhaustion in different ways. They may struggle with motivation. They may not have the motivation to get out of bed, let alone work.
Yet, they may also have trouble sleeping. They may not be able to fall asleep, dealing with their racing thoughts instead. They may wake up in the middle of the night.
They may experience anhedonia, a clinical lack of pleasure that occurs during even pleasurable activities. They may not be able to feel emotions at all.
If they are able to feel, they feel hopeless. They may think that their exhaustion will last forever.
They may feel sudden bursts of emotion. They may suffer from irrational anger, becoming irritated by the smallest things. They may feel a sense of dread, as though something bad will happen.
Emotional exhaustion may have some physical symptoms. These include fatigue, headaches, and a change in appetite.
What Causes Emotional Exhaustion?
A leading cause of emotional exhaustion is stress at work. More than half of medical professionals suffer from burnout and exhaustion. Medicine is a high-pressure job done in a chaotic environment, which drains professionals’ energy.
But emotional exhaustion can occur beyond the workspace. Raising children is high-pressure and chaotic. Many parents become drained from chasing after their little kids.
Relationship difficulties are exhausting. A disintegrating marriage can cause stress for both parties. A divorce process can take months to resolve.
Home and food insecurity can also be exhausting. Not knowing where you can sleep or eat causes a lot of stress.
BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people report feelings of anxiety and exhaustion more often than white and heterosexual people. Living under white supremacy, racism, and homophobia is incredibly draining.
At the same time, efforts to deal with racism and homophobia can cause further exhaustion. At company meetings, BIPOC people are often asked to recall stories of racism. This can trigger traumatic memories and cause further harm.
There is no formal diagnosis for emotional or mental exhaustion. But there are a few things you can consider.
The Maslach Burnout Inventory measures burnout in an occupational setting. One component that the Inventory looks at is emotional exhaustion.
Respondents must answer if they feel emotionally drained or if they are working too hard. Each response is on a zero to seven scale, based on how often they feel what they are feeling.
A feeling of emotional exhaustion every day leads to a score of 7. A total score of 27 or higher means the person is feeling high emotional exhaustion. They should seek help and adjust their responsibilities at work.
If your emotional exhaustion is not work-related, you can consider another inventory. Write down a series of statements like, “I smile less frequently than I used to,” and “I cry more easily.” If you find yourself agreeing with those statements, you may have exhaustion.
Exhaustion can present alongside other conditions. Many people with depression lose interest in hobbies, causing them to smile and laugh less.
Consider your other physical and psychological symptoms. If you notice other signs of depression, get tested for it.
How to Deal With Emotional Exhaustion
If you are suffering from any kind of condition that inhibits your ability to work, you should seek help.
Talk to your doctor, then talk to a psychiatrist. If you have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Taking time off work may be a good idea. Take a Friday or a Monday off so you have a three-day weekend. Consider future strategies you can take to combat exhaustion.
But you should do more than take a day off. You can participate in group counseling.
You will work with a psychiatrist on a goal you want to reach. Then you will talk to people with similar problems in a group setting. You all will devise strategies you can take to reach your goals.
You can engage in one-on-one sessions as well. With a therapist, you can identify the sources of your exhaustion. You can then think of steps to become more energetic and focused.
You may be able to take medications. But remain in contact with your doctor as you take them. Anti-anxiety pills can cause side effects or react with other prescriptions.
Perform deep breathing or meditation when you encounter a stressor. Make a list of all of your positive attributes and accomplishments. Remember this list whenever you tell yourself you can’t do something.
Getting Expert Help
When you have emotional exhaustion, you feel helpless. But you can get help, including from yourself.
Exhaustion can present in a number of ways. You may struggle with motivation, or you may have sudden mood swings. Exhaustion can come from work, personal life, and/or living as a minority in America.
Make an inventory of your symptoms so you understand what you have. Take a little time off work, but call a doctor right away. Go to therapy and learn relaxation strategies.
D’Amore Mental Health is Orange County’s leading mental health treatment center. Contact us today.