When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air - Stephen R. Covey.

Causes and Signs of Emotional Exhaustion

People only have a limited amount of energy to last throughout the day. That is why at the end of each day, we recharge, get a good night’s sleep, and refuel our energy to prepare for another day.

Physical fatigue is not the only cause of exhaustion though. In most cases, psychological factors largely contribute to how much our bodies feel drained of strength, motivation, and energy.   Not to mention the past 18 months of dealing with the pandemic.

Emotional exhaustion is very real. When people drive themselves too hard on a daily basis, it usually takes a toll on them emotionally. And usually, it takes more than sleep to replenish and recharge from chronic stress. Prolonged periods of stress and mental fatigue can lead to burnout.

Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally drained resulting from prolonged periods of stress in one’s personal or work life. When people are drained and exhausted emotionally, they lose a sense of control or power over their lives. They may also feel uncomfortably stuck within a period in their lives which they find impossible to escape from.

Causes of Emotional Exhaustion

The factors that contribute to emotional exhaustion vary. A person’s own tolerance for stress and the current condition in their life may uniquely determine how prone they are to feeling emotionally exhausted.

Here are some factors that can cause a person to feel emotionally drained.

  • Major life changes – Moving house, a new job, marital problems.
  • Grief – Losing a loved one, dealing with a major pandemic i.e. Covid
  • Financial stress.
  • Working in a competitive, stressful, high-pressure environment.
  • Consistently working long hours.
  • Being a caregiver to a sick family member or loved one.

Symptoms of Emotional Exhaustion or Burnout

Emotional exhaustion can take a toll on a person’s physical health and emotional wellbeing. The following are signs and symptoms of emotional exhaustion or burnout.

Change in mood

Emotional exhaustion can dramatically affect a person’s mental health, with sudden shifts in mood as one of the very obvious signs. It may start with them feeling like there’s a black cloud hanging over their head. Negative thoughts, pessimism, and feelings of being trapped in their situation begin to settle in.

They may begin to feel more and more disconnected and develop stronger feelings of pessimism, irritability, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness.

Difficulty concentrating

People who are emotionally exhausted may start to lose the ability to focus, become more forgetful, and are often confused. Some people even admit to feeling ‘brain fog’, where their thinking and memory is badly affected.

Lack of motivation

One of the most common symptoms of emotional exhaustion is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and a lack of motivation. Because emotionally drained individuals often feel trapped in their situation, they also experience great apathy and indifference. They’re just tired and want to hibernate all the time.

They may also experience depression as part of their loss of motivation to do anything.

Sleeping problems

People who are emotionally drained have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep. They may experience insomnia.

Physical changes

Due to stress, they may begin to experience physical changes in the form of either weight gain or weight loss (obviously an unhealthy step), they may begin to lose their appetite, experience headaches and heart palpitations, and tend to develop digestive problems.

Effects on work and personal relationships

Another symptom of emotional exhaustion is how all these changes begin to negatively affect and impact the affected person’s relationships and performance at work. They start to miss deadlines and exhibit poor work performance. They also begin to withdraw socially and no longer feel comfortable to connect with others. Their overall loss of enthusiasm can be very alarming.

If you or someone you know is showing these signs, it’s time to do something about it!  Reach out to trusted friends or family members.  If need be, call on trained professionals who can assist you.

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