What is Emotional Exhaustion and How to Recover From It?

What is Emotional Exhaustion and How to Recover From It?

You should never let your emotions control you. But what about having no or zero emotions and going through life like a zombie? Along with depression, emotional exhaustion is a serious mental health issue that is caused by stress and in turn, increases the amount of stress in your life. Scroll below, for an in-depth explanation on this problem.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Picture an empty drinking glass. A 1 pound brick is placed on it. The glass can take the weight. The 1 pound brick is replaced by a 3 pound brick. A small crack appears in the glass but still it can handle the weight. Then a 5 pound brick is placed on the glass. 1 crack turns into 2 cracks and the glass breaks into millions of pieces. Why did the glass crack? It cracked because it was exhausted from holding up an unrelenting, massive load. Objects are not the only things that can "crack". Human beings are very confusing when it comes to emotional pressure. Their load-bearing capacities vary and unlike glass, with some people, it is difficult to see the "cracks" on the surface. And one way that can cause such cracks in the sense of well-being of an individual, is emotional exhaustion.

Being Emotionally Exhausted

Everyone has bad days and good days, and days when they are just dead tired. But what if one feels tired and exhausted all days of the week? And not just physically. Even smiling at someone else is an effort because you just cannot feel happy. Actually you do not feel anything at all. Energy levels, physically and mentally are low. You do not have enthusiasm to do anything or meet people or even talk. This state of feeling empty and drained of all your emotions, of feeling stretched too thin over a surface and feeling incapable to express anything at any time is called emotional exhaustion. Like a straw sucking juice relentlessly out of a juice carton, stress and work demands are draining your emotional strength.

Getting Emotionally Exhausted

With physical health problems, it is easy to locate the source of the problem and work on that area. With mental health, it is a lot more complicated. The thoughts and feelings going through a person's mind are as tangled and jumbled together as a ball of wool. So locating the source of your exhaustion and categorizing it, is difficult. But usually your job and your social life are the two principle causes of grief. Here's how:

Working Without Appreciation
The more stress and demands your job puts on you, the more you struggle to adapt. But that's not the cause of feeling emotionally depleted. Rather no appreciation for your work or continuous criticism or people just taking you for granted, will create and increase your emotional exhaustion.

All Work and No Play
Life may seem as if you are either going to work or coming home from work. You may end up bringing work home as well, adding to the cycle. Working on the weekends and on holidays will drain you too. The work just keeps on coming and you keep handling it but it never stops.

Making Your Work Your World
Getting involved personally in work, means taking your job too seriously and making your whole world revolve around your work. This also includes making your friend circle, your colleagues at work, so all the time you just talk about work. You fail to shrug off the problems at work and instead take them personally, criticizing yourself for such issues. You even manipulate your emotions to suit your work, such emotional labor will take a toll on your mental state.

Tension in the Workplace
When you have some amount of control, you feel satisfied. But if your work always involves listening to others and whatever you do seems to have no impact or make no difference, you end up feeling drained. Working in a very tense high-pressure environment, where you are either shouting or being shouted at, is also detrimental to your mental health.

The Social Factor
The people you meet after work or hang out with, your friend circle, your family, they too contribute to your mental health's state. Lack of support or no one wants to listen to you or just yakking about their own personal problems, can make you feel like the man on the moon, alone and unwanted. Expectations, both internal and external, can end up destroying you. People can expect too much of you, that you can solve all problems or you can do anything.

Signs of Emotional Exhaustion

How can you diagnose a state of mind, especially one that takes a toll on your physical state as well? Physically your emotional exhaustive state will appear as:
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Lack of peaceful sleep
  • Stomach and abdomen related problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
Mentally you experience the following:
  • You cannot concentrate on your work.
  • Everything seems difficult or impossible.
  • Lack of creativity or imagination.
  • Work can seem very very dull.
  • You do not want to listen or pay attention to anything.
Major emotional signs include:

A Defeatist and "Do Not Care" Attitude
Why am I doing this, it is not going to make one bit of difference.
Waking up to one more day that is going to go bad.. I just know it.
Why should I care about anything, it really doesn't matter in the long run.

Loss of Zeal, Hope and Motivation
Everything I do is going to end up in failure.
There is no light at the end of the tunnel, I'm stuck down here forever.
If this is what life is all about, then mine is one big pile of garbage.

And others are:
  • Feeling useless or unwanted
  • Low self-esteem
  • Very negative and cynical thinking
  • On the edge and tense or angry all the time
  • Lone gunman attitude - socially withdrawn, staying alone all the time
  • Not connected or attached to anything or anyone
Getting Rid of the Exhaustion

So how do you get yourself out of this funk? Treatment strategies include:

Being active and exercising regularly. An exercise regime is one of the best ways to beat the blues. Working out allows you to release pressure on something other than work. Exercises like meditation and yoga can help you relax.

Do something you like doing. Hobbies, pastimes and activities NOT related to work but just to make you relax. Read a book, draw a picture, learn kickboxing or collect stamps. Watching television is not a hobby, more like a temporary pastime. Get a pet for a loving, entertaining companion that keeps you active and happy.

Get out of the city and take a vacation from time to time. Go away for a weekend retreat or take the day off and sit in your local park. Removing yourself from the source of the stress even for a day, makes a difference. Get in touch with your green side and spend more time outdoors. Take a break from electronic devices, like cell phones, that can carry your problems everywhere with you.

Socialize more often. Meet your friends, old and new. Catch up with good friends, forge stronger bonds with new friends and learn to hang out and relax. Stop talking to yourself in the mirror and talk to others instead. Do not avoid social gatherings like office parties. Instead go for the gathering, socialize and try to have a good time. Meet your family as well. Whether it is talking to your dad or playing with young children, family ties can be your lifeline in this emotional crisis.

Change your own attitude. Lower your expectations and be confident and assertive, when others try to push you around. Do not get personally involved in your work and do not let others take advantage of you by dumping all their work on you. Learn how to control and handle your stress.

In summation, emotional exhaustion is just as deadly as depression and anxiety disorders, in impact. It is even more silent in its inception and growth in an individual as compared to other emotional problems. To stay healthy, wealthy and wise, take care of your mental health along with your physical fitness.