Dealing with Emotional Exhaustion
Stress! What is it good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
Well..., that’s not entirely true. Everyone deals with stress on a daily basis and believe it or not, not all stress is bad. In fact, some stress is actually good. Good stress can motivate you to perform at work or school, keep you safe and alert when walking in a dark parking lot, and stops you from walking into oncoming traffic and getting hit by a bus. You get the picture. And when these things happen, our stress levels peak (to motivate us, keep us safe, etc.) and then return back to normal.
But what happens when stress levels stop returning to normal and stress becomes a chronic issue? Enter emotional exhaustion. Whenever we experience long-term stress, we can become overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. Think you may be experiencing emotional exhaustion? Keep reading below for signs of emotional exhaustion and tips on how to overcome it.
1. Everyday stressors feel more and more stressful—If you find yourself having trouble dealing with the day-to-day stress of life, be it from work or home, you may be emotional exhausted. This is often one of the first signs people notice, but rarely take note of.
2. You haven’t been sleeping well—Insomnia, not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, can be a tale-tale sign that emotional exhaustion is creeping in. Maybe you’re having trouble shutting your brain off at night, or you keep waking up throughout the night making it impossible to feel well rested. Either way, not sleeping is starting to take a toll.
3. You’re physically exhausted all the time—When you’re emotionally drained, you may notice you feel tired all the time. This quite often is due to point #2, you’re not sleeping well. If you’re not able to reach deep sleep every night, you’ll wake up feeling exhausted no matter how many bedtime hours you’ve clocked.
4. You feel it in your body—Unexplained chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, stomach pain? This could be poorly managed stress. Stress has a way of showing up physically, making it sometime difficult to pinpoint the cause. And speaking of physical symptoms…
5. You have been getting sick a lot more lately—As I said above, stress has a way of showing up in physical manners. This is due to the affect stress has on the immune system. Remember the “good” stress I talked about earlier? When our bodies go into a stress response, it releases all sorts of chemicals to help us through the situation. But a too high level of stress chemicals can affect our health. From a common cold, to autoimmune disorders, stress can have a huge impact on physical health. Always get checked out by your doctor when experiencing physical illness but be sure to mention if you’ve been feeling stressed out as well.
6. You just don’t feel motivated—While good stress can help motivate you, too much stress can leave you feeling unmotivated. This could be a result of a loss of focus, brain fog that is stress related, or even an increase in pessimism (both signs of emotional exhaustion).
So, you read the signs and think you may be headed for emotional exhaustion, or you’re possibly already there. What do you do about it?
1. Get rid of the stressor—While this may not always be possible, it’s best to remove the stressor whenever you can. Have you taken on too much? Can you cut back on the extra activities you feel responsible for? If so, cut it out. This is one of the best ways to treat stress!
2. You are what you eat—Eating a balance diet is important for everyone, but especially for those that are fighting chronic stress. Eating healthy means you’ll get the vitamins and minerals you need and it can help regulate your digestive system, improve your energy levels and aid in a good night’s rest.
3. Get social—Stay connected to good friends is so important for stress management. Studies have shown that people who don’t have contact with their friends at least once per week are at a higher risk for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety which often show up immediately following an emotional exhaustion episode.
4. Get active—Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Why? Because exercise causes the brain to release feel good chemicals into the body, sometimes having similar affects as antidepressants. Plus, focusing on the exercise can take your mind off your problems. Even if it’s only a 30-minute walk (my current go to exercise routine), it can make a huge difference on your ability to manage stress.
5. Practice mindfulness—Did you know that just one session of mindful meditation can help reverse the effects of stress on the body? I know, I know, this sounds great, but you may be asking, “How the heck do I actually practice mindfulness?” You can practice mindfulness by journaling, getting out in nature, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and the list goes on. Want more info on practicing mindfulness? Check out my mindfulness blog post here.
6. Practice proper self-care—Bottom line, you need to make yourself a priority. Valuing yourself isn’t selfish. And while bubble baths are ah-mazing, which I talk about at length in a previous blog post, I’m not talking just bath time. Proper self-care is truly about setting boundaries for yourself in you work and personal life and sticking to them. It’s about remaining true to yourself. It’s about being able to say “no” or take a break (vacation, or just time alone) without any guilt.
7. Seek professional help—The number one reason people seek counseling is feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Investing in seeing the best counselor you can afford can be key to helping you find balance and learn coping skills to deal with emotional exhaustion in the future.
Try out one, or all of these suggestions and see what works best for you! And be sure to let me know which ones you tried and if you have your own suggestions!
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