12 Signs You’re Emotionally Exhausted & How To Recharge

Photo: Leszek Glasner / Shutterstock
emotionally exhausted woman sitting on couch

Everyone comes to a time in their life where they are emotionally exhausted. 

It might be hard to spot emotional exhaustion if you're often a busy person who doesn't take the time they need to themselves or doesn't know how unhealthy overworking yourself can be. 

What emotional exhaustion?

According to Medical News Today, emotional exhaustion is when you have both physical and emotional pain that affects you and your behavior.

Symptoms from emotional exhaustion can build up over time from repeated stress and often people may not recognize the early warning signs.

The early warning signs of emotional exhaustion include lack of motivation, trouble sleeping, irritability, physical fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, and more.

RELATED: 4 Signs Your Chronic Stress Is Actually A Symptom Of Adrenal Fatigue

Certain causes of emotional exhaustion are working a high-pressure job like a nurse, doctor, teacher, and police officer, intense schooling (medical school students), working long hours at a job you hate, having a baby, struggling with financial stress, and living with a chronic illness.

When stress takes over your whole life it can be mentally and physically exhausting and it can lead to illness and losing your sense of control. This is when we will experience emotional exhaustion because we have no psychological and physical breath left and therefore no energy to bounce back.

It hasn't been easy for any of us, especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. When this happens we need to know how to get back to normal and help ourselves get better.

Signs & Symptoms of Emotional Exhaustion

1. You're angry and impatient.

When you're emotionally exhausted you probably are in a bad mood because of your mental fatigue. You might experience yourself having more of a short temper or being irritated more easily than normal. You also might feel that it's harder to control your emotions because you are feeling mentally tapped out and exhausted. 

You could also experience anger and impatience, irrational anger, and increased cynicism or pessimism.

2. You cannot finish your work.

A person who is emotionally exhausted may find it hard to even finish the work that they have because they are experiencing a sense of dread and often lose track of time because they are easily distracted. This could cause them to fail to meet deadlines and develop a low commitment to their job and maybe even miss days of work. 

It's normal for your productivity to ebb and flow, however, if you're finding that it's harder to concentrate and find every task overwhelming then that's a major red flag of emotional exhaustion. 

3. You're zoning out more often. 

Emotional exhaustion can hit so hard that you start zoning out and can't pay attention to anything. This can be dangerous if you are driving or walking across a street because you could be injured or injure others. 

According to Clinical Hypnotherapist Keya Murthy, the greatest symptom of mental exhaustion is when you find yourself unable to focus. "You ask people to repeat themselves or you have to reread something you are reading or you show up somewhere and you forget why you are there or in extreme case scenario how you got there."

4. You aren't sleeping well. 

If you're suffering from sleep insomnia or have trouble falling asleep, it could be due to your emotional exhaustion.

You might think it would actually be easier to sleep while you're emotionally exhausted as you might find yourself zoning out, however, that's not the case. Emotional exhaustion can cause you to have sleep insomnia and a lack of sleep can make your other symptoms worse. 

5. You use drugs and alcohol.

Taking hard drugs and drinking alcohol will never help your case of any disease or sickness. If anything it will make it worse and cause you to develop mental fatigue.

Drug addiction can also change how your brain will manage stress and anxiety, and how it controls impulsive behaviors.

According to Burnout Coach Rachelle Stone, emotional exhaustion is a state of being — "A painful, difficult state that no one wants to be in for too long as it can impact both your physical and mental wellbeing."

6. You're depressed.

Depression can cause emotional exhaustion and can contribute to your feelings of having no energy, feeling numb, and lack of motivation.

"The lesser symptoms but equally important are when you are no longer interested in things that brought you joy earlier," Murthy explains. "Emotional exhaustion can take you to a place where you find it hard to find joy in smaller or bigger things."

If you have any feelings of hopelessness that last longer than two weeks then you should consult your doctor for some help.

According to Stone, re-charging yourself is dependent on the cause of the emotional exhaustion, "it always begins with disconnecting from the cause, healing and administering self-care."

7. You worry too much.

It's normal for people to worry about a number of things, however, if you suddenly find yourself worrying about a number of things at all times, that should be a warning sign of emotional exhaustion at play.

The mental fatigue you experience with emotional exhaustion can actually trigger your nervous system and trigger your fight or flight mode. 

"It is never okay to be mentally exhausted, just like it is never okay to be thirsty. If your body is sending you signals of thirst that means it is devoid of fluids and parched and crying out loud for you to hear," says Murthy. "Similarly, when you experience mental exhaustion it is because you did not give yourself breaks and your brain has gone into an overdrive mode and now is crying out for help by sabotaging your thinking, your words, and your action."

8. You find it hard to exercise. 

Those who don't think your mental fatigue affects your physical fatigue are not informed on the symbiotic relationship the two have. 

"Mental exhaustion means you are not able to focus on the task at hand or find the right words to speak or write. Mental exhaustion is when you can’t find things that are sitting right in front of your metaphorical nose," says Murthy. 

9. Your eating habits change.

If you're a predominantly healthy person then you can tell when you're emotionally exhausted if your eating habits have changed. You might start craving more unhealthy food and snack on food more than usual.

10. You make more mistakes.

It's hard to fall out of a rut when you're emotionally exhausted and you start to forget things which leads you to make more mistakes and get in trouble more often. 

According to Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Gestalt Therapist Christine Vargo, it’s an amalgamation of many emotions experienced at once.

"Mental exhaustion can be defined by the experience of over-functioning and the conditioned behaviors associated with constantly moving, doing, and being," she says. "Emotional exhaustion can be treated by creating a balance between effort and stillness. Focusing on self-care and developing habits that provide space for feeling grounded and centered."

11. You feel pain more often. 

Your pain from mental fatigue could cause you to be in a lot of pain including experiencing frequent headaches, sore muscles, back pain, stomach problems, and more. 

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According to Murthy, if your emotional exhaustion is here to stay, "you can make it go away by completing unplugging yourself from all demands of household chores and work. Ask your loved ones to support you. If you can afford to get out of your home and check into a hotel or an Airbnb or a friend’s place where you can surround yourself with tenderness, love, and care for your body, mind, and spirit."

12. You aren't giving yourself much-needed time off.

Never ignore your body and what it tells you. If you are feeling emotionally exhausted and feel as if you need to take time off from your work life for your own mental health then you have to. If you need help from experts, you certainly should contact a mental health professional. 

"Go get a massage, or healing treatment, or go to a spa for a day. You may find a friend to hang out with outdoors. If there are a temple or church grounds close to your house, go linger for a few hours in the grounds of a place of worship. You can go to a garden store and move through the trees and plants and imagine a garden for yourself. If it inspires you bring something home and start working on a garden. The fish section in a pet store is a great place to release any emotional exhaustion and return to equilibrium," says Murthy. 

RELATED: When You Can't Escape The Overwhelming Sadness & Exhaustion

What To Do When You're Emotionally Exhausted

Once you realize the signs of emotional exhaustion and you then determine that you are indeed emotionally exhausted, there are certain things you should do to help yourself and get yourself back to normal.

Follow these tips and medical advice from experts if you need help with recovering from emotional exhaustion.

1. Try and eliminate the stressor. 

If you're experiencing emotional exhaustion, this might be easier said than done, but pinpointing your stresses can really help you move forward and relieve stress altogether from your life. 

According to a study from Harvard University, just 20 minutes of  downtime a  day is proven to prevent or help the symptoms of emotional exhaustion by almost 50 percent. 

If work is your stress then try to talk to your boss about what can change to help you, and if you think nothing you change at your job will work, then it might be worth considering quitting and finding something new that brings you joy. 

2. Eat healthier and limit alcohol.

Food can be powerful, especially ones filled with rich vitamins and minerals needed for your body to function and have your gut smiling.

Cutting out all processed food, sugary foods, and fast food will significantly benefit your health for the better and you will find yourself less chronically stressed, have higher energy levels, and you might even sleep better. 

It's also beneficial to cut out heavy drinking and alcohol in general to your diet as it can also interfere with your hours of sleep and isn't a healthy and long-lasting mood booster. 

3. Practice mindfulness.

Nothing is better for your brain, your body, and your heart more than practicing some peaceful mindfulness and living in the present moment. You can do this through yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and walking in nature.

Doing all this can significantly reduce stress if you're suffering from emotional exhaustion. 

RELATED: 8 Warning Signs That You Are Mentally Exhausted

Megan Hatch is a writer at YourTango who covers pop culture, love and relationships, and self-care.