18 Experts Reveal The Small Habits That Drain Your Emotional Battery

An expert panel reveals the habits that lead to emotional exhaustion.

woman sitting outside with coffee Irene Miller / Shutterstock

We go and go and go every day until we suddenly ... stop. If we're fortunate, we recognize the signs of emotional burnout and take steps to refill our mental batteries.  

Feeling tired all the time? Finding it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand? Maybe you're a bit more irritable than usual, even after you fuel up at breakfast and lunch.

When you stop doing what you're doing — even for a minute — do you find your mind begins to wander or even forget what you were doing?


You're not lazy. Chances are you're not even really all that sleepy (although make sure you get those recommended seven-eight hours of shuteye, just to be safe). 

What you're experiencing in all likelihood is mental or emotional exhaustion. It can happen to anyone but is particularly prevalent during times of stress or intense mental activity.

Think finals week in college, or tax deadline day for junior accountants. 

But it's not only about the big, emotionally fraught moments in life. Sometimes, seemingly minor decisions contribute heavily to the emergence of emotional exhaustion.

To help curb that tendency, we asked YourTango Experts to identify small habits that can lead to draining your emotional battery. Here are their responses.


RELATED: 12 Signs You’re Emotionally Exhausted & How To Recharge

Here are 18 small habits that drain your emotional battery:

1. You forget to practice self-care

You "drain your battery" by postponing valuable priorities and not practicing self-compassion when you procrastinate inordinately. Be straightforward with yourself and others to move forward gracefully.

- Ruth Schimel, Ph.D., Career & Life Management Consultant, Author


RELATED: 8 Warning Signs That You Are Mentally Exhausted

2. You overthink things or dwell on negative thoughts

Overthinking is a common habit that involves dwelling on negative thoughts or worries to the point of exhaustion.

It can be emotionally draining because it consumes a lot of mental energy and often leads to a sense of overwhelm or anxiety.

When we overthink, we tend to ruminate on the same thoughts or worries repeatedly, which can cause a spiral of negative emotions and create a cycle of worry that can be difficult to break. Overthinking can also cause us to lose touch with the present moment and can prevent us from fully engaging in our daily activities.


This can lead to feelings of disconnection and detachment, which can be emotionally draining.

Moreover, overthinking is often associated with self-criticism and negative self-talk, which can further deplete our emotional energy. We may start to believe the negative thoughts we're having and develop a negative self-image, leading to lower self-esteem and reduced motivation.

- Clare Weismann, SUDCC II/ M-RAS

3. You forget to ask for help

Maybe you think you should be able to do everything alone. Or you have this idea that asking for help makes you look weak.

Whatever the reason, when you are swamped by the demands of life and refuse to ask for help, count on depleting your energy.


Asking for help is brave and shows that you know you deserve assistance. Asking for help is a positive step towards building confidence and authentic relationships with the people in your life.

When you are vulnerable and reach out to someone, you are standing up for yourself in a powerful way.

- Ronnie Ann Ryan, Intuitive coach, and Past Life Reader

4. You're focused on social media too early in the morning

Checking e-mail, Facebook and other social media first thing in the morning can wear you down mentally. Get yourself ready for productive work with a good breakfast, physical activity or meditation so you are not distracted and drained.

Set times during the day for social media and e-mail.


- Jeff Saperstein, Career Coach

5. You don't say 'no' enough

You drain your emotional battery by habitually failing to say no, not asking for help, or staying silent about your preferences.

When you feel emotionally spent, look for unhelpful habits that may be running automatically in the background, like apps left open on your smartphone.

Then mentally commit to shutting those habits down and redirecting your emotional energy toward things that recharge you.

- Amanda Savage Brown, Ph.D., LCSW, Self-Acceptance Specialist

6. You're too much of a people pleaser

Small, emotionally draining habits differ from person to person but generally include: attempting to please others and ignoring your own needs; rushing for anything; not getting adequate sleep; snacking on junk food instead of eating healthfully; checking emails throughout the day instead of at regular times; leaving notifications active on your phone or your computer that interrupt your flow; multi-tasking which doesn't really exist in the brain and fatigues it.


By engaging in this behavior or several of them simultaneously, you deplete your reserves and feel increasingly overwhelmed.

Pick one behavior that you could change relatively easily and start by making some small tweaks. When you have a sense of success and progress, then you're ready to move on to something else.

- Dr. Sharon Saline, Clinical psychologist, author, speaker

RELATED: How 'Energy Leakage' Sabotages Your Happiness & 7 Peaceful Ways To Stop It

7. You use sex as an escape too often

As a sex therapist and coach, I regularly see clients who have been having sex even when they feel no desire for it.

And while sometimes having sex can be a great way to kick-start your desire and keep your relationship alive, it can also drain your emotional battery completely.


Because essentially you're engaging in an activity you don't want and over time your body and mind come to view sex as something that isn't pleasurable for you, nor emotionally gratifying.

This further decreases desire and causes pressure and stress in your relationship. Instead of feeling like hanging out with a partner gives you energy and makes you happy, it becomes stressful and drains you because you're secretly worrying if they're going to initiate sex or not.

- Leigh Noren, Sex therapist, and coach

8. You worry too much

Worry drains your emotional battery. Focusing on future thoughts, especially things happening that we are afraid of is a persistent slow drain of the energy needed for today.


Staying mindful and present allows us to tap into the energy that allows us to function at our best. Worry becomes a habit and the more we can be aware of the habit, we can begin to reverse it and change.

Some people think that if they do not worry something bad will happen. Worry deceives us into believing we can control the future somehow. People believe that worry is functional and it is not.

It drains our emotional, physical, and spiritual energy when we ruminate on thoughts of bad things happening or things not turning out the way we had hoped.

Worry is usually happening when we say that we feel exhausted. Exhaustion is the only outcome of worry.


Of course, we all have concerns. However, when the concerns are all that is thought about and we feel drained, you have shifted into the worry zone. 

When present with our thoughts instead of worrying about the future, we are peaceful and powerful, emotionally regulated, and have all the energy needed to conquer the day.

- Dr. Susan Pazak, Clinical Psychologist & Life Change Expert

9. You're too easily distracted

Following bright and shiny objects, such as spending excessive time on social media watching and listening to things that absorb energy and do nothing that creates energy that can be applied to obligations and objectives in one's life.


Lack of movement also is a mental and physical energy drain. Get out of your chair and move. Go for walks or a workout. Stimulate the body, rather than put it to sleep.

Arguing, rather than collaborating, is also a drain. An argument where you take sides and hold rigidly to a position drains the mind and body.

On the other hand, a conversation that is driven by inquiry without judgment is inspiring and energizing

- Larry Michel, Love Shepherd, and Founder: Institute of Genetic Energetics

10. You ignore your own needs 

Regularly frequenting social media will drain your emotional battery but everyone will say that!

Aside from the obvious drains, there are little things that accumulate — like having tiny holes in a boat. Eventually, it will still sink.


Ignoring your own wants, needs, and hobbies, so you can be there for others or be productive will leave you with an empty cup.

Happiness is knowing how to juggle and if one area of your life is running on low fuel it will start to affect your emotional battery.

- Erika Jordan, Love Coach, NLP

RELATED: 7 Signs You're Suffering From Emotional Exhaustion

11. You fail to establish boundaries 

Not holding strong boundaries with energy vampires. It's important to avoid, cut short conversations that drain your energetic bandwidth.

Not taking breaks, and getting up from your desk to stretch and get some fresh air during the workday will drain your emotional battery.


- Marla Martenson, Transformational Life Coach

12. You assign too much weight to the opinions of others

Caring too much about what others think of you can be overwhelming especially for teens. Peer pressure can cause self-doubt, loss of needed sleep and the ability to stand up to bullies.

- Suzanne Geimer, RN, BSN

13. You don't use your time wisely

Love what you do and live your passion deeply. It's easy to get sidetracked by everyday demands.

Say "no" to what and who depletes your energy. Say "yes" to tasks and relationships that bring you joy, love, and laughter and aid your creativity.

Time is short use it with focus and delight. Embrace "you," not tasks.


- Dr. Dorree Lynn, psychotherapist

RELATED: Therapists Share The Small Habits That Demolish Your Likeability

14. You feel guilty for taking breaks

Feeling the need to always be productive Emotional as well as physical exhaustion is only loosely tied to your to-do list. That is, it’s possible to be busy and engaged in ways that feed your energy or to be demotivated and tired under little challenge or pressure.

However, there are limits. The human body and mind require rest. And this means not only sleep but also replenishment in the form of creative or social outlets, hobbies, movement, and time in nature.

Even times of daydreaming or doing nothing are actually very useful activities that are essential to keeping your emotional battery charged.


When you think of rest as unproductive time, see it as being lazy, or feel guilty for not getting more done this drains you emotionally even while you’re resting.

A better practice is to think of rest not as a break from being productive but as a way to stay productive. Giving up your need to always be doing and accomplishing is a mental shift that will go far to protect you from emotional burnout.

- Lisa Newman, Positive Psychology Practitioner, and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

15. You give the time of day to people who break you down

Small habits that drain someone's emotional battery include calling on the phone or meeting up with someone you dislike or who takes you down in negative remarks at the wrong time when your social battery is already depleted.   


Also, saying "yes" on an impulse when you should say, "great idea, let me think on it and get back to you" or simply say, "Sorry, I can't."

- Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, Positive psychologist, author, filmmaker

RELATED: 9 Daily Habits Of Couples Who Stay Married (And Happy!) For Life

16. You don't prioritize rest during downtime

From my professional (and personal) experience, mistaking your free time for your availability is inevitably draining on all levels.

Often, we don't prioritize our downtime because there is a collective assumption of "if you have time to lean, you have time to clean."

However, if we don't take time for ourselves to just simply breathe and exist, we eventually deplete ourselves and have nothing left to give.


- Miki Anderson, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor 

17. You say 'yes' too often

You might not want to disappoint others, but taking on too much can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.

I ask my clients to count how many "yeses" they say daily, and they’re shocked when they take an inventory.

One yes to the boss, coworkers, customers, partner, kids, parents, and friends, and before you know it, you’re tapped out, putting yourself last, and feeling like you have no control over your life.

Before immediately agreeing to do something, pause and check in with yourself first. Remind yourself of your needs and commitments and consider whether you have the time and emotional bandwidth.


It can be difficult — even awkward — to break the “yes” habit at first. But when you practice saying “yes” to yourself and use your other "yeses" prudently, you’ll feel your emotional capacity expand instead of deplete.

- Lisa Petsinis, career and life coach

18. You allow yourself to regret events of the past

Regret drains our emotional battery because we can't undo what has happened in the past. We also can use regret to predict what will happen in the future.

We may automatically worry that the very worst results will or could happen. I call this pattern "Worry/Harm Automatic Mode" or WHAM because it "whams" you energetically, emotionally, and physically due to stress.


What can you do about WHAM thinking? If you can see you are not in true urgent danger, look for something good that you can be grateful for, whether it is related to the person or situation you're worried about or something else.

When you recognize that WHAM habit of thinking, even for a few minutes, you shift to a stronger mental connection with gratitude. Then you can bring loving compassion to yourself, break the habit of negative thinking, and recognize your WHAM is a distraction or block to what's most important.

The more you recognize it and shift to gratitude, the more you will recognize it in the future.

When we interrupt WHAM thinking, we can take action that is a match for the danger and create more and more moments of living in peace and love instead of fear and worry.


- Marilyn Sutherland, Women's Empowerment/Relationship Coach

RELATED: I Finally Found The Secret To Resting My Anxious Mind

Carter Gaddis is the senior editor for experts and wellness with YourTango.