15 Signs You're Emotionally Exhausted (And Need To Recharge)

When stress takes over your whole life, it can cause physical symptoms.

Last updated on Jun 14, 2023

emotional exhausted woman Leszek Glasner / Shutterstock

Everyone comes to a time in their life when 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.


Emotional exhaustion refers to a state of chronic and overwhelming fatigue that arises from prolonged periods of intense emotional or mental strain.

It typically occurs when a person has been exposed to prolonged stress, whether it be from work-related pressures, caregiving responsibilities, personal challenges, or other demanding circumstances. It can also be caused by chronic illness or pain, sleep deprivation, overstimulation, and poor self-care.

Emotional exhaustion can lead to a depletion of emotional and mental resources, resulting in a range of symptoms such as increased irritability, decreased motivation, reduced ability to concentrate, feelings of detachment, and a diminished sense of accomplishment. It is often associated with burnout and can have significant impacts on one's overall well-being and functioning.


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 may include 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. 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, 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, for example, driving or walking across a street, risking injury or injuring others.

According to spiritual life coach and 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," she says.

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, but that's not the case. Emotional exhaustion can cause you to have insomnia, and a lack of sleep can make your other symptoms worse.

RELATED: 4 Harsh Things I Learned About Burnout The Hard Way

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 prevention and life 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 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, you should consult your doctor for help.

According to Stone, recharging yourself is dependent on the cause of the emotional exhaustion. "It always begins with disconnecting from the cause, healing and administering self-care," she adds.


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 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," adds Murthy.

9. Your eating habits change.

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

RELATED: 18 Experts Reveal The Small Habits That Drain Your Emotional Battery


10. You make more mistakes.

It's hard to fall out of a rut when you're emotionally exhausted and 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. 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," Vargo suggests.

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.


According to Murthy, if your emotional exhaustion is here to stay, "you can make it go away by completely 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, check into a hotel or an Airbnb or a friend’s place where you can surround yourself with tenderness and 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 as if you need to take time off from your work life for your own mental health, you absolutely should. If you need help from experts, you 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 temple or church grounds close to your house, go linger for a few hours in the grounds of a place of worship," Murthy suggests.

"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."


13. You cry for no reason.

Crying for no reason is often a symptom of emotional exhaustion and signals that you have an overwhelmed state of mind. The built-up stress makes emotions more volatile, leading to tears for no specific reason.

When emotionally exhausted, the mind and body struggle to regulate emotions, resulting in uncontrollable outbursts of tears with no apparent cause.

14. You’re constantly late.

Being constantly late is not just a bad habit, but reflects a lack of mental and physical energy to effectively manage your time.

When you're emotionally drained, it's challenging to maintain focus and organization, leading to tardiness. Feeling mentally burnt out may also lead to decreased motivation and a sense of detachment, making it difficult to remain punctual.


Recognizing chronic lateness as a symptom of emotional exhaustion serves as a reminder to put your self-care first and regain a sense of control over your time management.

15. You feel detached.

If you're emotionally exhausted, you may experience a sense of disconnection from yourself and others. It feels challenging to engage fully with your surroundings or connect in your relationships.

Detachment may manifest as apathy, a lack of interest, or feelings of being emotionally numb. It's essential to take steps to restore your emotional well-being through self-care, support, and seeking professional help if needed.


RELATED: If You Feel 'Burnt Out' All The Time, You Likely Suffer From This Serious Disease

What To Do When You're Emotionally Exhausted

Once you realize the signs of emotional exhaustion and you determine that you are indeed emotionally exhausted, there are certain things to do that will bring you back to equilibrium and a sense of normalcy.

1. Eliminate your stressors.

If you're experiencing emotional exhaustion, this might be easier said than done, but pinpointing your stressors can really help you move forward and remove 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%.


If work is your stress, talk to your boss about what changes can aid you, and if you think nothing you change at your job will work, 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 food filled with rich vitamins and minerals needed for proper bodily functioning.

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 interfere with your sleep quality and isn't a healthy or long-lasting mood booster.


3. Practice mindfulness.

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

All of this can significantly reduce stress if you're suffering from emotional exhaustion.

If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text "HELLO" to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line.

RELATED: 11 Simple Ways We Can Monitor & Maintain Our Own Mental Health

Megan Hatch is a multimedia journalist, Emerson College graduate with a major in journalism and a minor in digital media and culture, and a former contributor to YourTango. Her bylines have appeared on Medium, Patch, BuzzFeed, SAGE Publishing, Voice of America, as well as dozens of independent television and online publications.