Perhaps you feel like you’ve reached your breaking point. Maybe you’re tired, frustrated, and feeling like things will never get better. This degree of burnout can happen to anyone, but those with chronic stress or other mental health conditions may be at a heightened risk. In order to treat your symptoms effectively, you need to be aware and proactive. Let’s talk about the best coping strategies for emotional exhaustion.
What Is Emotional Exhaustion?
Stress is a normal part of life, but emotional exhaustion is a chronic feeling of exhaustion. It is common for the symptoms to develop over time, and many people don’t realize they are in this state until it becomes unbearable.
Many factors may contribute to emotional exhaustion. Having a stressful job is a main factor. Overworking, feeling out of control, or working in a particularly demanding position can all lead to stress. Pessimism, perfectionism, and high-achieving personalities can also contribute to burnout.
The symptoms of emotional exhaustion vary for everyone, but here are a few common ones:
- Feelings of irritation.
- Depression symptoms (apathy, lack of motivation, persistent sadness).
- Sleep problems.
- Appetite changes.
- Poor concentration and focus.
- Memory issues.
- Anxiety and panic attacks.
- A feeling of failure or hopelessness that persists.
- A decline in performance at work or school.
- The failure to meet deadlines and complete basic tasks.
- Negative, cynical attitude.
- Physical symptoms (headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure).
- An increased desire to engage in substance abuse or other activities that numb the pain.
- Frequently fantasize about escaping your current situation impulsively.
Emotional exhaustion is one of the most common symptoms of burnout, especially in professional settings. Furthermore, emotional exhaustion can worsen other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Tips for Coping With Emotional Exhaustion
If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, ignoring them won’t help. In fact, certain problems often worsen when nothing is done. One of the best ways to feel better is to take action now.
- Identify the Main Triggers
What situations most give rise to your emotional exhaustion? Is there a particular work task you dread? Do you generally get frustrated when spending time with certain people? Do you feel more spent at specific times of the day?
If you aren’t sure exactly what elevates your stress, dedicate a week to track your emotions throughout the day. Use a journal or an app to track your mood. If you feel more stressed, agitated, or depressed than you normally do, note it down.
As time goes on, you should be able to identify specific trends. Having that insight gives you a starting point for your next steps. Being able to identify triggers before they arise can help you prepare to cope with them even if you cannot change the situation.
- Begin Each Day With a Positive Routine
What is your usual morning routine? If you’re like most people, you reach for your phone and scroll through social media or emails. However, this habit can add to feelings of anxiety and dread. Take the time to examine how you can improve your morning routine.
Consider ways to start each day on a positive note. Perhaps you can take a quick shower, think about your gratitude, and then brew your morning cup of coffee. And, as a general tip, resist the urge to check your phone for as long as possible!
If you’re not a morning person, consider simple strategies to make the morning more pleasant. It may take some trial and error, but there is no downside to trying!
- Practice More Gratitude
Identifying what you appreciate often can make you feel more empowered and optimistic. The purpose of gratitude isn’t to invalidate your challenges. Rather, it’s about broadening your perspective and orienting yourself to find opportunities in difficult circumstances.
Every day, spend a few minutes practicing gratitude. This can take less than a minute. Think about writing down three things that went well each day before going to bed. Alternatively, you can commit to “reflecting on gratitude” when you hear a particular song or drive on a particular route.
- Set Healthier Boundaries
Oftentimes, we are compelled to comply with every obligation because of insecurity or people-pleasing. People often experience emotional exhaustion when they overextend themselves. Maintaining some sense of ownership over your life requires boundaries. It is perfectly okay for you to establish limits with other people.
When you feel emotionally exhausted, consider what you can control right now. Is it possible to talk to your boss about reducing your workload? Could a family member help you with babysitting next weekend? Would it be easier to hire a cleaner instead of cleaning every weekend? The bottom line is that it’s okay to say no and to delegate when needed. By learning to say no, you open yourself up to opportunities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
- Start Making (Smaller) Healthier Lifestyle Choices
Unfortunately, emotional exhaustion makes it difficult to prioritize nutrition, exercise, and sleep. You can, however, improve your emotional well-being by taking care of your physical health.
Commit to making small, manageable changes over time. For example, plan on packing a lunch to work each day this week. Or challenge yourself to walk with your partner every night for thirty minutes. Taking even tiny steps in the right direction can make a significant difference in how you feel.
- Cultivate Positive Relationships
Having positive social support can have a significant effect on how you cope with daily stresses. Spending time with optimistic, compassionate people will likely rub off on you. Of course, the opposite can also be true. Being surrounded by pessimistic colleagues may also make you feel bitter at work.
Invest time and energy in people who make you feel good about yourself. Laughter is also essential! Ideally, good friends support and accept you for who you are, but they can also call you out when you’re “stuck” in an unhealthy mindset.
- Release the Need for Perfectionism
The pursuit of perfection can trigger and maintain symptoms of emotional exhaustion. Consistently holding yourself to unrealistic standards will harm your mental health.
It takes time to change perfectionistic patterns. Being kinder and more forgiving to yourself is one of the first steps towards self-compassion. It will also be necessary for you to adjust your expectations regarding control and power.
When you let go of perfectionism, you embrace “being human.” By doing so, you are able to learn, make mistakes, and grow and evolve. In addition, having this mindset encourages you to focus on being healthy and happy rather than feeling pressured to “do everything right.”
- Pursue Meaning Wherever You Can
Perhaps you hate your job, but leaving it isn’t an option right now. That’s okay. You can cultivate meaning and fulfillment in your life in many other ways.
Take some time to reflect on your core values. Identify the most sacred and non-negotiable priorities. What would you miss most if it were taken away tomorrow?
Answering these questions can help you identify your personal purpose. The more you cherish your purpose, the more inspired you will feel. Additionally, it reduces the effects of emotional exhaustion.
If you feel like you have no time, dedicate one week to eliminating distractions. Just for a week, turn off the TV and all excess technology. There are likely to be plenty of “time suckers” that could be used for more productive and enriching activities!
- Reevaluate Toxic Environments
Some situations may not improve despite your best efforts. Consider the scenario in which you set a boundary with your boss about refusing to do tasks outside of your expertise. However, your boss continues to make these requests, and your HR representative refuses to intervene.
In that case, you have made the best efforts within your realm of control. Nevertheless, if your workplace remains toxic, you may need to seriously reconsider your options.
Of course, there may not be a simple solution. However, recognizing what is and isn’t in your control can help you recognize if coping with emotional exhaustion requires external changes.
- Seek Professional Support
Emotional exhaustion can impact all areas of your life. If left untreated, it may seriously compromise your emotional and physical well-being.
With that in mind, emotional exhaustion may be an underlying symptom in other mental health issues. Therapy can help you untangle your thoughts and feelings- it also provides a roadmap for restoring a sense of balance in your life.
SF Stress & Anxiety Center Can Help
Emotional exhaustion is a serious issue that can have a profound impact on your overall well-being. But there are steps you can take to cope with this condition and prevent it from taking over your life. By identifying your triggers, setting healthier boundaries, practicing gratitude, and making small lifestyle changes, you can start feeling better and more in control of your life.
If you’re struggling with emotional exhaustion, we’re here to help. At SF Stress & Anxiety Center, we offer a range of therapeutic services to help you manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Contact us today to learn more and take the first step towards a healthier, happier you.