How to Handle Emotional Exhaustion

· July 23, 2018

Have you ever felt emotionally exhausted? At certain points in our lives, we go through periods of stress, constant problems, and personal and work-related demands. If these times stretch on, we may find ourselves emotionally exhausted. Emotional exhaustion is what happens when someone no longer feels capable of dealing with their day-to-day on a psychological level. Their levels of fatigue are so debilitating, they feel incapacitated.

Emotional exhaustion arises alongside big life changes when there are preexisting issues or situations that went unresolved. This fatigue is the result of asking too much of our coping mechanisms, or not allowing ourselves time to recover between challenges. To put it another way, juggling various problems or challenges all at once will also exhaust us emotionally if we don’t have time to restore our energy in the meantime.

Emotional exhaustion gives us the sensation of being constantly overwhelmed, overextended, and mentally fatigued. All of these feelings logically impede our progress. The smallest tasks become a steep ramp that we can only climb with great difficulty – or not at all.

To give you a better idea of emotional exhaustion, if you haven’t experienced it, there’s a visualization exercise you can do. Remember the kind of fatigue you feel after a long work day. Now, right when that day ends, the next work-day starts…then another…and another. You’re more tired each time, your performance is worse, and your mood worsens.

Emotional exhaustion can have harmful consequences on your health. This article will show you how to tell if you’re in a period of emotional exhaustion, as well as clear and quick strategies for overcoming it. In order for these strategies to work, you must practice them fully and regularly. There are no magical solutions.

Emotional exhaustion

How to detect emotional exhaustion

To tell whether or not you’re emotionally exhausted, you must first think back on your problems from the past three, four, even five months. Note that a wide time frame is fundamental. Because emotional exhaustion requires an accumulation of demands and stress, it can resurface after you’ve already fixed your issues and the “storm has passed”, so to speak. At that point, you have to analyze whether you were in a situation that demanded too much from you, or one where you had to be constantly alert and balancing various ideas and thoughts.

Next, you must analyze yourself and check to see if you’ve experienced the following symptoms:


  • Felt nervous or uncomfortable for most of the day
  • Inexplicable medical issues like stomach, back, cervical pain, or headaches more than twice a week
  • Concentration problems and memory loss, including important topics that you typically wouldn’t forget or neglect.
  • Lack of motivation, low energy, and dull mood
  • Feeling overextended and without the strength to go on
  • Sleep issues (trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, insomnia)
  • Substance abuse (especially alcohol and cannabis)
  • Hypersensitivity and irritability
  • Difficulty connecting with the here are now

What are the consequences of emotional exhaustion?

If they don’t go away on their own after a while, all of these symptoms can lead to serious problems like major depressive disorder, anxiety attacks (related to panic or generalized anxiety), and medical problems like ulcers or gastrointestinal issues.

In addition, emotional exhaustion carries with it self-esteem issues, mostly because the person feels overextended and stops reminding themselves of their accomplishments and abilities. Under the umbrella of emotional exhaustion, your sense of helplessness – of being very small in a very big world – grows.

By keeping all of these consequences of emotional exhaustion in mind, we can better understand how to fight it. With this goal in mind, we’ll continue with a series of strategies for facing emotional exhaustion.

emotional exhaustion

Advice for dealing with emotional exhaustion

Know your limits and responsibilities

The first strategy we’ll share for fighting emotional exhaustion has to do with the need to reorganize how you approach life. These choices may have gotten you this far. You’ve probably said “yes” multiple times when it would’ve been best to say “no”, not because you didn’t want to (although that could also have been the case) but because you felt unable to. You’ve probably also done the opposite, saying “no” to an opportunity you actually wanted but were too scared to take. It’s time for you to recover your assertiveness and improve your self-esteem.

Set limits and take opportunities. Allow yourself to fail. If you give yourself permission, you’ll be able to take advantage of these chances to learn. This way, each challenge you face will be an investment even if it doesn’t pan out. Stop thinking about the results, and stop feeding the negative thoughts in your head.

Looks for moments to relax

To empty the backpack of emotional exhaustion, you have to stop and disconnect. This means finding moments for yourself where you can let your mind wanter and connect with your personal needs. Meet up for a fun outing with friends or family.

That being said, try not to spend more than 15 minutes talking about your problems. Let them also have the space to express themselves, and save a part of the conversation to talk about the good things that are happening to you.

Make a list of personal priorities

Try to set priorities for yourself, and only focus on one at a time. It’s very important that you stop trying to multitask since that will only continue to exhaust you. To fight this emotional overload, you have to place fewer demands on your brain at the same time.

Give yourself permission to concentrate on one thing at a time, and leave tasks for the morning that you run out of time for today. In addition, for this strategy to work, you have to realistically prioritize all of the work you have to finish. This order can’t just be based on what task you want to do more.

woman with emotional exhaustion

Learn therapeutic ways to express your emotions

Knowing how to express your emotions therapeutically means more than just talking about how you feel. It means putting effort into these conversations so that others can understand and feel empathy. Maybe that means keeping an emotional journal as a tool for helping you express yourself and sort through your thoughts.

This emotional diary is a way of separating yourself from what’s going through your head, venting, and fighting emotional exhaustion. In addition, remember that suppressing your negative emotions, such as sadness or anger, will only mean they’ll keep festering inside. For example, if you’re sad, you can still get even sadder if you think the people around you won’t understand.

Lastly, if you try to fight your emotional exhaustion and aren’t successful, you have to know when it’s time to ask for help. A professional can evaluate and orient you towards tips for different scenarios. Emotional exhaustion is a physical and mental health risk, and it’s essential to address it.