We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all said it. “I am just emotionally drained today!” Rarely, however, do we ponder where this phrase comes from, or just how literal these symptoms and sensations might be.
According to Healthline, emotional exhaustion is a state of being severely emotionally drained or depleted, from the build-up of stress from either your job or personal life, or both.
Sometimes, this term can also be used to describe “burn out,” and the sensation of simply juggling too much and feeling the effects of a lack of energy to continue.
When we think about how fast-paced our culture and society are, it’s not a big surprise that we could all fall victim to these symptoms and ailments.
Who Experiences Emotional Exhaustion?
We see these symptoms readily in overly demanding jobs, whether in offices or in manual labor. However, emotional exhaustion can spring from any myriad of occupations, from parenting to creative work to entrepreneurship.
No one is exempt from feeling emotionally depleted, but there are ways to see it coming and to arm yourself against it.
Signs of Emotional Depletion and What to Do About Them
Below are some signs of feeling emotionally drained, and what you can do to help yourself and your loved ones.
1. Feeling “Stuck” or “Trapped” in Life or a Particular Situation
When we’re feeling emotionally drained, we have a hard time changing and broadening our perspective of any given situation. If we’re struggling or trying to find a way out of a job, relationship, or problem, not feeling emotionally healthy can act as a strong deterrent from creating and maintaining a fresh, positive outlook.
At some point, all of us will feel stuck in a problem in life; this becomes a sign of emotional drainage when you start to feel like you are inherently stuck within this situation, with no energy or way out.
This can also manifest as a lack of motivation to seek out new solutions, or a feeling that we’ve resolved to trudge through our problems and simply accept that things aren’t going to change for the better.
As a result, we may develop depression, anger, and irritability, which can manifest as physical dis-ease, such as headaches, physical fatigue, muscle soreness, lack of sleep, and poor appetite.
One way of getting through this sign of feeling emotionally drained is to seek out help. This can be in the form of a dear friend or family member, or it may present itself in the form of professional help, such as a therapist, doctor, or alternative medicine healer.
In many instances when we are feeling stuck and trapped in life, we have a hard time pulling ourselves out of that constant, negative loop that our mind plays through. This is really where the benefit of community can come into play.
Seeking out help not only alleviates the burden of having to feel and go through this problem alone, but it also allows you to receive input and perspective from an outside, neutral source that could be the breakthrough you need.
Other people can have a huge impact on the way our problems present themselves, showing us an alternative solution we would have never considered or found on our own.
2. Lack of Motivation to Work, Create, and Pursue Goals and Dreams
Too much stress can burn out even the most joyous of plans and initiatives. It makes us feel like, no matter how hard we try, there is just not enough emotional or energetic bandwidth to do anything at all.
This attitude and these mental and emotional states can make it very difficult for us to finish work, enjoy the process of creating something, or tackle goals and plans that we’ve committed ourselves to.
On a physical level, stress and lack of motivation can interrupt our energy levels to the point where we’re feeling fatigue, sluggishness, and a lack of an appetite.
We may feel sleepy during all periods of the day, and show a clear disinterest in performing or being productive. We may also show apathy towards the things that usually bring us happiness, like making plans with friends or taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional health.
One way of re-energizing ourselves when we do feel a lack of motivation is to start to get clear on why we’re lacking it in the first place.
Maybe it’s because we’re stretching ourselves too thin, and our to-do lists have become seriously overwhelming. If this is the case, perhaps we can look into prioritizing our work by what is the most critical, and tackling those tasks first.
Another reason may be that you’re falling into the “People Pleaser” rabbit hole. This is where you’re committing your time and energy to getting things done for everyone else, without checking in with yourself first.
Can you actually handle that task or fulfill that promise? Do you even want to? These are important questions to ask, and be honest about the answers!
Once you take these steps, you can re-adjust and re-evaluate where you want to spend your time and effort, therefore kicking up your emotional energy again.
3. Irritability and “Flying Off the Handle”
When our emotions aren’t in check, we have a harder time controlling what may be perceived as irrational anger or sudden outbursts. In reality, when we’re in the thick of that “burn out” sensation, we’re desperately trying to keep our cool and keep our work and tasks from falling apart. It’s exhausting, depleting, and just frustrating!
In these moments, when our emotions are fried and desperate for a reset, it’s easier for us to give into anger or irritability, or to sudden outbursts of rage. Emotional depletion just looks for an exit, and it doesn’t care who receives the brunt of it. We may feel regretful later, but in the moment, we’ve lost the ability to check ourselves.
One powerful way of dissolving that anger is through breath. When we’re angry and frustrated, our breathing and heartbeat quicken, all leading to an activation of the fight-or-flight response in our systems. When that kicks in, it’s harder for us to think rationally or make sound decisions. Instead of acting, we RE-act, and not always in the best way.
When we tap back into our breathing, we allow it to soothe and reset that fight-or-flight response, so that the body can come back to homeostasis.
Check out the below GIF to help you tune back into long inhales and exhales. Follow along with the animation, and notice how, after a few moments, you start to feel more relaxed, grounded, and centered.
Read more about breathing exercises: 3 Deep Breathing Exercises to Relax and Reduce Stress
4. Constant Fatigue and Poor Sleep
Some may think that feeling emotionally drained would put you to sleep right away, but the opposite is actually the case. Insomnia has been linked to a complex number of emotional and mental disorders, and because everything in the body-mind-spirit connection is intricately linked, it’s not a surprise that if one thing is off, the entire system is affected.
Getting enough sleep is immensely important to the wellness of your entire being. Without it, we’re essentially running on empty, and depleting the body of what’s already a draining effort.
Notice your sleep patterns, and pay attention if you’re having a hard time letting go of the day or your to-do list before you head to bed. Are you working over unfinished tasks while trying to fall asleep? Are you battling emotions and thoughts at night?
These all might point to being emotionally drained, which carries into the next day, with constant fatigue throughout your day and week.
One way of checking in and alleviating these symptoms is to start creating a ritual sleep routine. A few hours before bedtime, start to wind down any use of electronics or work. Whatever wasn’t finished that day, jot it down to start first thing in the morning, but start to cut ties with it before you prepare for bedtime.
This will ensure that you’re not rummaging around in your mind for any other ideas or work, when you should be giving your mind and body much-needed rest.
If it helps, start implementing some essential oils to ease you into rest. Lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint are really soothing, and can even help with sinus issues or congestion.
Emotional exhaustion or feeling emotionally drained is a by-product of something in our everyday life that is misaligned — be it work, play, family, or anything in between. It’s essential to narrow down the root cause, and re-evaluate how you spend your time, how you prioritize your work, and how you treat your mind-body-spirit connection for optimal well-being.