Did you know that almost 3 in 5 people report feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted?
This fact that more and more people are in this state even has its own term now, “Other Pandemic.”
The first step to fixing the problem is to recognize it. Whatever the underlying issue you have, the signs are the same.
Mental and emotional exhaustion can manifest in various ways, and you should pay attention to these warning signs to prioritize self-care and seek support if needed.
So, let’s see some common signs of mental and emotional exhaustion and what you can do about them.
1) Persistent fatigue
Persistent fatigue is one of the most obvious signs of mental and emotional exhaustion. Your body is constantly tired, no matter how much coffee or energy drinks you consume.
This should be your wake-up call to evaluate your lifestyle habits and consider if there are any changes you can make to support better sleep quality.
However, if you’re getting enough sleep and you’re still perpetually fatigued, you could have what’s called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
The symptoms of CFS only get worse with mental and physical activity. It typically affects women more than men, can happen suddenly, and lasts for years.
But let’s see what other warning signs there are.
2) Feeling a sense of hopelessness
According to the 2023 Harvard Youth Poll, 47% of young Americans say they feel down, depressed, or hopeless.
If you’re losing faith in the future, have a sense of despair, or feel like things will never improve, know you’re not alone.
I know that I felt similarly during the pandemic. And when the war in Ukraine started, we were glued to our phones the whole day, making it even worse.
There are, however, strategies you can try to cultivate a more hopeful mindset. Here’s what helped me in this situation:
- Identify and challenge negative thoughts that contribute to your sense of hopelessness
- Focus on the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future
- Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about your feelings
- Remind yourself that it’s okay to struggle and that setbacks are a natural part of life
- Surround yourself with sources of inspiration and motivation
If you find yourself easily upset or angered, with a short temper or less patience than usual, you might be mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Dealing with irritability can be challenging, but here’s what helps me when I start getting irritated (more than usual).
- Identify triggers: By recognizing them, you can take proactive steps to manage or avoid them when possible
- Exercise: Physical activity is known to improve mood and reduce stress
- Breaks: When you start feeling irritable, take a break from the situation or activity that’s causing it
- Vacation: Go on a holiday or even a weekend trip if possible
- Manage workload and responsibilities: Identify areas where you can delegate tasks or ask for support
However, what works for me doesn’t necessarily have to work for you. If you see that your irritability significantly impacts your life, seek professional help.
4) Decreased concentration and memory
Struggling to focus, remember things, or make decisions could also signal you’re too exhausted.
It could also be hazardous for you and others around you in some professions. Therefore, you should find ways to deal with it and improve your cognitive function.
Here’s what can help:
- Minimize distractions in your environment
- Break tasks into smaller chunks
- Use tools like calendars, to-do lists, reminders, and digital applications to help you organize and remember important information
- Eat a brain-healthy diet
- Engage in activities that stimulate your brain
- Practice memory techniques
- Minimize multitasking
- Take regular breaks
5) Physical symptoms
Other physical symptoms could also be signs of being mentally and emotionally exhausted. They vary from person to person and can be influenced by various factors, including stress, lifestyle, and individual differences.
Nevertheless, here are some common physical symptoms that can accompany mental and emotional exhaustion:
- Frequent or tension-type headaches
- Muscle tension and pain
- Digestive issues (stomachaches, indigestion, bloating, or changes in appetite)
- Weakened immune system
- Increased heart rate and palpitations
- Respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or shallow breathing patterns
- Elevated blood pressure
6) Frequent mood swings
Frequent mood swings are another challenging symptom of mental and emotional exhaustion.
They can manifest as rapid emotional shifts, ranging from happiness to sadness, irritability, or anger.
I recommend you learn and practice techniques that can help you regulate and manage your emotions effectively. This includes identifying and challenging negative thought patterns, reframing, or using positive affirmations.
7) You’re avoiding social interactions
Are you withdrawing from social activities, isolating yourself, or avoiding interactions with others? If so, it could be another sign of exhaustion.
When I’m not feeling 100%, I rarely want to socialize with others. Close friends, yes, but people I don’t know that well – forget about it.
Reflect on why you’re avoiding social interactions. Are you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or emotionally drained?
Understanding the underlying reasons can help you address them more effectively.
Recognize that it’s okay to take breaks and prioritize self-care. Give yourself permission to step back from social situations when needed, but also challenge yourself to gradually reintegrate social interactions into your routine.
8) Sleep disturbances
A good night’s sleep is incredibly important. I find it baffling that so many professionals that should get the most and the best rest are also the most sleep deprived. Think about doctors and nurses, police officers, firemen, etc.
But if you have trouble falling and staying asleep, or you experience restless sleep patterns, you could be mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Here are some suggestions to help manage sleep disturbances:
- Establish a consistent sleep routine
- Develop a calming routine before bed
- Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature
- Limit electronic device usage before bed
- Avoid consuming caffeine or other stimulants close to bedtime (minimum 8 hours before sleep!)
Additionally, if racing thoughts or worries keep you awake, consider keeping a journal next to your bed.
Write down any concerns or thoughts that come to mind before sleep to help clear your mind and ease anxiety. This helps me a lot.
9) You’re neglecting self-care
When I have periods when I’m swamped and have deadlines looking at me like a flock of seagulls spotting a lone chip on the beach, I tend to somewhat neglect my appearance.
Think working in my boxers, hunched over the laptop with messy hair and beard, and barking at everyone.
However, people who fail to prioritize basic self-care activities like proper nutrition, exercise, or personal hygiene might be in more trouble.
If you find it overwhelming to engage in elaborate self-care routines, simplify them. Focus on the basics like adequate sleep, balanced nutrition, regular physical movement, and personal hygiene. Even small, simple acts of self-care can have a significant positive impact.
10) Loss of motivation and enjoyment
Having a lack of motivation is also a common symptom of mental and emotional exhaustion. Finding the drive to do activities you once enjoyed can make it challenging.
I recommend you understand the purpose and meaning behind what you’re doing. Remembering the why can reignite your enthusiasm and motivation.
Establish a consistent routine and schedule for activities that require motivation. Do this by incorporating them into your regular routine until they become habitual and need less mental effort to get started.
11) Engaging in negative self-talk
Increased self-criticism is a common response to mental and emotional exhaustion. It involves engaging in negative self-talk, being excessively self-critical, and feeling like you never meet your expectations.
I’ve often struggled with it, but also with imposter syndrome. I deal with this problem by challenging and questioning negative thoughts with more realistic and compassionate perspectives.
I also recognize that progress is a journey and that every step forward deserves recognition and appreciation.
And lastly, I set realistic and achievable expectations for myself. I also avoid setting impossibly high standards or comparing myself to others.
12) Reduced productivity
All of the above can lead to reduced productivity, obviously. It could be another sign if you have difficulty completing tasks or meeting deadlines, accompanied by a sense of inefficiency.
Look for underlying issues before you start fixing the problem.
The suggestions I outlined above may vary in effectiveness for different people. It’s important to find what works best for you.
Also, if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if these signs persist despite your efforts, consider seeking professional help from a mental health professional who can provide personalized guidance and support.