90+ Signs You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted (According to Experts)

We all have moments when we feel overwhelmed and stressed. But if you find yourself constantly drained and struggling to keep up with even the basic tasks, you may be dealing with exhaustion. 

If you’re unsure if this is going on with you, don’t worry. There are certain symptoms that can clue you into whether or not you’re experiencing this type of fatigue.

According to health experts, here are signs that you might be mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Alfonso Ferguson, Ph.D., LMHC, LPC, ACS, NCC

Alfonso Ferguson

Founder and Executive Director, GoodWerk

Exhaustion can manifest in multiple ways — physically, emotionally, and mentally

Becoming mentally and emotionally exhausted is a natural part of life. Or is it? 

Sometimes we condition ourselves to believe that working ourselves to a state of mental and emotional exhaustion indicates that we are working hard, doing the best we can, or possibly thinking that this is how we are supposed to feel. 

Mental and emotional exhaustion can manifest in multiple ways, that is, through physical, emotional, and mental manifestations. 

Physical signs

As a counselor, I have worked with many clients who have expressed mental and emotional exhaustion due to unhealthy work, romantic, interpersonal, or familial relationships or environments. 

In their acknowledgment and desire to better understand their environmental stressors, we collectively worked to identify their exhaustion’s physical manifestations. 

Some clients identified: 

  • Migraine (consistent headaches)
  • Muscle aches
  • Posterior issues
  • Increased pain
  • Decreased pain tolerance
  • Difficulty digesting or consuming food
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden/unwarranted health concerns

Your strength decreased, and you have limited mobility

Past clients have reported experiencing a decrease in strength or ability to lift heavy objects. 

In one unique case, this individual developed severe muscle tension in their lower back that resulted in significantly decreased mobility on the right side of their body.

You have a disrupted sleep pattern

You may be experiencing some changes in your sleep pattern. Disrupted sleep patterns may manifest in the following ways:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Racing thoughts at bedtime
  • Dreams or nightmares about the stressful experience/environment
  • Consistently waking up, disrupting your sleep multiple times throughout the night
  • Waking up earlier than anticipated

Disrupted sleep patterns can also result in challenges throughout the day. You may have trouble staying awake, focusing on tasks, and engaging with others.

Related: 14 Proven Tips to Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better

You have slowed reflexes or response

Another physical sign is slowed reflex or response. You may experience slow communication or reaction due to mental and emotional exhaustion. This may manifest as delayed speech, difficulty comprehending an upbeat speech tempo, and slowed reaction to noise or moving objects.

Emotional signs

You disconnect from others

An emotional indicator of exhaustion can be disconnecting from others. This may include disconnecting from the community, family, support system, or collogues. 

One may disconnect in an attempt to preserve or protect the energy they do have, or you may not want to appear as a burden or downer to others.

You may also experience increased agitation or irritability. Your ability to be patient or maybe even empathetic may become increasingly difficult.

You’re in a depressed mood

A psychological sign is a depressed mood. You may be experiencing consistent sadness due to your current circumstance and exhaustion.

You experience a sense of hopelessness

Some may experience a sense of hopelessness with their current exhaustion. Difficulty seeing the end of this experience or even a silver lining.

Mental signs

Feelings of guilt may arise

You may subscribe to a belief that this is how things are supposed to be, and you feel guilty for not being okay or fulfilled with the circumstance. 

For example, this can often show up in work environments that are unhealthy but financially rewarding. Or relationships that appear to be fulfilled based on societal standards but may take a toll on your mental or emotional health.

Along with guilt, you may also experience feelings of being an imposter or thoughts that you do not belong because others may be managing or reacting to the exhaustive experience differently.

You are distracted

You may experience some difficulty concentrating on a task due to being easily distracted or constantly experiencing other symptoms of mental and emotional exhaustion.

You experience a significant decrease in energy and motivation

You may experience a lack of motivation to go to work, spend time with loved ones or community members, or even do things you typically find pleasurable. 

Mental or emotional exhaustion may result in anhedonia (the inability to feel or experience pleasure).

Dr. Harold Hong

Harold Hong

Board-Certified Psychiatrist and Medical Director, New Waters Recovery

Life can be overwhelming and tiring, both mentally and emotionally. And while it’s important to rest and recharge when you’re feeling run down, sometimes the signs of exhaustion are more subtle. 

If you’re unsure whether you’re just tired or mentally and emotionally exhausted, here are some signs to look out for:

You’re not enjoying things like you used to

It can be tough to muster up the energy to do things you used to enjoy when you’re feeling exhausted. If you no longer enjoy activities that you used to love, like hanging out with friends or going to the gym, it’s a sign that you need to take a break. 

At work, this may manifest as a loss of motivation or productivity. Notice if you start making more mistakes than usual or find it hard to focus on your work.

You’re getting sick more often

Your immune system takes a hit when you’re stressed, making you more susceptible to getting sick. If you get sick more often than usual, it could be a sign that your body is telling you to slow down and take care of yourself more. 

If you’re not eating well, exercising, or getting enough sleep, it’s even easier for your immune system to become compromised. Working at different shifts or irregular hours can also make you more prone to getting sick.

You’re withdrawing from social activities

It’s normal to want some time to yourself when you’re overwhelmed, but if you find yourself withdrawing from social activities altogether, it could be a sign of something more serious. 

This may reflect a deeper issue, like depression or anxiety. If you’re usually a social person but now refuse to see anyone, it’s worth talking to a mental health professional to see if something is going on.

You’re using unhealthy coping mechanisms

Some people resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drinking alcohol or using drugs when they feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Others puff on cigarettes or overeat. 

If you find yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, it’s a sign that you need to find healthier ways to deal with your stressors. 

Alcohol and drugs may provide temporary relief, but they can haunt you later on and make your problems worse in the long run. Instead, try healthy coping mechanisms, like journaling, meditation, or exercise.

Even a good night’s sleep doesn’t seem to help

If you’re getting enough sleep but still feeling exhausted, it may be a sign of a deeper issue. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can make it hard to feel rested, even after a full night’s sleep. 

Other physical health conditions, like anemia or thyroid problems, can also make you feel exhausted. If you’re not sure why you’re constantly feeling so tired, talk to your doctor to rule out any other potential causes.

Tyra Steverson, MA, LPC, NCC

Tyra Steverson

Founder, 290 Therapy

You perceive a loss of control

Exhaustion typically happens when we have extended ourselves beyond our mental and physical limitations. As a result, many individuals can feel a perceived loss of control. 

Therefore, exhaustion can lead to increased mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. These symptoms can manifest as irritability, low motivation, increased feeling of loneliness, etc.

Internally, there is a need for rest and support. If not allowed the opportunity to recharge, we can begin to feel lonely and unsupported by those who they love.

Feelings of loneliness can also lead to self-esteem issues. These thoughts begin with “I don’t have anyone to support me as I take rest” and can quickly become “No one loves me” and “I am unworthy of love.”

Exhaustion can also trigger feelings of abandonment and suicidal ideation in people with severe depression.

You can’t make clear decisions

Exhaustion inhibits our ability to process our thoughts and make clear and reasonable decisions. Decision-making is a mental exercise that requires clarity in thinking. 

Exhaustion means that we have reached our mental limit leaving little to no room to make clear decisions.

You find it difficult to manage your mental health

When a person is experiencing exhaustion, they may find it incredibly difficult to manage their mental health. Resisting anxious thoughts and thinking rationally requires the ability to catch negative automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions to put things into a healthy or positive perspective.

You’re withdrawn from your social life

Emotionally, one may become more withdrawn from their social life because to show up and engage with others requires the energy to listen, process what the other person is saying, make connections, and then respond. 

Humans often underestimate the mental energy we exert in social environments.

You struggle to regulate your emotions

Individuals who are suffering from exhaustion may often struggle to regulate their emotions and may be increasingly sensitive or emotional. 

To separate what is offensive from what is a meaningless joke or an unintentional comment requires that we sift through and understand another person’s intentions and our interpretation of their comments or behaviors towards us. 

Our minds and bodies send us signals that we need a break. However, the constant demands of life don’t always allow it. Thus, leaving many individuals irritable in their day-to-day lives. Simple things like taking the trash out and doing dishes feel like huge tasks.

Exhaustion impairs our ability to discern intentions, thus, causing us to over-internalize our experiences.

It can cause our brains to feel “full” of information. Consequently, we may become more forgetful in our short-term memory. This is because our brain is only prioritizing what is incredibly important.

Chronic exhaustion can lead to memory loss because our brain is in a state of crisis.

Samson Motavassel, ASW

Samson Motavassel

Program Director and Therapist, Cast Centers

You feel like there’s nothing left to give

There are two ways to define exhaustion. One is “a state of physical or mental fatigue.” The other definition is listed as “the action or state of using something up or of being used up completely.” 

Both definitions can basically be summed up as there’s nothing left. If you are emotionally or mentally exhausted, it may feel like there’s nothing left to give. 

The stresses of work, home, or just life, in general, may feel like they’ve gotten the best of you. 

Why do I feel so mentally and emotionally drained? Are you experiencing difficulty in your life? You may be going through major life changes like a divorce or loss of a job. 

Or, on the other end of the spectrum, are you working long hours at a demanding job? Are you having financial difficulties? There are other factors that can contribute to emotional or mental exhaustion as well, things like:

  • Lack of self-care
  • Multitasking in different areas of life (work, school, home)
  • Relational issues
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Diet
  • Medical conditions
  • Loss of a loved one 

Exhaustion can have a significant impact on your life. Mental and emotional exhaustion can manifest itself differently from person to person. 

For example, you may feel emotionally drained, overly fatigued, or highly overwhelmed. These symptoms can also be seen in your day-to-day life, causing intrapersonal relationships and behavioral changes. 

There are other ways to identify emotional and mental exhaustion, such as:

  • Mood changes
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Increased/loss of appetite
  • Lowered self-esteem 

What causes mental and emotional exhaustion? 

Mental and emotional exhaustion is generally caused by stress

If life changes are too stressful, or work life is causing you to feel overwhelmed, then you would be at a greater risk for mental and emotional exhaustion. 

If a project is due at work that overloads your mental capacity or involves in-depth research, this could lead to mental exhaustion. If you are going through a lengthy and drawn-out divorce, this could lead to you being emotionally exhausted. 

Whether the stressors are long-term or short-term, they have an impact on mental and emotional well-being. Identifying and trying to manage the stressors would help you come out of the state of exhaustion with ease.

How do I get back to “normal”? 

Reducing stress can significantly help manage the different symptoms you may feel from exhaustion. Since stress is the main factor in emotional and mental exhaustion, finding ways to manage or cut out the stressor would be the easiest way to bounce back. 

Some ways to manage some of the stress factors are: 

Work-life balance

Cutting back at work could allow for more quality time with family and friends and alleviate some of the exhaustion you may be experiencing due to overworking yourself. 

Related: Why Is Work Life Balance so Important in Today’s World?

Friends and family relationships

Nurturing your personal relationships and having someone to confide in about any problems or even the good things in life could be beneficial to preventing and overcoming mental and emotional exhaustion. 


By doing something you enjoy, whether reading a book, crafting, or going for a hike, you allow yourself time to relax and enjoy life. Taking a break and enjoying life for a moment essentially causes a distraction from the stressors that are causing the exhaustion.

Related: How To Find A Hobby As An Adult


Physical activity helps alleviate some of the physical and mental tolls stress takes on the body. When you expel that energy, you can feel less stressed and more at ease with the things in your life. 

Talk with a health professional

The best way to navigate managing or eliminating stress in your life so you can feel better and not feel so mentally and emotionally drained is by talking with a professional. 

These people know healthy ways of dealing with stress and healthy ways to eliminate it from your life. All it takes is reaching out. Don’t hesitate, and get your mental and emotional well-being back to the forefront of your mind.

Ammereta Gaskin, LMFT

Ammereta Gaskin

Therapist and Owner, Refined Vision Therapeutic Services

Your relationships reflect change

You may be emotionally or mentally exhausted if you find yourself frequently irritable with loved ones and notice a breakdown in communication. 

If you were to take a quick review of relationships such as romantic, family, friendships, or co-workers, are you noticing tension or feeling withdrawn

When we have reached exhaustion, our communication can be short, passive-aggressive to aggressive, or non-existent in some instances. I recall clients saying they have been “snappy” with their friends for no reason,” and it’s not like me. 

If you have a trusted person in your life, it is a good idea to check in with them to receive honest feedback that you can consider or share what has been weighing on you. 

This trusted perspective can be a starting point for confirming the signs of exhaustion or bringing to light anything you may be overlooking that is impacting you. 

You notice a disconnect in the activities you liked or loved

You may be emotionally or mentally exhausted if you are frequently out of your “normal” routine throughout the week. Often, people will recognize the inability to maintain focus, difficulty sticking to one task, and can express feeling “all over the place.” 

Someone may notice hesitating to confirm commitments, realizing you are frequently canceling on prior social events due to not having the energy to make it. 

These symptoms can also manifest with daily chores, assigned duties, tasks at work, or a change in commitment to hobbies or other activities you used to enjoy.

Mental and emotional exhaustion can cause someone to lose motivation, impacting our desire to connect. 

It can be a good practice to evaluate if there are any activities that bring us more joy than others. It is okay to simplify some activities or scale back on the number of times we say yes to going out with friends or attending the family dinner. 

Your body says so

Physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and tension in the shoulders, back, or neck areas can also be signs of mental and emotional exhaustion. 

For some, this could be flare-ups of existing health conditions such as hypertension or IBS. You might even see a change in libido for those who are sexually active! Our bodies let us know when we are not functioning at optimal capacity—let’s listen!

Within therapy, I ask that clients schedule with their primary care physicians regularly and other related medical professionals for a full body check-in. It is essential to know if there could be any other contributing health factors to your exhaustion. 

Implementing movement into your day is also helpful, which isn’t limited to the gym. Consider: 

  • 10-minute stretches
  • A 7-minute guided yoga session from the bed
  • A guided progressive muscle relaxation meditation
  • Or simply a 3-minute song and dance session

Be sure to consult with a medical professional.

Bree Vanley, LPC, TA

Bree Vanley

Therapist and Owner, Heart Matters Therapy, PLLC

You have difficulty using healthy self-care tools

Chances are that you clicked on this article because you or someone you know is feeling mentally or emotionally exhausted. You can tell that something is off, but you have yet to identify the cause.

Over the years, I have worked with clients who tell me:

  • “I feel stressed.”
  • “I feel overwhelmed.”
  • “It feels like I’m drowning.” 

They can describe their feelings but sometimes have difficulty identifying what’s causing them to feel that way. 

More often than not, I help them look into three areas: boundaries, responsibilities or obligations, and self-care.

Poor boundaries

Poor boundaries, or the lack thereof, are passive and usually identifiable by having difficulty saying no to others and yourself. 

People with poor boundaries take on more responsibilities or obligations than they can manage, leading to feeling stressedoverwhelmed, or burned out

If left unchecked for a period of time, this can turn into chronic stress, otherwise identified as mental and emotional exhaustion.

Depth of responsibility

The amount of depth of responsibility you have is also a factor. Responsibilities can vary from work life to personal life to social life. 

The effects of having too many responsibilities are characterized by feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, irritable and frustrated, tired, or lacking energy and motivation. The more responsibility you take on, the heavier the mental and emotional weight becomes.

Those who are weighed down mentally and emotionally also frequently have difficulty using healthy self-care tools. Lack of a healthy self-care regime will leave you feeling drained or tired physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

It can cause you to be easily irritable with others, whether they are at fault or not. You may also experience: 

  • Stress
  • A lack of motivation 
  • Low energy or mood
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating on tasks

Know how your body responds to stress

Stress affects each person differently, so knowing how your body responds to stress is essential. Increasing your awareness of physiological responses to stress could aid in reducing stress. 

Related: Why and How Do Men and Women Handle Stress Differently?

Some common signs that you are mentally and emotionally exhausted include: 

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite (eating too much or too little)
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability or frustration
  • Lashing out at others
  • Feeling tired (physically) but not due to exercise 

Once you have identified how your body responds to stress, you can better use effective coping skills. Coping skills range from mindfulness to a full workout to listening to music, drawing, and coloring. 

Related: 18 Best Mindfulness Books

The key to choosing a healthy coping skill is to make sure that it actually relaxes you and helps you feel calm, and make sure that it is not harmful to you or someone else. This gives you a wide range of activities to choose from. 

You do not have to be limited to deep breathing or yoga—although they are effective. Find what works for you and use it consistently. 

In addition to coping skills, establishing healthy boundaries will also reduce the effect of stress which, if left unchecked, will turn into mental and emotional exhaustion. 

Healthy boundaries help you to provide a balance in your life where you are not saying “yes” to everything and everyone, but you are also not saying “no” all the time. A healthy balance allows for better mental and emotional management.

As always, talking with a mental health professional can help. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of mental and emotional exhaustion and you feel like nothing has worked, it is okay to seek help from a neutral party. 

A mental health professional can assist you with identifying the source(s) of your mental and emotional exhaustion, as well as provide you with the tools and techniques to reduce it.

Dr. Kimber Shelton

Kimber Shelton

Speaker | Psychologist, KLS Counseling & Consulting Services | Author, “A Handbook on Counseling African American Women

You get negative feedback from others

We might not always be aware of the severity of our mental and physical exhaustion, but others might notice. We might hear comments such as, “You don’t seem like yourself” and “You seem tired,” or get questions like, “Are you okay?“. This could alert us to our level of exhaustion. 

If we don’t get direct feedback on our level of exhaustion, individuals in our lives may express relationship concerns, “It feels like you are not here. You are always too tired to do things.” 

Or, there could be professional and performance issues, and we receive negative feedback from our employer. Verbal and performative feedback can be a good indicator of our unnoticed exhaustion. 

Physical illness or symptoms manifest in you

Psychological issues, including emotional exhaustion, can manifest in physical symptoms. Exhaustion can be caused by chronic stress. 

Chronic stress impacts and impairs our nervous system and is associated with: 

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • A compromised immune system
  • Muscle tension and pains
  • Other physical health issues

Physical illness and injury can be signs that we are emotionally and mentally exhausted.

You’re emotionally volatile

Our ability to self-regulate our emotions is impaired when we are mentally and physically exhausted. Consider words that are commonly associated with exhaustion—overwhelm, irritability, agitated, impatient, angry, numb. 

Our ability to react to situations in emotionally sensitive ways is thrown off when we are mentally and physically exhausted, potentially resulting in an overreaction or underreaction to situations.

Related: How to Be Less Emotionally Sensitive

You experience cognitive decline

Studies show that a lack of sleep is more harmful to our functioning than mild to moderate alcohol impairment. Exhaustion can create a cognitive decline. 

When we are exhausted, our thoughts may be foggy: 

  • We are more forgetful.
  • We could find ourselves repeating ourselves.
  • We can get lost in our thoughts and space out.
  • We cannot find the words that were once readily available to us. 
  • We can’t think how we used to.

Pay attention to the signs

If we have good emotional awareness and pay attention to the signs our bodies give us, with relative ease, we may identify that we feel mentally and physically exhausted. 

Our mind and body align with saying, “We are tired.” If we hear or sense this, best to listen to what we are communicating to ourselves.

Dr. Camille St. James

Camille St. James

Educator | Researcher | Psychologist, Caron

You’re losing empathy and compassion for people in your life

With life’s constant pressures, the uncertainty of a looming recession, and a prolonged global pandemic, many of us are dealing with chronic burnout. 

Burnout is being mentally and emotionally exhausted and is, in essence, the inability to function successfully on a personal and/or professional level.

While we may push through our exhaustion and fatigue, there are a few warning signs that signal help may be needed:

  • Appearing frazzled and impatient 
  • Making comments you wouldn’t normally make that jeopardize your work or personal life 
  • Self-medicating with substances, which can lead to addiction or behavioral health issues 
  • Losing empathy and compassion for people in your life

People also are facing the serious issues of dissociation and derealization

With all that has happened in the last two years—COVID-19 overturned our world, and the return to more normality seems to go in stops and starts, while inflation, food and supply shortages, and the ongoing war in Ukraine—it’s common to feel detached from our surroundings. 

However, if things or people don’t seem real or you feel like there’s a barrier between you and the world around you, this is a clear sign that one may be on the edge of a breaking point. 

How to combat this issue?

When it becomes clear we’re past the point of coping with our mental and emotional exhaustion, it is crucial to take steps to address the adverse effects it causes in our life. 

We must find ways to stop negative or unhealthy routines, be open to change, and experience things outside of our comfort zones. 

A crucial part of complete wellness is investing in self-care by prioritizing exercise, sleep, healthy eating habits, and even spiritual practices. 

Unplugging whenever possible is also important in a world of constant connection where we can get overwhelmed and need breaks to ground ourselves. 

Learn to delegate and let go once you’ve asked your community for help because we can’t do it all. And finally, seek professional help if you’re past a point of coping on your own.  

Ryan Bolling

Ryan Bolling

Behavior Analyst and CEO, Bolling Behavioral Consulting

Mentally and emotionally exhausted people often feel like they are running on empty. If you can identify with any of the following signs, it may be time to take a break and recharge your batteries.

You’re not taking care of yourself

If you’re not taking care of yourself, it can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion. When you’re exhausted, finding the motivation to take care of yourself is difficult. 

However, it’s important to make self-care a priority when you’re feeling depleted. Otherwise, you may start to feel even worse.

You’re always tired

When you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted, you may find that you’re always tired. Even if you get a good night’s sleep, you may still feel fatigued during the day. This can make it difficult to concentrate and get things done.

You’re easily agitated

If you’re feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, you may also feel easily agitated. Things that wouldn’t normally bother you can start to seem like a big deal. You may even get into arguments with people more often than usual.

You’re having trouble concentrating

When you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted, it can be challenging to focus on anything. 

Your mind may feel foggy, and it may be hard to concentrate on tasks. This can make work, school, or other responsibilities feel even more daunting.

You’re not enjoying things that you used to enjoy

If you’re struggling with mental or emotional exhaustion, you may find that you’re not enjoying things you used to enjoy. This may include activities you once loved or hobbies that you used to find relaxing. 

When you’re feeling exhausted, it can be difficult to muster up the energy for things that don’t feel essential.

You’re withdrawing from social activities by canceling or skipping plans

Mentally and emotionally exhausted people often start to withdraw from social activities. If you’re a social person, you may want to stay home more often. You may also start canceling plans or skipping out on events you normally attend.

You’re feeling hopeless

When you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted, it can be easy to feel like there’s no hope for things to get better. You may feel like you’re stuck in a rut and that nothing will ever change. This can lead to feelings of despair and helplessness.

You’re having physical symptoms

Mental and emotional exhaustion can also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle pain. You may also find yourself getting sick more often than usual. 

If you’re experiencing physical symptoms, it’s essential to see a doctor to rule out any other underlying health conditions.

If you’re struggling with mental or emotional exhaustion, it’s important to seek help. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional about ways to manage your exhaustion. You may also benefit from attending a support group or therapy. 

Taking steps to care for yourself can help you start feeling better and regain energy.

Rachel Davidson, MA, LPC-A

Rachel Davidson

Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, Malaty Therapy

There have been changes in your abilities to fall or stay asleep

As members of a society driven by productivity and accomplishment, there is often little room to spend time cultivating our emotional well-being. 

When our livelihoods depend on what we can do rather than who we are, we can easily get sucked into a way of being that neglects our emotional side. 

Despite a lack of focus on our mental well-being, emotions don’t just go away. Even if we ignore them, deep down, we all experience a full range of emotions and need to allow ourselves to feel them to be our healthiest selves. 

When we neglect our mental and emotional health, we risk mental and emotional exhaustion, the effects of which can permeate multiple aspects of our lives, from our relationships to our work performance. 

When we are able to slow down and pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we often find numerous telltale signs of mental and emotional exhaustion. 

While many of these signs could be linked to more than one mental health struggle, developing an awareness of these signs can hugely impact how we live our lives. 

One place to start when evaluating ourselves for mental and emotional exhaustion is to ask ourselves whether we see a change in our thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. 

Maybe you notice that while you once spent every weekend with your friends, you now avoid spending time with others. You might see a change in the drive you have to complete your school work or to get up in the morning for work. 

These changes in behavior are often more obvious, while changes in thought and feeling can be more subtle. 

For example, when focusing on your thoughts, you may notice that your attitude towards your job, yourself, or others has changed negatively. You might notice that while you used to think of yourself as intelligent, you now often find yourself thinking of yourself as inferior or stupid. 

Many of us do not have an expansive emotional vocabulary when it comes to feelings. We might recognize that we feel overwhelmed or anxious but struggle to name the true experienced emotion. 

Even if we can’t put our finger on exactly what we’re feeling, we can pay attention to whether there has been a general trend in the types of emotions we are experiencing. If we once felt content or happy and now feel down and negative, this shift could indicate that we’re experiencing exhaustion.

Mental and emotional exhaustion can also show up in a physical way. If you notice that despite getting the same amount of sleep, you are still tired, or maybe that there have been changes in your abilities to fall or stay asleep, these could be signs of exhaustion. 

Additionally, when we feel emotionally and mentally exhausted, we often hold tension in our bodies. This could present as tightness in the muscles, back pain, or headaches.

What to do about mental and emotional exhaustion

Once you’ve noticed the signs that you may be emotionally and mentally exhausted, you can begin to make some changes to emphasize your mental well-being. 

Seeking social support, getting in touch with a mental health professional, and reevaluating the boundaries we set with others can all be helpful options. 

Additionally, emphasizing self-care as a part of our daily routines can go a long way in keeping our mental and emotional batteries charged. With a little awareness and openness to focusing on our mental health, we can come back from mental and emotional exhaustion and prevent it from happening in the future.

Desiree Basl

Desiree Basl

Therapist and Life Coach, Therapy with Color

You feel out of control, or you shut down

In my work with clients, I like to utilize Dan Seigal’s concept of the optimal “window of tolerance” and the Polyvagal theory. While this work is geared towards trauma and anxiety-related responses, I have found it practical to apply the theories in practice regardless of any trauma-related history.

The window of tolerance

I refer to this window as our “full gas tank” or battery life. This is where we find ourselves in an optimal state and are in that “calm, cool, and collected” zone. 

In this space, we can manage the stressors and challenges of our daily life. Even aware of the stressors as they come, we don’t reach a point of dysregulation as they occur in the present.

Throughout the hour, day, week, or even month, our window begins to shrink, which affects our ability to manage daily stressors. We lose the ability to cope with the challenges that were previously manageable. In other words, it doesn’t require as much to “rock the boat.”

When our “window of tolerance” or “gas tank” starts to shrink, we often enter a state of hyperarousal or hypoarousal.


A good indication we are emotionally or mentally exhausted is when behaviors start to indicate we have reached a state of hyperarousal. 

This is when we may start to feel out of control, anxious, irritable, experience outbursts of anger, panic attacks, or even revert to old coping mechanisms such as substance use or process addictions.


Another good indication we may be emotionally or mentally exhausted is when we see behaviors commonly associated with hypoarousal, such as dissociation, shutting down, disconnect, and isolation. 

What we can do

When we develop the ability to notice the shift in our zones, we have a better ability to gauge the mental and emotional signs of exhaustion. 

To stay or return to our optimal state, it is important to focus less on the maladaptive behaviors that are occurring and more on our ability to strengthen our window or fill up that internal gas tank again.

A great way to get back to the optimal state is working with a therapist through talk therapy to manage daily stressors and thought patterns that contribute to anxiety, stress, and depression and impact our ability to cope in real time. 

Moving our body, sleep, and proper nutrition are just a few imperative things as well.

 Dr. Jessica Diller Kovler, A.M., M.A., Ph.D.

Jessica Diller Kovler

Psychology Associate, Cognitive Therapy Center of Manhattan

It takes you longer to do the same task 

Are you finding that it used to take you an hour to put together a presentation at work, but now it feels like everything is a chore? Or that your mind is drifting too much when you’re trying to concentrate? You might be experiencing emotional exhaustion. 

You’re snapping more at family and friends 

Are you feeling more irritable? Are you more short-tempered with others? Maybe you feel like other people in your life are getting under your skin. 

You don’t have the same bandwidth to hear about your friend’s/family’s struggles 

Do you shudder when your phone rings, and it’s a friend? Do you no longer have any interest or bandwidth to listen to a friend’s struggle? Or perhaps you feel that while you’re a good friend, you’re “checked out” when someone calls? 

Look at your TV habits and recreation—has anything changed? 

Look at your concentration levels. Is doing Wordle feeling like yet another task? What about what you watch on TV—is it too much for you to hear about certain topics that you were ok with before? These are additional signs. 

The good news – with help, self-care, and self-boundaries, you can nip this in the bud. 

Cristina Louk, Ph.D., LMHCA, RHT

Cristina Louk

Clinical Psychotherapist, Peace Humanistic Therapy

You experience lower work productivity and fewer social interactions

Mental and emotional exhaustion is burnout. Untreated burnout can negatively affect your physical and mental health and your relationships.

It is vital to know the early warning signs of burnout. These include:

  • Increases in irritability
  • New or worsening sleep problems or health issues
  • Increases in feelings of resentment
  • Neglecting responsibilities

The early stage of burnout begins when the early warning signs intensify

Job dissatisfaction begins to occur. People in this stage will experience lower work productivity and fewer social interactions. They may start to neglect general personal needs.

Physical symptoms may include: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Unusual heart rhythms or heart palpitations
  • Increased fatigue, headaches, and teeth grinding
  • Changes in appetite

Burnout, left untreated, can become chronic and result in significant and problematic symptoms. These can include anger and aggression or apathy and cynicism. 

Chronic burnout may also result in increased substance abuse or the development of an escapist mentality. More serious symptoms include self-doubt, social isolation, pessimism, and suicidality.

If you or someone you love is experiencing burnout, it is crucial to get help. Find a licensed therapist in your area and begin the journey back to good mental and physical health.

Jocelyn Hamsher, LPC, CST

Jocelyn Hamsher

Professor and Course Creator | Licensed Professional Counselor, Courageous Living AZ

Mental and emotional exhaustion can wreak havoc on every area of our lives. 

You struggle with concentrating

If you struggle with focus and concentration in areas where you typically thrive, that is a warning sign that you are headed toward mental and emotional exhaustion. 

This also looks like: 

  • Tasks taking longer to complete.
  • Tasks feel more complicated than they usually feel.
  • Being more absent-minded around details that you are normally on top of. 

You are easily overwhelmed

If even the most simple obstacle, setback, or struggle causes complete overwhelm, odds are you are emotionally and mentally exhausted. 

When issues arise that you usually can handle with grace, instead cause you to feel overburdened or completely burnt out, something is out of balance. 

Your emotions feel out of proportion

If you find that you are going 0 to 60 with your anger or those little setbacks trigger the waterworks, likely, you are emotionally and physically exhausted. 

When we are exhausted, we are less able to regulate our emotions and more impacted by what is happening around us. Those feelings feel very strong and intense. This confuses you and those around you because the emotional intensity does not seem to line up. 

You lack motivation

The biggest side effect of emotional and mental exhaustion is that motivation plummets. Whether at work, with household duties, or with basic hygiene, when we are maxed out emotionally and mentally, we have little to no room for anything. 

We become paralyzed in the overwhelm and struggle to feel motivated to take on even simple tasks. 

Now that we have identified red flags of emotional and mental exhaustion, what do we do about it?

First, we need to identify it and own that we are mentally and emotionally exhausted. From there, we need to take action (which is often the last thing we want to do when exhausted). 

This looks like asking for help, practicing self-care, seeking professional support, reading books, and making changes to mitigate future mental and emotional exhaustion. We need to find ways to recharge those emotional and mental batteries. 

You are worth putting effort into healing!

To perform at our best, it’s important to listen to our bodies and minds and take some time off when we start to feel burnt out. But how can you tell if you’re just feeling a little run down or heading into full-fledged exhaustion?

Here are some signs that you may be mentally and emotionally exhausted:

You have little to no motivation

When we’re feeling exhausted, it can be hard to muster up the energy to do anything at all, let alone things we enjoy. If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning or not wanting to participate in activities you usually enjoy, it may be a sign that you’re burned out.

You’re easily irritable or always on the verge of tears

Exhaustion can make even the simplest things feel overwhelming and frustrating. You may find yourself snapping at people more quickly than usual or feel like you’re always on the verge of tears. 

When your mind and body are stretched thin, keeping your emotions in check can be hard.

You’re having trouble concentrating

Fatigue can make it difficult to focus on anything, whether trying to complete a project at work or having a conversation with someone. Your mind may feel foggy, and you may find yourself making more mistakes than usual.

You’re not taking care of yourself

Self-care often falls by the wayside when we’re exhausted. We may stop exercising, eating well, or getting enough sleep.

 If you find yourself neglecting your health in favor of just trying to get through the day, it’s a sign that you need to slow down.

You always feel overwhelmed

If it feels like you’re constantly swimming against the current, you may be taking on more than you can handle. 

When you’re exhausted, everything can feel like too much. You may have trouble keeping up with your usual routine or feel like you’re constantly behind.

If you’re experiencing any of these signs, taking a step back and giving yourself a break is essential. 

Fatigue can lead to mistakes, accidents, and even illness, so it’s important to listen to your body and take some time off when you start to feel burnt out. When you return to your normal routine, take things slow and ease yourself back into it. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Kevin Coleman

Kevin Coleman

Marriage and Family Therapist | Founder and Owner, Connected Therapy Practice

From my experience, here are three big signs that you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted:

You fall behind on plans and miss deadlines that you usually wouldn’t forget

When you’re mentally exhausted, you’re much more likely to forget all about that errand, miss that appointment, or fall behind on work deadlines. 

These are all symptoms of an exhausted brain that is struggling to balance all the different responsibilities you’re carrying.

Related: How to Live a Balanced Life? What Does it Really Mean?

You become detached and may feel apathetic about going to be with people

You become more reclusive because you’re emotionally exhausted and spending time with others becomes a chore. When you have the emotional capacity for time with friends or socializing, your free time can be used to enjoy time with your friends and family. 

But, if you’re emotionally exhausted, you may feel apathetic about going to be with people, and you might notice yourself spending less time out than you usually would.

You think about the future less

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your present-day life, then planning for your future can just add to your feelings of being overwhelmed

So, if you aren’t planning at all for where you want to be in six months or six years, that may be a sign that you’re carrying too much today.

Dr. Steven Rosenberg, Ph.D

Steven Rosenberg

Psychotherapist | Behavioral Specialist, Quit It Now

You can lose a sense of purpose in life

“What do I really want to do?” Emotionally, there is a feeling of a lack of interest in normal activities. You just don’t want to do anything. Nothing appeals to you!

This is followed by a lack of motivation both at work and in your personal life. It’s really not fun to get up and out of bed in the morning. 

There is a lot of moodiness and irritability

Nothing is satisfying! You can get easily annoyed at everything. This can lead to anger, which can cause trouble in your relationships.

You can have poor performance at work. There can be difficulties in concentration and focus—work doesn’t get done. There’s even paralysis to start work.

There can be a “black cloud” following you

You sense that something bad is about to happen. This can lead to depression and anxiety. Feelings of suicide can also surface. This is where you need to seek professional help. Call the new suicide hotline at 988!

Lastly, there is the possibility of poor health. Your immune system is lowered, and more colds and illnesses can occur. You just don’t take care of yourself.

Dr. Brynna Connor, MD

Brynna Connor

Healthcare Ambassador, NorthWestPharmacy

You find it hard to focus on tasks and have symptoms of depression

Mental exhaustion has affected many people recently and can present with feelings of extreme tiredness, apathy, and irritability. 

One can find it hard to focus on tasks and also can see that they have symptoms of depression as well, including a lack of interest in activities that one would usually enjoy.

Mental exhaustion can be due to long-term stressors, job issues, family stressors, comorbidities, or illness.

Possible ways to cope with mental exhaustion include some obvious and some not-so-obvious steps one can take:

  • Take a break. Often, relaxation techniques like deep breathing and guided imagery, as silly as they may sound to some, actually do work, and the data is very clear on this.
  • Also, regularly exercising and taking care of the basics in terms of self-care—good nutrition, sleep, and movement are essential.
  • Be grateful. If one tries to remember what they have to be grateful for, then mental exhaustion does not seem so insurmountable.

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Lombardo

Clinical Psychologist and Speaker | Author, “Get Out of the Red Zone

You feel demotivated

Mental and emotional exhaustion are usually symptoms of burnout. To the person experiencing it, it feels like falling from a high place and not feeling particularly motivated to climb up those steps again. 

The biggest thing you will feel is demotivation. Even if you know there’s something that you got to do, you just can’t bring yourself to do it. 

It has nothing to do with being tired because even if you’re physically rested, the feeling still persists. This is the key differentiator for mental and emotional exhaustion. It doesn’t just go away by “sleeping it off” or “walking it off.” 

Shelby Milhoan, LCPC

Shelby Milhoan


You are consistently feeling and expressing irritation at minor inconveniences

One sign that you are emotionally exhausted is if you are consistently feeling and expressing irritation at minor inconveniences, such as being in traffic, stepping on a Lego, forgetting milk at the store, etc. 

When we are emotionally exhausted, it is more difficult to accept our reality for what it is, leading to irritation. Often, we take that emotion out on a loved one, like our partner or children.

There’s an increase in the desire to sleep 

Another sign of emotional exhaustion is an increase in the desire to sleep or fatigue. Emotions are a full-body experience. Every emotion that we experience changes our body’s physiology. 

For example, with anger, our heart rate increases, our body tenses, our body temperature increases, and more. Now, imagine if we are experiencing not only anger but other emotions that are leading to full-body experiences time and time again. 

The body gets tired, and it needs rest! If we are fatigued and are sleeping more, we can look to recent emotional experiences to see if it is emotional exhaustion.

You often cry

Tearfulness is another sign of emotional exhaustion. When we are introduced to a stressor, our body is flooded with stress hormones, and we experience, once again, other emotions that initiate a whole-body experience. 

What if we ignore this full-body experience? Well, eventually, our body may try to regulate and decrease stress through crying, which is a way to complete this cycle of stress and destress.

Ashley Rodrigues, LPCC PMH-C

Ashley Rodrigues

Licensed Mental Health Therapist | Educator and Speaker

You have a low distress tolerance

A low distress tolerance can look different from person to person. For some individuals, it may look like sensory overstimulation

An example may be that background noise that at one time never bothered you is now hard to ignore. For others, a low distress tolerance may surface in the context of relationships and a lesser ability to manage minor conflicts or solve problems collaboratively. 

A lower distress tolerance can be generalized as a “lack of patience.”

You start dreading or avoiding things

One of the first red flags of mental and emotional exhaustion is the “Sunday Scaries.” This is a term the internet has coined to describe that dread feeling about returning to work that typically surfaces on a Sunday. 

If the emotional and mental exhaustion is not work-related, we tend to avoid or dread the thing causing the exhaustion, which could be friends, family, or projects.

You see physical symptoms

The connection between the mind and body is undeniable. Things like headaches, digestive issues, changes in the menstrual cycle, body aches, and a drop in your immune system are all possible physical symptoms of emotional and mental exhaustion. 

Ronda Thorington, LPC

Ronda Thorington

Licensed Clinician and Parent Coach

Mental and emotional exhaustion can quietly creep in when we least expect it. One day we are fine (or at least we think we are), and the next, we don’t even have the energy to make it through the day. 

You are never feeling fully rested

Mental and emotional exhaustion can lead to feelings of physical exhaustion. When we feel emotionally and mentally overwhelmed, it can make it impossible to quiet our minds enough to experience deep, quality sleep, which is essential to feeling rested.

You feel a lack of enjoyment in previously enjoyable activities 

Mental and emotional exhaustion can cause us to lose our sense of enjoyment in activities. Things that we once loved doing no longer bring the same degree of happiness.

You have a low frustration tolerance

Individuals experiencing mental and emotional exhaustion may experience an increase in moodiness and irritability. Maybe you previously had the patience of a saint, but now you snap at everyone over the smallest of things. Mental and emotional exhaustion may be the reason.

Brenton Guice

Brenton Guice

Registered Dental Hygienist and Provisionally Licensed Professional Counselor, The Mental Hug

Are you feeling stuck, frozen, heading up a creek without a paddle? Emotional exhaustion can result from many reasons, common sources resulting from compounded stress from personal or work lives. 

Some of these reasons may include: 

  • Career changes 
  • Toxic or high-stress work environments
  • Relationship struggles
  • Family difficulties
  • Death of a loved one
  • Even living with a chronic health condition

Here are five signs you may be facing emotional and mental exhaustion; keeping in mind, this is not an exhaustive list as exhaustion appears very differently from person to person. 

Please don’t utilize this list to self-diagnose. If you are struggling, please contact a professional.

You have less engagement in your interests

When you find yourself overcome by stress, it is not unusual to pull away from activities that usually bring you joy and excitement. Many people use hobbies and interests as an escape, a way to expend energy positively

However, if you have expended all available energy for the day running an uphill marathon (emotionally and mentally), you may find it challenging to find the motivation to do more tasks. 

I think it’s important to note that hobbies and interests don’t just take away the stress and require just as much energy as you put toward other duties. 

The difficult part of this, though, is that while it takes energy to pursue hobbies and interests, the lack of energy may perpetuate the exhaustion further by making you feel as though you are unable to do things you enjoy. 

You experience sleep difficulties or excessive sleep

Whether you struggle with insomnia or have noticed an increase in the amount of sleep you need or are experiencing, this may be a sign of emotional and mental exhaustion. 

If energy levels are depleted and you are under chronic stress, you may find an increase in anxiety or depression. The reason is if these were already present in your life, exhaustion might cause an increase in the severity levels you experience. 

With anxiety and depression, sleep can be affected in either direction—having trouble falling/staying asleep or sleeping several hours throughout the day without the energy to be active. 

Having sleep difficulties only adds further stress to your physical health and may lead to other health issues if not addressed. 

You lose patience over quicker than you used to

Perhaps there are things that you lose patience over quicker than you used to, or you are getting into more arguments with a friend, loved one, or co-worker. 

As you become more stressed, your body leans more into survival mode (the sympathetic chain of the nervous system releases more cortisol into the bloodstream), which adds more intensity to the irritation. 

Therefore, with a heightened nervous system, your ability to process information or regulate your emotions becomes more difficult

You feel numb

Emotional detachment is a survival mechanism that may coincide with depression. The more exhausted you become, the likelihood of detachment increases. This can occur as a way for your body to protect you from discomforting situations. 

If you are suffering from emotional exhaustion, your body is trying to lessen the impact emotions have on your psyche by detaching. This may also be detachment from other people—limiting your time around others, as being social also requires energy.

You experience headaches or gastrointestinal (GI) upset

Exhaustion may also appear somatically, giving you physical symptoms that mimic other health conditions. Headaches can occur for many reasons; therefore, having a headache or GI upset doesn’t automatically guarantee you’re emotionally exhausted. 

Just know that your body tries to give you warning signs in as many ways as possible. 

Stress, tension, and headaches often occur at the base of the skull/back of the head or in the forehead region. 

If you suffer from chronic stress and are dealing with regular headaches or this nature (or migraines), it’s important to follow up with a medical professional as it may also indicate heart health-related conditions (i.e., hypertension). Stress can also affect gut health which may lead to GI upset. 

These are just five signs you may be emotionally and mentally exhausted. As mentioned earlier, this list is not definitive, and there are many ways exhaustion may present itself to you. 

Ultimately, I think one of the most important things you can do is listen and pay attention to your body. Notice any sudden or radical changes that vary from the norm. 

If you are comfortable, seeking out medical or mental health professionals can aid in the process of improving your exhaustion and raising awareness of other difficulties, such as anxiety or depression. 

A few helpful steps you can take right now to begin feeling better may include: 

  • Practicing different forms of mindfulness (i.e., meditation, journaling, yoga)
  • Taking a brief walk outside
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Focusing on your own needs (i.e., stress reduction, dietary changes)

If you or someone you know is struggling and in crisis, please call or text 988 for immediate access to a crisis professional 24/7. 

Brittany Freeman Jean-Louis, LPC, ACS

Brittany Freeman Jean-Louis

Therapist and CEO, A Freeman’s Place Counseling, LLC

First, to understand the signs of mental and emotional exhaustion, it must be defined. Exhaustion is the decrease of physical and emotional strength and motivation, usually due to prolonged stress and frustration. 

The following are signs that you might be exhausted:

You find it hard to focus on daily tasks

When your mind is cluttered with racing thoughts, worried thoughts, or intrusive thoughts, it makes it difficult to focus on daily tasks.

There’s a change in your sleeping habits

Being stressed over time can lead to sleep issues such as insomnia, waking up at night, and hypersomnia. When stress is not addressed, it can manifest in a lack of sleep as it is hard to relax from not letting go of daily stress. 

You use substances or indulge in addictive behaviors

Many people use substances and indulge in addictive behaviors such as drug use, overeating, gambling, or sex to feel numb. These addictive behaviors are used to escape reality. 

Blake Estape, A.P.

Blake Estape

Licensed Acupuncture Physician, Miami Acupuncture and Herbal Solutions

You disassociate mentally and experience “brain fog”

Americans have reported higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and the associated Diseases of Despair (drug abuse, alcoholism, suicide) since the onset of the pandemic. Mental and emotional fatigue is common. 

Unfortunately, the desire to get past the pandemic and the demands of modern life forces us to push through our discomfort or ignore them entirely. It’s no surprise that many people don’t even make the connection between their discomfort and their mental health.

Traditional Chinese Medicine feels that there is always a physical component to mental dis-ease and vice-versa. To this end, we always look for signs of mental-emotional strain during intake. 

Symptoms of mental-emotional exhaustion can be separated into two classes: mental and physical.

Mental symptoms

People who are struggling emotionally have much lower levels of tolerance than they would otherwise. In essence, they lack the “bandwidth” to adapt to stressors in a healthy way. This can manifest differently for different people, but there are common trends.


When someone is mentally and emotionally overwhelmed, they seek to disassociate mentally. 

To protect themselves, they effectively try to shut down their emotional processing. This can seem distantcold, or uncaring of someone else’s feelings. 

Unfortunately, if someone doesn’t understand that this is a symptom, it can upset them, compounding the problem. The sufferer may also feel guilt that they can’t be emotionally available.


As the ability to self-regulate degrades, people may instead lash out. Often this manifests as a short temper, more intense outbursts of anger, and trouble empathizing. 

Small things that would otherwise not be a problem pile onto an already overwhelming situation. This unhealthy coping mechanism creates an even more stressful environment and alienates the sufferer further.

Low resilience

An overall inability to deal with any stress or anxiety is also a sign of mental-emotional exhaustion. The person appears frail and unable to handle even the slightest challenge. 

Deviating from a plan or receiving minor criticism can send them spiraling, sometimes into a rage or fits of crying. It takes so much effort to maintain the norm that they have become unable to cope with change.


Someone who is completely depleted may choose to isolate as much as possible. In extreme cases, they may ignore responsibilities and even self-care. 

Their inability to function is a serious risk, as, over time, one’s ability to shake themselves out of this isolation becomes increasingly difficult. 

Physical symptoms


The most common sign of mental and emotional exhaustion is physical fatigue. A hunched posture, drawn face, and low effect are all symptoms. 

Without drive and motivation, the sufferer feels as though everything is much harder and requires much more energy to complete.

Lack of joy

Even things that used to bring them happiness ceases to be enjoyable. Everything occurs against a backdrop of emotional burden or guilt, so they cannot find solace in the things they ordinarily like. 

Unfortunately, without tools to recover their mental-emotional fatigue, the symptoms will grow worse.


Another common symptom of mental and emotional exhaustion is insomnia. This may be contrary to what one might expect, but often, people who are emotionally fatigued don’t feel they have the motivation or energy to move around. 

This pent-up physical energy, combined with the mental strain of their condition, makes it very hard to fall asleep. The worse their insomnia becomes, the more intense their symptoms feel.

Brain fog

Trouble concentrating, sluggish thinking, forgetfulness, and inattentiveness can all fall under the umbrella of “brain fog.” 

Having become popularly known as a symptom of Covid, it is also a common symptom of stress and anxiety. This makes it difficult to tell whether the person suffers from long-Covid or emotional fatigue. 

We have side-lined our population’s mental and emotional health to get back to normal. The consequences are serious and can be deadly. 

Recognizing warning signs of mental and emotional exhaustion can help people get help before the problem becomes overwhelming. Make sure to check on yourself and your loved ones regularly to see how they’re coping.

Related: How to Check In With Yourself 

Chelsea Young, BSN, RN

Chelsea Young

NASM CPT Certified Personal Trainer and Youth Exercise Specialist, Pity Fitness

You quickly lose your temper and have constant headaches

I have worked in the Emergency Room for almost 12 years as a Registered Nurse since I was 22. 

Long story short, I did two years in a local year, and once I gained a foundation, I took off traveling! I did that for multiple years before moving to Florida, settling down, and taking on a full-time job at a local hospital. 

After seeing and handling trauma day in and day out, the world begins to wear on you. I would wake up grumpy, to say the least. I did not feel happy. I had constant headaches. 

One little thing would happen, and it would set me off as if the world had ended. It started affecting my home life, my spouse (who is also an ER RN) and I would bicker, especially after long shifts. I would get super quiet at work. 

I would say losing my temper, and the headaches were probably the worst part of it all for me. 

Then I went through a period where I would try to wake up in a good mood, but by the time I would get to work, I would fall back into that same place where I was unhappy, miserable, dragging, and just wishing to be anywhere but there. 

This year on April 1st (I know, April Fool’s Day, the irony), I had surgery on my right shoulder and was told I would be out for some months, especially with that being my dominant hand. Little did I know at the time I would never walk back into that ER. 

It took about a month to adjust, mainly because my arm was strapped to my body for that long, and I could not move it or risk ruining what the surgery had corrected. After that month of gathering myself, I realized I had not had one headache and was happy. 

I had just undergone surgery, couldn’t even write my name, and barely dressed myself, but I was happy. The stress and burnout had been removed from my life, and I was no longer on edge. 

It took being removed from the situation to realize how burnt out I truly was. Looking back, I wish I had recognized the signs sooner, but I am lucky to have been able to make a change and fix the mental and emotional exhaustion I was experiencing. 

Christine Kingsley

Christine Kingsley

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), Lung Institute

You have prominent eyebags because you are sleep deprived

Sleep deprivation is a fixed byproduct of mental and emotional fatigue. This is because we are naturally hardwired to seek out channels that can alleviate the psychological weight we carry. 

Since we live in a tech-dominated world, we remedy the heavy with the temporary yet detrimental relief of technology and social media. This provides the illusion that we are cognitively functioning properly when, in fact, our brains are only further overwhelmed and distracted. 

This leads to a minimum of 1-3 hours of poor-quality sleep, depriving the body of the opportunity to regenerate and refresh.

You have unclear and dull facial skin 

Physical and mental exhaustion cultivates an unhealthy mental state, causing one to be indifferent to societal standards of looking presentable, which disrupts any established healthy habits such as skin care routines and diets. 

This is why even if one finds channels that trigger energy spurs, they may still fail to take care of their skin. This, on top of unhealthy eating habits, results in clogged pores and acne breakouts over time. 

Exhausted people noticeably have unclear and dull facial skin due to the lack of motivation for self-care and basic hygiene.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Know if I Am Physically or Mentally Tired?  

Understanding the differences between physical and mental fatigue is essential, as they can have distinct symptoms and causes. Here are some ways to determine if you are physically or mentally tired:

Physical Fatigue:
• You feel tired after physical activity, such as exercise, manual labor, or playing sports.
• You experience aches and pains, especially in your muscles or joints.
• You have difficulty catching your breath or experiencing shortness of breath.
• You have trouble sleeping or have a restless sleep.

Mental Fatigue:
• You feel mentally drained after prolonged periods of mental efforts, such as studying, working, or problem-solving.
• You have difficulty focusing, paying attention, or retaining information.
• You feel unmotivated, apathetic, or lack energy.
• You have trouble concentrating or making decisions.
• You experience feelings of anxiety, depression, or irritability.

It’s also important to note that physical and mental fatigue can overlap, and you may experience symptoms of both. In these cases, it’s best to give yourself a break and engage in activities that can refresh both your body and mind, such as exercise, meditation, or simply taking a nap.

If you continue to experience persistent symptoms of physical or mental fatigue, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice. Fatigue can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health condition, such as anemia, sleep disorders, or depression, and it’s vital to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

What Causes Mental and Emotional Exhaustion?

Chronic stress: Prolonged exposure to stressful situations or environments can lead to burnout. This includes things like a high-pressure job, financial difficulties, relationship problems, and caring for a loved one with a chronic illness.

Lack of control: People who feel they have little control over their work, home life, or personal relationships are more likely to experience burnout.

Perfectionism: Perfectionism can be a double-edged sword, as it drives individuals to constantly strive for excellence, but it can also lead to feelings of frustration and disappointment when perfection is not achieved.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms: Some individuals use harmful coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse or binge eating, to deal with stress. This only leads to further physical and emotional strain and can ultimately lead to burnout.

Unbalanced lifestyle: A lack of work-life balance and not engaging in regular physical activity, and maintaining a nutritious diet can also contribute to burnout.

How do I Reset Myself Mentally? 

Resetting yourself mentally can be a difficult task, but it’s definitely possible to improve your mental state with a few simple strategies. Here are a few steps you can follow to help you reset yourself mentally:

Practice mindfulness:
• Mindfulness is the act of being present and fully engaged in the moment.
• When you’re mindful, you can identify and manage your thoughts and emotions without getting carried away by them.
• You can practice mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing exercises, or simply focusing on the present moment.

Get enough sleep:
• Sleep is crucial for mental health and well-being.
• When you’re well-rested, you have more energy and focus on tackling the challenges of daily life.
• Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night and establish a consistent bedtime routine.

Exercise regularly:
• Regular exercise has been shown to boost mental health and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
• Even a short 30-minute workout can help you feel more energized and reduce stress.
• Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s running, yoga, or hiking, and make it a part of your daily routine.

Connect with others:
• Human connection is essential for mental health and happiness.
• Spending time with friends and family or participating in group activities can help you feel more connected and supported.
• If you’re feeling lonely, consider joining a club or organization that aligns with your interests.

Practice self-care:
• Taking care of yourself is an important aspect of resetting your mind.
• Self-care activities can range from taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, or going for a walk in nature.
• Make sure to include self-care activities in your daily routine and prioritize them just as much as you would other important tasks.

Challenge negative thoughts:
• Negative thoughts can be damaging to mental health.
• When you notice yourself having negative thoughts, try challenging them with evidence and logic.
• Ask yourself, “Is this thought based on fact or emotion?” and “Is there another perspective I can consider?”

Seek professional help:
• If you’re struggling with mental health issues, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
• A mental health professional can provide the support and guidance you need to reset your mind and improve your mental state.

Remember, resetting your mind is a process, and it may take time to see significant improvements. But, by consistently practicing these strategies, you’ll be able to reset your mind and improve your mental health in the long run.

Why Do I Cry When I’m Exhausted? 

Physical exhaustion: Prolonged physical activity or lack of sleep can lead to physical exhaustion, which can cause a person to become emotional and cry.

Hormonal imbalances: Excessive stress or lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalances, such as changes in cortisol levels, leading to emotional instability and crying.

Mental exhaustion: When a person is mentally exhausted, they may become overwhelmed and more susceptible to crying. This can be due to excessive stress, anxiety, or depression.

Sleep deprivation: Sleep deprivation can significantly impact a person’s emotions and mood, making them more susceptible to crying.

Chronic illness: Certain chronic illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, can cause both physical and mental exhaustion, leading to emotional instability and crying.

How Do I Fix Mental and Emotional Exhaustion?

Mental and emotional exhaustion can significantly impact your overall well-being and quality of life. Here are some tips to help you overcome it:

Practice self-care: Make sure you care for your physical needs by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity.

Identify and manage stress: Identify the sources of stress in your life and try to minimize or eliminate them. You can also try stress-management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness.

Set boundaries: Learn to say “no” when you need to, and set boundaries with others to help protect your time and energy.

Prioritize activities: Make a list of your most essential tasks and prioritize them, so you can focus on what truly matters.

Seek support: Talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional can help you process your feelings and emotions and give you a fresh perspective.

Practice mindfulness: Try to be present at the moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. This can help you feel more grounded and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.

Take breaks: Take regular breaks throughout the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, to recharge and refocus.

Seek professional help: If you are struggling with persistent feelings of exhaustion, it may be helpful to seek the help of a mental health professional.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Mental and Emotional Exhaustion?

First and foremost, it is essential to understand that mental and emotional exhaustion is not a simple condition that can be treated with a quick fix. Instead, it often requires a holistic approach that addresses the symptoms, underlying causes, and contributing factors. This may involve seeking support from a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor.

In terms of the length of recovery, this can also vary greatly, but most people will begin to notice improvements within a few weeks to several months. The key to a successful recovery is to take a proactive approach and to actively engage in activities and strategies that promote emotional and mental well-being. This may include practicing self-care, such as getting enough sleep, engaging in physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and finding ways to manage stress.

It is also crucial to understand that recovery from mental and emotional exhaustion is not a linear process, and setbacks may occur. However, with persistence, patience, and a commitment to self-care, most individuals are able to successfully recover and return to a more balanced state of mental and emotional well-being.

Is Mental and Emotional Exhaustion the Same as Burnout?

Mental and emotional exhaustion and burnout are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing. While they are closely related and have some overlap, each term has its own unique characteristics and causes.

Mental and emotional exhaustion refers to a state of depletion in which a person’s mental and emotional resources have been depleted due to excessive stress, demands, or workload. This type of exhaustion is often the result of prolonged anxiety or a high-pressure environment and can lead to feelings of hopelessness, overwhelm, and a lack of motivation.

Burnout, on the other hand, is a more specific type of exhaustion that results from chronic stress in the workplace. It is characterized by three main symptoms:
• Emotional exhaustion
• Cynicism and detachment from one’s job
• A reduced sense of personal accomplishment

Burnout can lead to physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and insomnia and can have a significant impact on a person’s overall well-being.

The primary difference between the two is that burnout is more specifically tied to work-related stress and is a longer-term issue. Thus, has a greater impact on a person’s overall health and well-being. Whereas mental and emotional exhaustion can result from various stressors and may not necessarily be tied to work.

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