Are you finding yourself coping with fatigue, anxiety, and health issues more often than usual without an obvious cause? If so, you might be experiencing signs that you are mentally exhausted. But what is mental exhaustion (or burnout), how does it manifest, and what are the best ways to treat it? I’m here to guide you through the symptoms, causes, and treatments for the issue at hand and help you get through it as painlessly as possible.
What Is Mental Exhaustion and What Causes It?
Mental exhaustion is more than just stress, although they do have similarities. It is the body’s response to both positive and negative situations that are overwhelmingly new, exciting, or at times even frightening. While stress causes cortisol levels to increase and interfere with bodily functions, when significant stressors pile up over time it can cause the person to feel mentally exhausted. Some of the most common sources of burnout are the following:
Working too much or having a career in a high-pressure occupation,
Struggling financially or getting fired from a job,
Not having enough social and emotional support,
Experiencing the emotional stress of caring for a loved one of deteriorating health,
Going through a traumatic event like the death of a loved one or divorce.
How to Spot the Most Common Signs That You Are Mentally Exhausted?
What are the symptoms of exhaustion, you might wonder? Well, the answer to the question is a bit complex, since signs can vary in intensity and type and be very different for each individual. Most commonly, there are three major groups of symptoms of burnout: emotional, physical, and behavioral. You might experience just one of these, or they might intertwine and take turns in your day-to-day life. I’ve compiled a list of the most common symptoms, as well as some remedies to help get you back on track.
Spotting burnout is difficult since it can manifest both as being numb and overly emotional
#1 You’re More Irritable Than Usual and Get Angry Easily
Have you caught yourself snapping at people or acting in ways that don’t correspond to your usual behavior? Reacting angrily and being impatient over small stressors is a common side effect of feeling mentally and physically tired. Due to a lack of energy, your nervous system loses the capacity to deal with problems and situations as they arise, leaving you prone to being irritable and reacting to the smallest things.
People With Signs of Exhaustion Have Trouble Regulating Their Emotions
Emotional regulation is defined as having control over your emotional state. It is the ability to guide your emotional response in an anxiety-inducing situation, the ability to decide when and where to show visible signals of fear or sadness, or calm down when stress arises. And when a person is burnt out, emotional regulation can easily get impaired. If you’re feeling all over the place and experiencing mood swings more frequently than usual, these can be indicators that you’re exhausted and need to find healthier coping mechanisms.
Try Keeping a Diary To Deal With Negative Feelings
Keeping a journal is a great way to figure out your emotional processes. By writing down how you feel, you are not only becoming conscious of your inner world but are also putting the negative thoughts and feelings outside of yourself. The practice of journaling is great for anyone struggling to identify and reduce their triggers, as well as center themselves amid stress and chaos. When you journal, you are able to more easily capture thoughts running through your mind and potentially change the narrative you are telling yourself. Whether it’s sheer awareness that you need or engaging in positive self-talk as the result of such awareness, be sure that journaling will surely benefit you.
If crying and yelling have become your usual emotional responses, and you feel triggered more often than usual, you might need to find ways to decompress
#2 One of the Mental Exhaustion Symptoms Is Having Trouble Concentrating
Many of us recognize we have trouble focusing, yet attribute our lack of focus to external factors, such as constant use of social media. However, attention deficit can indicate more serious underlying problems, such as burnout. That is because fatigue actually rewires your brain and makes it more difficult to block distraction. A study from 2015 showed that exhausted people are at a neurological disadvantage when it comes to keeping and regaining their focus in stressful situations. So if you find it hard to focus, this could be a clear sign that you are experiencing burnout.
Being Unable to Focus on Work Is Among the More Common Behavioral Side Effects of Exhaustion
Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world, we don’t focus on our own well-being enough, although research shows that we are facing an overwhelming global mental health crisis. Normally, we find some ways to deal with stress in our personal lives, yet only give serious consideration to our psyche the moment it starts affecting our workflow and performance in the office.
And while work stress is a real and powerful experience, as women of color, we don’t notice how much weight we actually carry on our shoulders, all while having to deal with racism, misogyny, and cross-sectional discrimination every step of the way. So if you’ve noticed that your work is suffering because you can’t concentrate, the case is probably more complex than you realize. This behavioral change might indicate that you are burnt out, overburdened, and need to press the pause button.
When Experiencing These Signs of Mental Exhaustion, One of the Best Things to Do Is Take a Break
Being a woman of color in a workplace that is dominated by white men can be extremely challenging. Nowadays, work stress is already grandiose, but women of color often experience difficulty even when looking for a job. So when we manage to land a good position, the pressure to keep it can become overwhelming. However, when you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or burnout, it is really important to take care of yourself, even at the expense of your workflow. And while financial issues don’t help your mental health, taking a few days off to rest and recharge your batteries will ultimately improve your career in the long run. So rather than taking care of your assignments, prioritize taking care of yourself first.
Women of color have to prove themselves constantly in the workspace, which often leads to unrecognized burnout that seems impossible to cure
#3 Although You Feel Tired, You Are Unable to Sleep
Does this scenario feel familiar: you are mentally and physically tired, fatigued even, but every night you lie awake in your bed for hours? You might be dealing with some burnout insomnia. Your mind and body are completely overworked, causing you to feel tired, yet since you are stressed and have probably been for some time now, your subconscious mind won’t let you relax.
It believes that it needs to stay awake to keep you out of harm’s way since adrenaline and cortisol in your system are spiking. And when you notice that insomnia is slowly creeping into your day-to-day life, it might be the time to introduce some self-care in your daily routine.
Regular Exercise Can Help Get Your Sleep Pattern Back in Order
Working out regularly has been proven to help those with insomnia and improve sleep quality. While some people experience insomnia if they exercise within the final hours of the day due to an adrenaline jump, early-day workouts will get you to fall asleep sooner and sleep longer. This is because your body releases endorphins when you’re active – chemicals that help you transition into sleep more easily, as well as sleep more deeply, helping your brain and body actually get some rest.
Exercising regularly can help put your sleeping patterns back in order
#4 Social Withdrawal Is a Clear Sign You Have No More Energy Left to Give
Even if you are normally a social butterfly who loves being around your loved ones, exhaustion can cause you to withdraw socially. When you are fatigued and overworked, you lack the energy to truly engage with people. This might make you start feeling overwhelmed in social situations and isolate yourself as a response.
However, this is extremely counterproductive, since one of the bigger risk factors of burnout is not spending enough time with friends and family, leading you into a vicious cycle of isolation and burnout that is even harder to get out of. If seeing people you love is currently too difficult to handle, consider signing up for a WOC workshop and become a part of a supportive community that helps you develop and grow as a person.
Spend Alone Time Doing Something You Enjoy – Read, Take a Walk, or Get Into Art
While it is important to get back to socializing with your loved ones, we understand it isn’t always the easiest to do. So if you decide to spend more time alone, make this time more pleasurable for yourself. While scrolling through social media might be nice for a day or two, making this your main daily activity will only further deteriorate your mental health.
You’ll feel much better doing something you enjoy that will ultimately benefit your mental health. This could mean reading a book, watching a movie, hiking, or starting a new artsy hobby. Activities like these will increase your serotonin levels and make you feel calmer so that you can go back to laughing and conversing with friends and ultimately get out of the rut you are stuck in.
If you find yourself spending days on end all alone, consider researching ''counseling for women near me'' to meet a community of like-minded people
#5 Emotional Imbalance Often Leads to Self-Medicating
Self-medicating is a term that refers to dealing with intense emotions or stress through the use of drugs, alcohol, medication, or other substances without consulting a medical expert. Research shows that the most commonly abused substance is alcohol. Because it is so widely available and so socially acceptable, people often don’t notice that their evening cap has turned into a real problem.
Unfortunately, while self-medication feels like a good quick fix for one’s daily troubles, there are many risks that come with it. The person isn’t actually fixing the cause of the problem and can develop new ones, such as addiction. Turning to substances is never a cure, and you would be much better off with a healthier and successful coping mechanism, like starting therapy for women of color.
If You Find Yourself Developing an Addiction, Seek a Counselor for Women
Finding a therapist is the first step to getting help. And it’s not the easiest one, since going to your first appointment can be intimidating, to say the least, especially when the motivation for scheduling therapy is a serious behavioral change.
Addiction and other behavioral changes are often just side-effects of personal and emotional hardship that marginalized women struggle with due to social and cultural constraints. However, there’s no reason to go through hard times on your own, and seeking therapists or a psychologist is nothing to be ashamed of.