Does it seem like you feel fatigued, irritable, and on-edge all the time? Do you become overwhelmed easily or struggle to perform basic tasks?
If you said “yes” to these questions, you may be dealing with mental exhaustion. Read on to learn some mental exhaustion warning signs to watch for. You’ll also find some tips on how you can overcome this issue and improve your mental health.
What Is Mental Exhaustion?
Mental exhaustion occurs as a result of prolonged stress. It’s also known as mental fatigue and burnout.
It helps to think of mental exhaustion in the context of a “stress bucket.”
Everyone has a stress bucket that gets a little fuller every time we experience some kind of stressor in our lives. If we don’t regularly engage in practices that help us to empty that bucket, it will overflow, and we’ll start to exhibit signs of mental exhaustion.
Warning Signs of Mental Exhaustion
What are the signs of mental exhaustion?
This condition looks different for everyone. However, the following are some of the most common symptoms one might experience if they’re feeling mentally exhausted:
- Feeling physically tired, no matter how much sleep you get at night
- Sleeping more than usual
- Struggling to fall or stay asleep
- Aches and pains (headaches, stomachaches, muscle pain, etc.)
- Less emotional resilience (getting upset more easily than usual)
- Constantly feeling stressed or anxious
- Being irritable with others (including people with whom you usually get along)
- Constantly feeling helpless
- Constantly feeling overwhelmed
- Less motivation
- Feelings of depression
- Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
- More frequent arguments with family members and loved ones
- Being easily distracted at school, work, or while spending time with loved ones
- Coping with substances like alcohol or drugs
- Frequently procrastinating
- Having trouble remembering
What Causes Mental Exhaustion?
There are lots of reasons why someone might start showing signs of mental exhaustion. The following are some of the most common causes:
- Working a high-stress job (EMT, teachers, business executive, etc.)
- Working long hours with inadequate time off
- Financial stress
- High levels of job dissatisfaction
- Caring for someone who’s ill or elderly
- Chronic illnesses
- The death of a loved one
- Having a baby (especially if you don’t have adequate support at home)
- Lack of friends and social support
It’s important to note that these are common causes of mental exhaustion, but they’re not the only causes.
Even if none of the situations mentioned above apply to you, you could still be dealing with mental exhaustion. Your feelings and symptoms are still completely valid.
How to Overcome Mental Exhaustion
Identifying the source (or sources) of your symptoms is the first step to overcoming mental exhaustion. There are other strategies you can implement to improve your mental health and start feeling better, though, including the following:
Change Work Conditions
Work is a common source of stress and can often contribute to (if not directly cause) symptoms of mental exhaustion. If you suspect that work is playing a role in your poor mental health, look for ways to change your situation.
Can you ask for some time off? Can you reduce your workload? Can you delegate some of your work to a colleague so there’s less on your plate?
Of course, not everyone can change their work conditions. However, if you have the option to lighten your load, at least for a while as you work on your well-being, you should take advantage of it.
Remember, it can be worth it, in the long run, to take a break or reduce your hours.
When you improve your work-life balance and start managing your mental health, you’ll have an easier time carrying out your responsibilities. You’ll make fewer mistakes and increase your productivity, too.
Ask for Help
Are issues in your personal life contributing to your mental exhaustion? Are you struggling to keep up with the demands of parenthood, for example?
If so, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help from your spouse or partner, family members, or friends can take some of your stress away and give you the space you need to take care of your mental health.
Seeking support doesn’t make you lazy or a bad parent. In fact, it does the exact opposite.
When you ask someone else to help you out with your kids, you’ll have more energy and will be in a better mood when you do spend time with them.
Children can sense when something is off with their parents, even if they’re too young to verbalize what they’re picking up on.
If you’re trying to do everything yourself and constantly feeling overwhelmed, your kids will notice. As ar result, they may start to feel overwhelmed and stressed out themselves.
Prioritize Physical Health
Often, when we make physical health a priority, our mental health also improves. Taking care of our bodies can help us to feel happier, more energized, and more resilient to stress.
The following are some of the best practices you can implement to improve your physical (and, by default, mental) health:
Exercise causes your body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are chemical messengers that help you to fight stress and feel happier. They can also reduce pain (including headaches and chronic pain).
Your workouts don’t have to be long or strenuous to be effective. Going for a walk or taking a gentle yoga class can make a big difference to your mental health and well-being.
When you’re stressed and mentally exhausted, the last thing you probably want to do is prepare and eat a healthy meal. Eating nutritious food can make a big difference, though.
When you fuel yourself appropriately with fruits, vegetables, quality protein sources (meat, eggs, fish, etc.), and whole grains, you’ll have more energy to handle your stressors.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, too. Water keeps you hydrated and helps you to feel energized and focused.
You might be tempted to turn to sugary sodas or alcoholic beverages when you’re dealing with mental exhaustion. These drinks are full of empty calories, though, and will likely leave you feeling worse.
Get Enough Sleep
Do your best to prioritize sleep during this time, too. Sleep difficulties are a common sign of mental exhaustion, but there are some steps you can take to address them.
For example, you can stop consuming caffeine by early-mid afternoon so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep. You can stick to a strict bedtime routine, too, and avoid blue light exposure when it’s time to rest (blue light keeps you feeling wired).
Meditation can be a powerful tool to shield you from the effects of prolonged stress.
Meditating helps you to be more present and can increase your mental resilience. It can help you to respond to stressors more appropriately.
Practicing meditation can teach you how to check in with yourself and monitor how you’re feeling, too.
When you get better at doing this, you’ll have an easier time picking up on the signs of mental exhaustion early. When you notice the signs, you can address them and protect yourself from spiraling into full-on mental exhaustion as a result.
How to Get Started with Meditation
Remember, meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to sit on a cushion and chant (unless you want to, of course).
You can start meditating right now, in fact. Simply sit or lie down on the couch or the floor, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Focus on the way the air feels as it enters and leaves your body.
There are lots of guided meditations available online or through meditation apps, too. You can also attend a retreat for extra instruction.
Research shows that practicing gratitude can help to reduce your stress. It can also improve your happiness and overall sense of well-being.
When you make gratitude a priority, your physical health can improve, too. You’ll get sick less often, and you’ll get to enjoy better sleep (this is great for when you’re starting to show signs of mental fatigue!).
Seek Professional Treatment
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional treatment. Working with a therapist or counselor can help you to get to the bottom of your mental exhaustion symptoms.
Therapists and counselors can teach you healthy coping mechanisms, too. That way, when you start to notice signs of exhaustion creeping up, you can stop them in their tracks.
Some people benefit from mental health retreats, too. Taking some time away to focus on your well-being and remove stressors from your life can give you a chance to reset, learn some effective coping mechanisms, and come back feeling stronger, healthier, and more resilient.
Time to Take Charge of Your Mental Health
Are you tired of feeling mentally exhausted? If so, the tips outlined above can help you to make a positive change in your life.
If you’re looking for more help from a team of professionals, we’re here for you at Tikvah Lake Recovery.
Contact us today for more information on our high-end residential recovery programs or to speak with an admissions counselor.