Mental Exhaustion: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

Image of the blog post "Mental Exhaustion - Signs, Symptoms and Treatment" on Tikvah Lake.

Mental exhaustion is a state of being emotionally drained or overwhelmed.

It can make a person feel incapable of fulfilling his/her daily duties and responsibilities. Every task feels more like a burden, and consequently, an individual’s personal, and professional life gets impacted. 

According to experts, mental exhaustion is a result of prolonged stress. 

This stress gets triggered for many reasons such as work overload, job dissatisfaction, pregnancy, the grief of losing a loved one, financial problems, and long-term illness.

Long-term mental exhaustion can cause burn out, and in more severe cases, can result in physical ailments such as strokes or heart attacks. 

It is a harrowing experience, one that more often than not goes undiagnosed. However, timely detection and treatment can be helpful.

Signs and symptoms of Mental Exhaustion

Researchers have shown that mental exhaustion produces physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms.

Physical Signs and Symptoms

When we are mentally exhausted, our bodies display a series of physical signs. These physical symptoms are usually easy to pick up on.

Below are some of the common physical symptoms of mental exhaustion:

  • Body exhaustion – a stressed body is always tired
  • Sleep issues (insomnia), which can involve bizarre dreams and nightmares
  • Bodily aches and pains and muscle loss that cannot get explained medically
  • Headaches and migraines 
  • Diarrhoea and other stomach issues
  • Weight loss (or weight gain) without a viable medical reason

Behavioural Signs and Symptoms

Behavioural signs are usually detected by friends and family first. An individual moves into deeper self-awareness only by the shifts in attitudes of others towards them.  

Common behavioural symptoms of mental exhaustion include:

  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • The tendency to procrastinate which can impact a person’s ability to work effectively
  • Inability to manage domestic chores and daily routine 
  • Difficulty keeping focus and problems with memory
  • Irritability and issues with anger

Emotional Signs and Symptoms

Emotional signs are more draining and harder to treat – some of the symptoms of emotional exhaustion include:

  • Feelings of Confusion
  • Depression and a tendency to express negativity
  • Experiencing apathy and detachment
  • A tendency to overthink
  • Severe anxiety
  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed
  • Feelings of helplessness, and a severe lack of motivation even when tackling the smallest of tasks

Treatment techniques for mental exhaustion 

#1.Meditation and exercise: Meditation is a mental relaxation technique. It is beneficial for treating emotional symptoms of mental exhaustion and burnout.

Exercise is scientifically proven to help with both emotional and physical symptoms. 

There is no need to go overboard with this either. Approximately fifteen minutes of meditation and fifteen to thirty minutes of moderate walking or exercise is enough per day. 

All this can provide you with a healthy break from your hectic routine.

#2. Self-care: Self-care has four dimensions; psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Self-care can help in the fight to combat the symptoms of mental exhaustion. 

Maintaining a healthy diet, taking a bath, keeping active, enjoying time with friends and those you love, essentially, doing what we love has a therapeutic impact on our lives. 

#3. Removing the root cause: Take a moment of rumination and in-depth analysis of your situation. 

After reaching what you believe to be the core of the problem (s) enlist them and assess each one at a time. 

If you feel overloaded with responsibilities, try dividing up the tasks that need to get done, remember; you can also ask for help from those around you. It’s also important to remember that small steps make the journey that much easier. 

#4. Change of work conditions: Sometimes, changing your surroundings, particularly the place you work can do the trick. 

The monotony of everyday living can also be one of the reasons for feeling mentally exhausted. 

A change in work routine or a project shift can make you feel less overwhelmed. Create the kind of workspace that suits you.

Change any dreary wall paintings and add warmer colours – this may act as a form of inspiration. However, while doing that, be careful about any distractions that may prevent you from getting any work done!

#5. Taking a break: Whether your daily schedule allows it or not, take a break. Take days off and spend time with the people you love.

A peaceful environment, less workload, and enjoying a connection with those we love can be very beneficial for our wellbeing. 

#6. Practising gratitude: Gratitude gets clinically defined as “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and appreciation”. 

There have been several studies that show that gratitude has a direct impact on reducing mental exhaustion. It’s essential, therefore, that you maintain a gratitude journal to avoid mental fatigue.

List all the things for which you are grateful. Acknowledging and appreciating the positives can reduce depression and ultimately helps to avoid mental exhaustion. 

#7. Adequate Sleep: Adequate amounts of sleep is proven to enhance cognitive and behavioural functioning. 

We must get around eight hours’ of sleep every night. Allow your brain the time to relax, and this will help in reducing mental exhaustion. 

#8. Make notes: Mental exhaustion can have an impact on our memory. The inability to remember things increases frustration and thus increases any distress in an already tired mind. 

Making notes of any duties and tasks can help avoid the build-up of frustration.

#9. Change in medication: Mental exhaustion can be a side effect of some medicines. 

If you are taking certain medications and experiencing symptoms of mental exhaustion, discuss them with your doctor. It might also be useful to consider changing your medication to help reduce any signs of mental exhaustion.

#10. Therapy: Therapy and counselling are, by far the most effective ways of dealing with mental exhaustion. 

Do not hesitate to contact a therapist and ask for help -professional intervention combined with treatment can help eliminate any unpleasant symptoms of burnout and mental exhaustion quickly and efficiently. 


About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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