Signs of Being Emotionally Exhausted and How to Overcome It

signs of being emotionally exhausted

Do you know the signs of being emotionally exhausted? It often hits you suddenly without warning.

One minute, your life is so exciting to live, especially when everything is going smoothly. Your job is fine, and you’re making a decent living. You’re excelling at school. You have a stable relationship and all. Then boom you crash! Sometimes you experience extreme fatigue, inability to concentrate, lack of motivation, and a general feeling of being stuck under a dark cloud.

This is emotional exhaustion and if left untreated can lead to mental breakdown, depression, and even physical health issues.

Most of us live stressful, demanding lives be it stressors from our careers, home life or just trying to navigate everyday life.

When the pressures become overwhelming in our bodies, our minds start to give us warning signs. Unfortunately, we ignore these warnings or underestimate just how close you may actually be to becoming overwhelmed.

So let’s talk about the signs of emotional exhaustion.

Where do emotional stress and exhaustion come from?

Emotional exhaustion arises from so many aspects of life. These include demanding jobs such as being a caregiver. A lack of work-life balance, perpetual loneliness, abusive or toxic relationships also contribute. Others are family problems such as lack of harmony and constant misunderstanding, divorce or loss of a family member, perfectionism, financial stress, homelessness, or raising children. These challenges cause constant anxiety that can drain us emotionally to the point of zero. 

If you don’t treat emotional exhaustion, it can affect your relationships, productivity at work, and overall success in life. In many cases, it can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, weight loss, indigestion or gastric problems, miscarriage, chronic illness, depression, and premature aging.

It’s important to recognise these signs not only for your own better wellbeing but to also help and empathise with others who may not recognise that they have symptoms of impending emotional exhaustion.

6 Signs of Being Emotionally Exhausted

Sign 1: Irritability and Anger 


One of the major signs of being emotionally exhausted is the constant irritability and baseless anger you might exhibit. You see negativity in almost everything around you, and you snap quickly. Everything feels difficult or simply gets on your nerves. Jokes aren’t so funny and the kids jumping on the sofa isn’t so cute anymore. You feel constantly tense and always a split second away from an outburst.

This irritability expresses itself because it is harder to control your emotions when you’re emotionally drained. Instead of dealing with the actual source of frustration, you become hypersensitive and project your anger onto others who don’t deserve it.

Sign 2: Intense Lack of Motivation

One of the many signs of being emotionally exhausted is the intense lack of motivation. We’ve all had that morning where we felt like not getting out of bed, just snuggling up in your duvet and doing nothing. Yes, this happens. But when this becomes a familiar feeling, it’s a sign you are going through emotional exhaustion.

You’re at the lowest of lows, where you don’t feel like doing anything much. You look unkempt and dishevelled. You might be in the same underwear or your pyjamas for a couple of days at a stretch, maybe even without a shower, because you are not bothered. You have a lack of excitement for things that you’re ordinarily enthusiastic about. 

You lose appetite, can’t bring yourself to cook or order meals, and may even experience weight loss. You don’t feel the need to participate in anything. You struggle with getting work done. You procrastinate. And this might get more overwhelming in your school or workplace because there are inevitable deadlines for assignments and tasks.

You may even feel hopeless and pessimistic about everything. This is where it gets dangerous. You feel nothing can work out in your favour, so why bother? You do not try to make relationships work. You don’t try to take up work that may give you the money to pay your rent. You just put yourself in a state of depletion. You go on in this cycle even without the fear of failing in school, losing people, eviction, or being outrightly fired at work because you’re feeling numb.

How to handle your depression

Free Hotline Numbers

If your depression has caused you to lose a job, drop out of school, lose touch with family or friends, or if you’ve noticed changes in your sleep and appetite that have not improved, contact one of these free resources to learn more about treating your depression.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Their network of crisis centers provides emotional support and guidance to people in distress and is also available via a chat service and a special hotline number for the hearing impaired: 1-800-799-4889.
National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663

Sign 3: Constant Fatigue

It’s normal to feel tired after a couple of days at work or a few hours tending to the kids or just partying with friends and family. But with a sound rest, you’ll feel recharged. 

That’s different from the fatigue and stress that come from being emotionally exhausted. With this fatigue, you’re waking up every morning feeling like the weight of the world rests on your shoulders. You feel overwhelmed. It’s like you’ve been knocked down by a truck and simply sleepwalking through life. And this isn’t just an occasional thing when you’re emotionally exhausted. It’s an everyday default like sunrise and sunset. 

You can’t remedy this by sound rest alone. No matter how much sleep or how many cups of coffee or energy drinks you take, you’ll still feel that extreme tiredness. You will have to learn how to manage stress, too, but more on that later.

Sign 4: Insomnia 

Good, sound, restful sleep is a sign of emotional wellness and mental stability. When you begin to notice that you find it hard to sleep, stay asleep, or find a night of restful sleep, that is a sign of emotional exhaustion.

Funnily enough, you may think being unmotivated or tired will make you sleep all day, but with emotional exhaustion, you find it harder to quiet your thoughts and fall asleep. 

Everything seems to haunt you. You feel so tired that you want to sleep, but once you lie down, different thoughts and worries begin to creep up that steal the sleep out of your eyes. 

“Will I ever get a job?”, “Will my family get stable?”, “Will he love me again?” “Will he accept me back?”, “Where do I get the money for my rent?”, “When will all this trouble end?” “Will it ever get better for just a moment?” 

You think of the worst-case scenarios. What could be and what couldn’t; what you could have done differently. At the same time, you toss from side to side on your bed. 

And the cycle continues— more fatigue, continual and overwhelming exhaustion.

Sign 5: Isolation and Detachment.

After a long, while dealing with stressors such as heavy workload, marital problems, caregiving, financial turmoil, racial abuses, or social discrimination, you might begin to find yourself avoiding work, friends, or your partner and sucking up in your shell. That might be one of the signs of being emotionally exhausted. 

It might add up to a feeling of numbness and non-attachment. You feel no emotions— good or bad. You’re just there. Your energy has been completely sapped out of you.

In this case, you don’t feel the urge to check up on those you care about. You ignore their calls and invitations. Your work or school doesn’t mean anything to you. You are rejecting help because you don’t feel the need for it or no longer care. You’re withdrawn. And this might be confusing and frustrating for those around you.

Sign 6: Crying Easily

When hard times hit, we feel like it’s us against the whole world. Only this time, we’re the ones getting the short end of the stick which can be emotionally exhausting.

Constantly being at the receiving end of the many punches life throws puts you in that position where you become hypersensitive and easily triggered. At this point, just forgetting the cake you’re baking in the oven can make you burst into uncontrollable tears. You lose the strength to cope with everyday challenges or rationalize bad jokes. You put your head on a desk or hug someone, and the next thing, you’re wailing for absolutely no reason at all. This happens because you’ve been coping with a lot for too long, and now you’re tired.

When you’re going through this it’s impossible to rationalise how to combat emotional exhaustion.

But as a GP I see this daily in my clinic and I want to share with you what has worked.

5 Ways to Get Over Being Emotionally Exhausted


One of the signs of being emotionally exhausted is the fog in your head that you just don’t know how to get over. Some people might suggest that you get some rest, practice self-care, or cuddle with your partner, which is a useful idea. 

Getting over emotional exhaustion needs intentional efforts, it may involve seeing your GP or a Psychologist and these tips will get you started on this journey back to yourself:

1: Reduce the stress

I would have suggested eliminating the stressors, but sometimes that can be difficult and often lead to increased exhaustion.

However, it is possible to reduce stress by taking some time off. You can consider asking your boss to reduce your workload or speak to your supervisor in school about your stress level. They’re often willing to give you a concession. 

Also, you might consider changing departments or changing jobs or companies. But then, you should know a new job also comes with its stress. So, you have to be aware of the company culture and workloads and be ready to negotiate for the sake of your well-being. 

Sometimes, it’s not even about corporate work. It might be your children. Then, you might just have to seek help from your spouse, a friend, or nanny to give you a helping hand. 

Whatever it may be, start by deciding you need to take a deep breath and hit the pause button for a moment.

2: Make Lifestyle Changes

Emotional exhaustion can be a strong indicator that you need to evaluate aspects of your life and begin to make changes.

You may need to ask for more support at work or home. If your relationship is draining you, now may be the time to take a break, re-evaluate things and focus your attention on recuperating from the exhaustion. I’m not saying you should break up and get a divorce, though. You might just need a personal vacation. 

Speak to your doctor about getting some support and perhaps getting signed off from work for a week or two whilst you come up with a plan of action.

These issues are hard to face, and not meeting them is even worse because it leads to more exhaustion. 

Aside from challenges, some other lifestyles that contribute to emotional exhaustion that may need addressing are your alcohol intake, exercise routine, eating and sleeping habits. Be honest with yourself about these areas and if a change is needed. If excess alcohol consumption for instance is something you may be concerned about there are lots of resources and support that you can discuss with your GP. I regularly start my patients on medications for instance that can help with reducing the craving for alcohol and with the support they make progress and get their lives back on track.

You want to prioritize a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and avoid sugary snacks and fried or processed foods. This can make a huge difference when you’re experiencing emotional exhaustion. Junk food may feel good at that moment but trust me it only compacts the exhaustion.

Exercise can help improve your emotional state and help your sleeping habits. Exercise enables you to relax and keep your mind off problems. Try to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes daily, even if it’s just a long walk.

Sleep is important not just to physically rest but also for good mental health. Decide to switch off before bed, your phone, the thoughts and instead practice calming methods just as listening to relaxing music or having a warm bath with lavender oil. 

3: Spend Time with Trusted Friends or Family Members

Being in the company of loved ones can help send your worries into the wind and increase your emotional stability. 

Emotional exhaustion often comes as a result of feeling alone with your problems. You think you have to face it on your own, and there’s no one coming to save you. 

While your loved ones might not necessarily have solutions to your problems, they can help just by listening and being there. They listen to you without judgment. They empathize with you and give you the encouragement you need to push through. 

A Sunday roast or a family dinner may be just what you need this weekend, it serves not only to bring loved ones around you but also gives you respite from cooking or even having to worry about the kids and entertaining them this weekend. 

If you don’t have family around, you can volunteer at your local church or youth group, often being of service to others can be inspiring and uplifting.

4: Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is frequently talked about. You hear it almost everywhere. And trust me, mindfulness techniques help you reduce stress a lot. I can attest to how much meditation and yoga help me reduce stress. 

Mindfulness is about living in the now, the present moment. It’s about dropping your worries and relishing the moment. Your worries will keep you moving but often gets you nowhere. It simply burns you out. Mindfulness helps you to see the good around you and relieves the burden on your shoulders. 

Writing is also one of the mindfulness techniques that I practice. It helps me keep track of my thoughts and feelings without judgment. You can try it also by keeping a journal. Allow your emotions to flow out of you onto the paper or your notepad. Be mindful of the calls of burnout in your writing. It’s a sort of unburdening technique that helps you figure out what to do next. 

Other creative endeavors, like painting, baking, knitting, doodling, or playing an instrument, are also mindfulness techniques that help you get rid of negative thoughts. Just don’t turn them into another job when you’re trying to simply relieve stress.

Also, going for a nature walk is a mindfulness technique that can keep you off negative thoughts and help you with burnout. 

5: Seek Help From A Professional

Emotional exhaustion is no less a treatable condition than a stomach ache, fracture, fibroid, or pneumonia. As you would go to a dentist for tooth problems, you’ll also need a professional therapist and or your GP to diagnose and help you with burnout.

Sometimes, your primary health care provider can be an excellent place to start. As a GP with mental health expertise, I have seen many people get better. I know you can, too, if you are struggling with emotional exhaustion. In addition to talking therapy or applied relaxation techniques, you might need prescribed sleeping aids, anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants to manage emotional exhaustion. 

Being emotionally exhausted can be devastating. It’s an aching feeling in your mind and body, telling you you’re tired of everything. But when you listen to the warnings and take the steps you can combat emotional exhaustion.

I hope this was useful to you and always remember that you do not have to go through your journey to a healthier you alone. You can as well learn the reasons why you are constantly feeling tired.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with symptoms of emotional exhaustion or any mental health issues always speak to your doctor, and also feel free to drop me a message

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Hi! I'm Dr Jessica

I share my expertise as a Family Physician to provide you with the support and tools to a holistic lifestyle.

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