Exhaustion from not getting enough sleep is fairly easy to recognize, and the solution seems fairly straightforward, if you can improve your sleeping patterns. However, emotional exhaustion, is a different type of exhaustion that can be harder to overcome. In this article, we will talk more about what emotional exhaustion is, and how it can impact sleep. We will then finish with a discussion on how to overcome and, better yet prevent, emotional exhaustion.
What is Emotional Exhaustion?
Emotional exhaustion can arise when someone experiences a period of excessive stress in their work or emotional life. COVID-19 is an excellent example of a trigger of emotional exhaustion. The constant threat hanging over our heads, and yearning for normalcy, and unpredictability all contribute to the emotional exhaustion that many of us are feeling.
In addition to living through a pandemic, jobs continue to be stressful as well as family. When all of these factors culminate, it can be quite the stressful load for any individual. These factors all contribute to emotional exhaustion that many people have felt through this pandemic.
Emotional exhaustion is the feeling of being emotionally drained, overwhelmed and fatigued. These feelings build up over a period of time, but many people miss out on the early warning signs. They can significantly impact people's lives, relationships and behaviors.
What are symptoms of emotional exhaustion?
It's important to recognize symptoms of emotional exhaustion. Although it may be difficult to recognize it in yourself, if you can identify it in someone else, then you may be able to help them. Symptoms arise after a period of prolonged stress and can be gradual changes.
Triggers can include:
- significant life change
- being a caregiver
- financial stress
- busy schedules
- chronic pain or medical conditions
- long work hours
- high pressure work environment
Emotionally exhausted individuals may feel a lack of control over their lives and as if they cannot keep up with life's demands. Some common symptoms of emotional exhaustion include:
- Changing mood
- Trouble concentrating or thinking
- Sleeping problems
- Physical changes
- Effects on work and personal relationships
Emotional exhaustion truly impacts every aspect of one's life, so when little things begin to change in your, or someone else's, life, then there may be some emotional exhaustion at play.
Emotional exhaustion and sleep
Emotional exhaustion can negatively impact sleep. Stress is the antithesis of sleep due to its physiological changes. These changes include racing heart rates, increased respiratory rate, feelings of depression or anxiety, and rumination. All of these factors make for bad sleep.
Prolonged stress can make it very difficult to maintain a regular sleeping pattern. People with emotional exhaustion feel physically fatigued and may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
They also may oversleep in the morning and find themselves so overwhelmed that all they want to do is sleep. Low mood and brain fog, which are also associated with emotional exhaustion, can make it difficult to get out of the bed in the morning to make it through the day.
Good sleeping patterns are important to maintain because sleep is required for mood regulation and optimal brain functioning. Without these functions, it will be extremely difficult to deal with any stress that is happening.
Who is at risk of developing emotional exhaustion?
Anyone can experience emotional exhaustion, especially if they live with long-term stress or if they have recently experienced a significant change in their lives.
However, some people are more prone due to the following factors:
A demanding job is more likely to produce emotional exhaustion and burnout than other jobs. People with high work demands and those who are preoccupied with thoughts about work during leisure time are more at risk. Demanding jobs with low pay, like police officers, nurses and teachers, may also be at more risk than others. If anyone works in a job they don't like, or one that has long hours or where they feel no control, then they are at increased risk.
Perfectionism is a personality trait that will put people at increased risk for developing emotional exhaustion. Individuals strive for what they deem as "perfect" which can lead to burnout. Perfectionists are more likely to put themselves under excessive stress by taking on more than they can comfortably manage.
Loneliness is another root of emotional exhaustion. People without close relationships may not have as many individuals with whom they can share their feelings.
Poor self-care can lead to emotional exhaustion because people aren't putting themselves first. It's impossible to truly be able to care for someone else without making sure that you are okay and taken care of. Alcohol use or illicit drugs may also increase risk, especially if they are used as a coping skill.
What are treatment and prevention strategies?
It's important to treat burnout and emotional exhaustion or the problem will just get worse. Progressive emotional exhaustion can lead to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and destruction of interpersonal relationships and career trajectories. Below are some viable treatment options for prevention and recovery:
Reducing stress is a sure fire way to reduce feelings of emotional exhaustion. It's impossible to remove all stress, but by removing unnecessary sources of stress, then inevitable stress may seem more manageable. Delegate tasks that you don't have to do, reframe your thoughts around certain things (including yourself), stay organized and participate in stress reduction techniques when possible.
Living a healthy lifestyle will also help. Eating a balanced diet, reducing alcohol, avoiding tobacco, exercising and establishing a great sleep routine can help you take care of yourself so you can handle oncoming stressors.
Keep a good work life balance. You cannot be good at your job if you are so exhausted that you cannot do it. Really focus on your job when you're there, but when you're not, dive into your friends, hobbies, families and anything else that is not work. This way, you appreciate the time you're at work and use it to be productive instead of taking work home with you and dissolving that barrier.
Practice mindfulness or other meditation techniques. It helps keep your mind focused on the present task instead of ruminating on other stressors. This way, you can focus on one thing at a time and just move through tasks, work, problems, etc., without getting overwhelmed at the culmination of it all.
Connect with others and change your attitude. Connection with friends and family is essential. They provide us with other worlds to be invested in. Also think more positively about situations, looking at them as opportunities instead of problems, and just try to be a bit more resilient.
If you are having trouble sleeping, that may be the root of your emotional exhaustion, or a symptom. Either way, it's important that you correct it in order to balance out everything else. Contact us by clicking the orange button below to take a free online sleep test. Then you can get in contact with one of our sleep health professionals.