When we feel emotionally exhausted, we feel like we don’t have enough energy to do the things we love—or at times, anything at all. Life—things, feelings, and people—requires emotional labor and that’s exhausting. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others can make us feel emotionally exhausted as well. But just because you’re emotionally exhausted now, doesn’t mean that you will feel this way forever.
Feelings and emotions can be exhausting
Emotions affect us more than we might think. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach, had sweaty hands, or a pounding heart? All of these physiological reactions are a response to emotions like anxiety, excitement, or fear.
The emotions, feelings and thoughts will impact how you feel in your body, because they take up energy—even when we don’t realize it. Heaviness, fatigue, lack of motivation, and moving more slowly than usual are all symptoms of exhaustion—both physical and emotional.
Engaging with others and life can be exhausting
When we’re feeling emotionally exhausted, it can feel like a chore to keep up interactions with others. Things like having conversations, socializing, or spending time around coworkers, family, and friends may feel like too much. Sometimes replying to text messages, returning phone calls or emails can even feel overwhelming. But this is instinct—your body is asking you to conserve energy so that it can replenish itself.
It’s ok to listen to this instinct. You can set boundaries by telling people that you’re feeling drained and can’t talk at the moment. Or if it helps, surround yourself with people who make you feel energized instead of drained. Do whatever it is that your mind and body need to rest.
Pushing yourself beyond your limit is exhausting
We often keep working when our bodies tell us to stop. We attend an event when we would rather be at home. We volunteer for additional duties or responsibilities because we believe that we can just keep moving and break through the exhaustion. Sometimes we overextend ourselves because we believe that rest has to be earned. Or we push through because we believe that emotional exhaustion isn’t a good enough reason to take some time for ourselves.
While it’s important to continue functioning and taking care of yourself, it’s also ok to give yourself a break. Forcing yourself to keep going as normal when you’re feeling exhausted will only make you feel worse in the long run. You may feel that you can’t take time away from your daily responsibilities, but try to rest when you can.
Refilling your emotional gas tank
If we think of our emotional well-being as a car, then we need fuel to run. Often when we are emotionally drained, we’re near empty, on empty—or even running on fumes. To refill our emotional gas tanks, we need to do activities that allow us to rest.
Take a break. Do activities that allow you to shut off your brain. Some examples include doing something monotonous like other chores, going for a drive, or rewatching a movie or episode of a TV show. These activities may not fill up your emotional gas tank completely, but they allow your brain to rest for a bit.
Get restful sleep. Good sleep helps us regulate our bodies and our minds. But when we’re emotionally exhausted, it may be difficult to sleep. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, try these tips. Restful sleep helps refill our emotional gas tanks when we are completely drained.
Ask for help. If you’ve been letting yourself rest and you’re still feeling exhausted, it may be a good idea to talk to a trusted friend or family member who can offer a new perspective. Or reaching out to a licensed therapist or counselor may help you find the cause of your emotional exhaustion as well.
It’s a process. Getting your emotional gas tank from E to full takes time. It’s a combination of finding restful activities, getting good sleep, setting boundaries, and asking for help if needed. The more we practice refueling our gas tanks, the better we get at not letting life overwhelm us.