How to Overcome Psychological Exhaustion
Mental fatigue and psychological exhaustion is a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for a while.
“Sustained exhaustion is not a rite of passage. It’s a mark of stupidity.”– Jason Fried.
I’m purposely sharing this today. I have recently run a 9 day intensive training, I get 50-100 emails a day, I am running a major convention later this year, I am in the middle of a major research project, my business is thriving but the ensuing busy-ness poses challenges, I have just
committed to running an ultramarathon later this year and will be fundraising for my children’s school having been in discussions with the headmaster, I have two very lively busy children and a marriage to maintain, and this really is only a small insight into it all. Right now, I feel a bit pooped and spread thin and my brain is a little frazzled.
I chose this though and I have had these types of typical scenarios in my life a fair bit. How do I not go insane? How does anyone ensure that mental fatigue and psychological exhaustion do not occur and not impair one’s quality of health or life in general?
Well, this article is all about that.
Psychological exhaustion is typically brought on by persistent relationship friction, a period of grief, or constantly acting in a “caretaker” role at work or at home. If you feel like you have nothing left to give and your mood is persistently low (marked by feelings of depression and/or anxiety), you could be emotionally exhausted. It could be brought on by major demands being placed upon your time in a variety of professional or personal ways.
High achieving individuals often try to push through the early warning signs of chronic stress and burnout, pushing themselves to work harder, achieve more, take on longer hours and exceedingly heavier workloads, not wanting to let others down, and try live up to enormous amounts of pressure they often place on themselves to succeed.
If you are interested specifically in the ways in which therapists can avoid burnout, then you may like to read this article: 7 Ways Therapists Can Avoid Work-Related Stress and Burnout.
Below is a list of warning signs that you or someone you care about may be suffering from psychological exhaustion. These signs and symptoms exist along a continuum, and the earlier you can recognise and address the issues as they arise, the quicker you can return to optimal health, feel energised, happy, healthy, and productive in your life.
“I’ve worked myself to exhaustion before. I was so young, and I thought I could do everything; it was just too much for my body and my mind.”– Penelope Cruz.
Symptoms of Psychological Exhaustion:
The symptoms of psychological exhaustion can be both emotional and mental. People experience psychological exhaustion differently, but generally symptoms include:
• lack of motivation
• trouble sleeping
• physical fatigue
• feelings of hopelessness
• change in appetite
• difficulty concentrating
• irrational anger
• increased cynicism or pessimism
• sense of dread
If you answered yes to several of these symptoms, you may be experiencing psychological exhaustion, and it is high time to you made some changes. Be sure to consult with your doctor or a mental health provider, as some of these symptoms can also indicate certain medical or mental health conditions that warrant more than reading an article of this kind.
If you have been running on empty for too long and pushing yourself harder than is healthy or sustainable, it’s time to put self-care back into the forefront of your life. Below are a few suggestions for dealing with exhaustion to help get yourself back up to speed and deal with the
issues before they turn into much larger, more complex or debilitating health issues.
1. Start by taking care of the basics (sleep, food, water).
Whether you like it or not, there are a few basic things we all require to feel healthy and
energised. We all need to:
• Sleep enough
• Eat enough healthy food
• Drink enough water
You can only cheat yourself of the basic necessities for so long before your body starts to fight back. For example, there is research that suggests insufficient sleep creates a greater risk of exhaustion. Start by prioritising the easy wins that will help you begin to feel better immediately: sleep as much as possible, eat as healthily as
you can, and drink plenty of water.
2. Stop and slow down.
Take a moment to hit the pause button on life and stop. Ideally, take a whole day, or a whole weekend, and intentionally DO NOTHING. Put a pause on your commitments, pause your expectations, pause the achievements, and pause the never-ending “to do” list. If you can’t fully
pause your life for a day or two, slow down as much as you can.
High achievers are used to a fast-paced and accomplishment-driven lifestyle, and sometimes forget the importance of rest, or feel like slowing down is a waste of time or can’t be justified into their busy schedule. The most successful people, when studied, find time to recharge, be
themselves, rejuvenate and energise.
3. Learn to say “no”.
Learn to make saying “no” one of your favourite phrases. Especially if you’re in a state of exhaustion, if your immediate response to a request from someone else isn’t “Hell Yeah!”, then it should automatically be answered with a firm but polite “no”.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, so until you’re in a healthier and more balanced place, adding another commitment or responsibility to your plate is simply adding more unnecessary stress to your life. Resist the urge to be a people pleaser and do absolutely everything that’s asked of you, and start saying no.
4. Commit to relaxing activities.
Everyone is slightly different when it comes to things that make them feel better. If you’re feeling completely exhausted, it’s time to add in a few activities that promote relaxation, but customise your list to what works for YOU. Some of the tried and tested ways to manage stress include:
• Gentle exercise (going for a hike or a walk outside)
• Spending time in nature
• Warm baths
• Progressive muscle relaxation
• Guided imagery
• Deep breathing exercises
• Cup of tea
• Talking with friends
• Pet therapy
• Visiting a Spa
• Pursuing a hobby (e.g. woodworking, making art, etc.)
• Taking a break or holiday
A 2016 study states that fostering social
relationships may help people lessen the harmful effects of exhaustion, potentially, by promoting resilience and a sense of greater well-being. Only you can define what is best for you, so start with something that you know makes you feel great, and commit to carving out time in your schedule to distress.
5. Ask for help.
Although you are probably used to being a highly productive, always dependable, count-on-you-for-everything kind of person, there are times when it is just not possible to continue working that hard all by yourself.
Sometimes giving up control, asking for help, leaning on others, delegating and outsourcing, and learning to cut corners or lighten up the very high standards you’ve set for your life can work wonders. Ask your partner if they can take over the grocery shopping. Hire a cleaning service. Buy the pre-cut veggie tray. Set boundaries, ask for help, and make peace that it is ok to rely on others and not feel like you have to take care of everything yourself.
6. Increase the positive, cut out the negative.
Life is too short to be surrounded by people, things, and commitments that don’t make you feel good. Decluttering physical items in your surroundings, dropping unfulfilling commitments, and most importantly, minimising exposure or completely cutting out negative individuals can feel so enlightening and freeing! Make a point to surround yourself with mostly positive people, and lean on their energy and enthusiasm to help lift you up. Negative people tend to want to drag others down with them, so don’t feel bad about pulling some weeds to let the flowers grow bigger and better in the garden of life.
I think I basically wanted to write a simple article that reminded people of and highlighted issues around mental fatigue – I am prone to it and have needed to set my life up to counter it.
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