What does it mean to be mentally exhausted?
Mental exhaustion is something you might already be aware of, in a loose sense, but what does the term really mean? Well, mental exhaustion often occurs as a result of chronic stress – if your cortisol and adrenaline levels are perpetually spiked then, eventually, this is going to have an impact on other areas of your body. It can negatively affect your sleep patterns, digestive system, and immune system, thus dragging your mood down.
These are a few of the most common symptoms of mental exhaustion:
- Sleep problems
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of physical exhaustion
- Appetite changes
- Stomach upsets
- Low mood
- Poor concentration
Understandably, these symptoms can have a serious impact on your mental wellbeing and, often, you may feel overwhelmed and trapped. However, there are solutions, as I will shortly discuss. First, though, I want to look a bit more at the relationship between mental exhaustion (or burnout) and stress, and how mental exhaustion can influence physical fatigue.
Are stress and mental exhaustion the same thing?
When people think of mental exhaustion and stress, they may use the terms interchangeably, but they are referring to two different problems. Stress, for example, is a physical response to a problem or situation – your nervous system perceives that you are in danger and acts accordingly, stimulating the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
And this is normal – we all experience stress from time to time but, normally, once the underlying cause has been removed, our symptoms start to fade. However, what if the underlying cause isn’t tackled? What if, instead, we keep feeling stressed on a daily basis and our symptoms don’t disappear?
This would be deemed as ‘chronic stress’ and it can inspire a wide range of physical symptoms. It is also the main cause of mental exhaustion. Over time, as you continually experience stress symptoms, it will take a toll and you may start to find yourself feeling overwhelmed, indecisive and caged in by your current situation.
Mental exhaustion does build up gradually but, usually, you can find yourself more vulnerable if you are under pressure in your day-to-day life – for example, studies have found that those in stressful or high-demand jobs are more likely to experience burnout.
Can mental exhaustion affect your energy levels?
When most people think of exhaustion, they immediately connect the word with physical fatigue. You’re feeling tired because you are physically worn out, for example; however, this isn’t always the case. You can still feel exhausted without having any physical symptoms, as discussed. But, how you’re feeling mentally can affect your physical energy levels too.
For a start, as I’ve mentioned, mental exhaustion is associated with physical symptoms such as poor sleep or a sluggish digestive system. Both of these symptoms can easily drain your energy levels – if you’re not getting the rest you need or aren’t absorbing the right nutrients from your food then this will inevitably have an impact.
However, the biggest issue that could affect your physical energy levels is likely apathy or lack of motivation. If you’re feeling demotivated, emotionally burnt out and low in mood then it’s unlikely you’ll feel like doing much physical exercise. This can lead to a vicious cycle of sedentary behaviour which, over time, can make you feel less energetic and more fatigued.
What can you do to overcome mental exhaustion?
If you suffer from mental exhaustion, the good news is that there are steps you can take to overcome the issue. Below, I’m going to outline some of my best tips for recovering from mental exhaustion, or burnout, and detail how you can incorporate them into your daily routine.
1. Speak to those around you
If you’re struggling to cope with mental exhaustion then you probably don’t feel like opening up to those around you. However, this is the first and most important step to take – even if you’re afraid of being a burden or feel as though they won’t understand, it’s still absolutely vital that you speak to someone about how you’re feeling.
Stress is something that affects the majority of us these days and bottling up your emotions will only lead to further problems in the future. Trust me, even if your friends and family can’t give you an answer to your problem, the simple act of airing your problems aloud can still be extremely gratifying and, who knows, maybe they can help to approach the issue from a different angle?
2. Manage your stress levels
Stress is the primary cause of mental exhaustion so, unsurprisingly, this is going to be an issue you need to tackle. Whether it’s speaking to a manager about your workload or resolving a dispute with a loved one, sometimes addressing the source of your stress isn’t easy and this is understandable. Where you can, though, try to achieve some kind of resolution and, when you can’t, take steps to keep your stress levels under control.
This might involve taking up a new form of exercise or even devoting a part of you day to trying relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or mindful meditation. Find something that works for you and try to stick to it. If you do feel as though you need a helping hand, though, you could try our Stress Relief Daytime tincture to help take the edge off any jittery nerves or anxious emotions.
3. Don’t take your work home with you
While you might feel that this is helping you to keep up with your workload, though, in reality, taking your work home with you only makes this worse. You will find it even harder to relax or switch off at the end of the day. That’s why I always suggest keeping your work in the office – don’t take it home with you!
4. Try to think more positively
If you’re feeling drained, demotivated and hopeless then it’s easy to get stuck in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts fuelling unhappy feelings and vice-versa. That’s why, even when you’re at your lowest, you should still try to break this cycle by thinking more positively.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should stick your head in the sand and just ignore all your problems. Rather, it’s a means of allowing you to view these issues in a new light. As I discuss in my blog, ‘How to be more optimistic’, positive thinking could be something as small as participating in an activity you enjoy or changing the way you react to certain situations.
5. Look after your body
If you’re feeling down and exhausted then it’s easy to neglect your physical health. Instead of lovingly preparing a home cooked meal, you might be more inclined to go for the quicker option. This attitude, though, can lead to further problems and even nutrient deficiencies. If you’re loading up on fatty, sugary treats then, not only will you gain weight, your digestive system will suffer even further and your stress levels might rise.
Instead, try to eat fresh and incorporate more fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein in your diet. This could actually help to boost your mood and your immune system. If you want to learn more about the types of foods you should be including in your diet, please check out my blog ’12 foods to fight stress’.
You could also try our Balance Mineral Drink. This is rich in energy-boosting minerals and vitamins, such as magnesium, vitamin D and zinc, so it could help to give you a nice little lift if you do feel as though fatigue is starting to impact you.
Is burnout a mental illness?
Burnout, or mental exhaustion, isn’t classified as a mental illness; however, it is often caused or related to underlying mood disorders such as stress, low mood or depression. If any of these issues are affecting you then, as I’ve mentioned, you are more likely to be vulnerable. That is why, if you are starting to feel overwhelmed, I would always recommend seeking help from a medical professional.