Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of emails and messages on social media from readers who have HAD IT. They’re sick of this year; sick of the bs from family members, friends, their partner, their ex, dating, social media, the news, themselves… everything. Many are convinced that they are the problem, while others just want to get away. “I don’t ever want to talk to my brother again!” “Maybe my friends really are better off without me.” “Can’t they just SHUT UP already?!” “What’s the use of even trying for anything/anyone anymore?” “How could he/she do this to me at a time like this?” And the list goes on. This is what emotional exhaustion looks like.
There have been times in my life where I knew that I wasn’t physically exhausted but I ended up sleeping for fourteen hours straight. How? Emotional exhaustion. I think that I am still behind the eight-ball in regard to people, circumstances, situations, and events that emotionally exhausted me in my childhood.
Emotional exhaustion is something that I believe builds up over time. It’s interesting because when I am physically exhausted and haven’t slept for days, I have no issue AT ALL explaining to anyone that I can’t do whatever they want/need me to do (because I physically can’t; it’s impossible) until I catch up on sleep. I would never drive a car if I hadn’t slept for three days straight. It would be totally irresponsible and dangerous. I would not only be putting my own life at risk, but I’d also be putting the lives of others at risk as well.
With emotional exhaustion, it’s a little different. Most of the time, we don’t realize (or want to take the time to unplug and acknowledge) just how emotionally tired we are until it’s too late. Reactivity feels like our only option because we are literally, running on fumes.
And so, the flood gates burst open in an irreparable way. We waste the rest of our lives blaming (and sabotaging) ourselves for not being able to put the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube.
Conversely, there have been times in my life where I was totally aware that I was emotionally tapped. But I stayed in denial because it was easier. I kept looking to external sources (the person I was dating, my family, my job, friends, the news/celebrity gossip, going out, having a little more to drink than usual, making online purchases… any kind of distraction) to fuel me. This created an unhealthy reliance on everyone and everything outside of myself.
I was so depleted from within, I had to constantly chase the high of escapism. Eventually, this began to distort my sense of reality. It gave birth to a victim mentality (which made me a sitting duck for toxic relationships) and resulted in panic attacks that lead to an emotional breakdown.
You may have experienced this before. Or, you may feel totally drained/overwhelmed right now and headed toward your breaking point.
Let’s address your emotional exhaustion right here, right now.
If you don’t, it is guaranteed that your body will eventually prove to you just how strong the stress-disease connection really is. (For more information on this, I highly recommend Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, When The Body Says “No”).
What is emotional exhaustion? And how do I know if I’m experiencing emotional fatigue?
Emotional exhaustion does not require physical exhaustion to exist, but if you are emotionally exhausted, you will always feel it physically.
When you’re emotionally burnt out, it feels like you’re on a hamster wheel and can’t catch your emotional breath.
Physical fatigue follows in many forms. Here are just a few physical symptoms that I have personally experienced as a result of not acknowledging/addressing my own emotional exhaustion:
- Reduced appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Blood sugar issues
- Dysmorphia (not with my body as much as my face. I suffered from facial dysmorphia for years) which lead to…
- Acne/skin picking
- Candida overgrowth
- Leaky gut
Did emotional exhaustion alone cause every one of the above conditions? NO.
There were other contributing factors, of course. But I can assure you that the common denominator of them ALL was emotional exhaustion.
When you are emotionally exhausted, everything sets off your emotional triggers. It feels like you can’t escape others and, most frustratingly, yourself.
I always know I’m emotionally fatigued if I’m experiencing these symptoms…
Emotional exhaustion symptoms
- Internalizing the behavior of others. You are unable to let others own their own behavior.
- People-pleasing on overdrive.
- You feel a constant sense of doom. You’re also more negative/pessimistic and feel frustrated because everything agitates you.
- Anxiety attacks.
- Emotionally unavailable. You feel completely checked out and numb.
- You have a hard time saying “no” to people (including the cynical audience in your head).
- Socializing in any way feels like a chore. You feel anxious and dually, exhausted when you think of having to interact with certain people.
- You can’t remember the last time you were genuinely happy.
- Whether it’s a commercial on tv, a movie, or a book you’re reading, you cry very easily.
Social media, the news, certain ingredients in processed foods, and lastly, toxic people will test your resolve to stay on your white horse in every way possible.
Getting exhausted – whether it’s emotional or physical- is something that’s a normal part of life. It HAPPENS. But getting off your white horse is a choice.
You can either let yourself get completely drained (and allow that to be the lubricant for reactivity) so you have no other choice but to get off your white horse and insult your emotional intelligence OR you can do one of the most painful, lonely, and courageous things that one can do…
You can ACT on the realization that YOU and ONLY YOU can replenish your emotional energy.
How to heal emotional and mental exhaustion
*I am not a doctor, nor am I licensed or certified in anything. Below are recommendations that worked for me. Always check with your doctor.
Here are just a few things that really helped/help when I feel emotional fatigue:
- I started being honest with myself and others. When I began to actually feel my feelings, I was able to kindly (not brutally) communicate them one time and then, act accordingly and without apology.
- I learned how to say “no.”
- I invested in a weighted blanket.
- I drank peppermint tea and also, a few drops of lemon balm extract in water every day until I felt like I could emotionally exhale.
- I invested in an eye mask and eventually, blackout curtains for better sleep when I could afford them.
- After every shower that I can, I take the time to really moisturize my body from head to toe. As I moisturize each limb, I thank my body for everything it does for me in spite of what I’ve done to it.
- I started minding my own business. Seriously. Instead of aimlessly (and obsessively/compulsively) searching on social media, I’ll get lost in a good book or I’ll get into a tv show or cook a nutritious meal and shut out the world. I’ll work on my business. The more plugged in I am to my own life, the easier it is to listen to my instinct and take care of my own emotional needs (before getting to the point of no return by catering to everyone else’s).
- I get out and walk in nature as much as possible. Sunlight (*natural* vitamin D), fresh air, and drinking water do WONDERS. I know, it sounds so obvious but it’s true.
- I realize that I don’t owe anyone anything. I owe my emotional body the same attention that I give my physical body because I know that without my mental health, my physical health will erode. Poor mental health also irritates and ages the skin.
- I invested in an acupressure mat.
- I got completely off my phone as much as possible.
Please, if you can’t do it for yourself yet, do this for me and for the people (living and deceased) who love and believe in you as much as I do.
Get off of social media.
Get out of your text messages.
Turn the news off for however long you can.
Unplug from all the noise and see how you feel when you’re not a hamster that’s become dependent on a wheel. Come here to this blog, connect with others, and just know that you WILL make it.
Look how far you’ve come already.
The last bullet point is TALKING IT OUT with a nonjudgmental, private, and trusted person who you feel connected to. I am here. My Mom, who has written a few (incredible) guest posts on disenfranchised grief, and Where The White Horse Resides, is also here.
You are never alone.
+ If you need further and more personalized help with your relationship, please look into working with me here.