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Emotional exhaustion: causes, symptoms and how to deal with it

Emotional exhaustion

Tiredness or emotional exhaustion does not differentiate between workers, university students, children, adolescents, women, or men. Anyone can present an excess of responsibilities and tasks to the limits of saturation.

All of us have surely experienced moments where tiredness prevails, our body dominates and we have a constant feeling of fatigue in our mind. But how serious is its permanence over time? What are the symptoms? How can a person learn to detect it? And, most importantly, what is the best way to deal with it?

In this article, we have collected invaluable information for you and your loved ones. Read it very calmly, but, above all, pay close attention to the signals your body gives you.

What is emotional fatigue or exhaustion?

Tiredness or emotional exhaustion is a no-power state and lack of motivation, usually caused by a psychic effort overload. Those who suffer from it feel a decrease in their emotional resources, sleep problems, and even low self-esteem accompanied by feelings of tension and frustration. This overload of emotions commonly occurs when there are major changes, unresolved problems, or overwhelming situations.

Emotional exhaustion is related to the “burnout syndrome” or “job burnout” and can have physical and psychological manifestations. It is a physical, emotional, and mental state of exhaustion that is strongly linked to work stress. Depression and anxiety are two of its most common symptoms.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) cataloged burnout as an occupational phenomenon, included in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11).

Causes of emotional exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion is usually reflected after a long process of overload of conflicts and responsibilities, which can be in the professional or personal sphere. In other words, it is the consequence of the incongruence between what we give or offer and what we receive.

People with emotional exhaustion are characterized by their self-demand, for a high level of responsibility, and for not setting limits on their delivery. An example would be people who do not know how to say no to certain tasks, who do not take their corresponding vacations, or who work excessively. These individuals tend to develop negative emotions or sensations, such as physical tiredness, depersonalization, and headaches.

Emotional fatigue commonly originates from excess stress accompanied by certain lifestyle habits, such as the ones mentioned below:

  1. Excessive stress: The fact that a person eventually becomes stressed in certain situations is normal and healthy since this is how the body copes with challenging situations. But when stress reaches high levels, very important areas for human development are affected, and mental and physical health is put at stake. Consequently, the affected person feels great levels of fatigue and exhaustion. The more tired you are, the more your emotional distance may become.

  2. Sedentary lifestyle: People who practice little physical activity or exercise not only do they lack energy, but are also more likely to develop physical, mental, and emotional health problems in the future. When the body does not exercise as much as it needs, it is normal to suffer from physical fatigue and emotional fatigue.

  3. Imbalance between work and private life: When a person invests not only the majority of their energy at work, but even their free time, it is normal, but unhealthy, for them to feel unwilling to share with family and friends. There is no balance between work and moments of leisure or rest.

  4. Bad nutrition: Maintaining a high-fat diet causes the digestive system to become saturated, causing low energy levels.

Symptoms of emotional exhaustion

Some signs can warn of the presence of emotional exhaustion or excessive tiredness.

We tell you what some of these alerts may be:

  1. Physical tiredness: The person who experiences this sensation usually has it frequently. Opening your eyes and just thinking about what the day will be like can be exhausting.

  2. Sleeping problems: Although it may sound contradictory, the person who presents emotional exhaustion has serious difficulties falling asleep. One of the most common sensations is having many ideas or thoughts spinning around in your head, which makes it difficult to go to bed.

  3. Loss of self-control: It is also common for the exhausted person to appear in a bad mood and to be overly sensitive to any criticism made. The opinions of others can also be sources of stress.

  4. Lack of motivation: It would not be unusual to see the person act mechanically, that is, without any type of enthusiasm or interest in their activities: work, studies, personal relationships, personal care, etc.

  5. Emotional distancing: Closely linked to the above, one could perceive increasingly flatter emotions in the person. As if they felt practically nothing or, perhaps, as if they didn't care. They appear distant and apathetic towards everything and everyone.

  6. Mental fatigue: People with emotional fatigue may feel easily confused and experience slower reasoning or even pay little attention to the most basic details.

  7. Frequent forgetfulness: Since there is a saturation of information and/or stimuli, it is normal to have memory failures. Little things can be easily forgotten.

If you have manifested any of these sensations or if you feel that you are currently going through several of them, do not hesitate to consult with your trusted doctor.

5 tips to deal with emotional exhaustion

We share 5 more ideas that will add to your daily life and your lifestyle in general:


Have you heard the phrase "nothing in excess is good»? Well, it's very true. Just as work and studies have their space, leisure and rest times are vital for all human beings. It's not about leaving everything and just sitting in front of the television and watching series endlessly. It is about keeping balance.

Once you have worked or studied, organize your free time to do other types of activities: take a nap, go out with friends to the movies, go to that store you've always wanted to visit, etc.

The day has 24 hours and the week has 7 days, there is time to do everything, don't forget to include rest there.

Practice relaxation techniques

It is always recommended to schedule relaxation spaces. Making problems visible has its good side because it will help you to be prepared for a particular situation, but try not to spend more than 15 minutes on conflicts or problems. You can spend a little more time, for example, 30 minutes to tense and relax muscles, perform breathing exercises, or meditate.

We mention some techniques to reduce physiological activation:

  1. Progressive muscle relaxation technique.

  2. Relaxation training.

  3. Yoga.

  4. Mindfulness.

Practice physical activity

Physical activity will help you get out of isolation in case you spend a lot of time at home. Doing sports is highly recommended by specialists, just going for a walk is enough to activate the body, observe the space around you, and value the things around you.

If it catches your attention, you could also join a gym or suggest to a friend that you walk together at a certain time of day.

Set your limits

Knowing how to say no is essential not only when relating to others, but also to maintaining a healthy level of self-esteem.

It's okay to say yes, as long as you're open to aspects you didn't take into account before. It is also a great opportunity to build a more open and flexible mindset. The problem occurs when you say yes just to please others.

You have healthy self-esteem when you take care of yourself and, for that reason, you dedicate time to satisfying and pleasing your needs.

Learning to listen to your body, although it may sound strange, is essential to know what it really needs, what it is suffering from, and what improvement it can achieve if you act differently. To do this, do not forget to prioritize rest times, self-care, and respect for yourself.

If you are well, you can help someone else be well too!

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