As your emotional resources are used up in trying to cope with challenging situations — such as overwhelming demands, conflict, or lack of support at work or at home — your sense of well-being and capacity to care for yourself and others can be diminished. In fact, research shows that people suffering from emotional exhaustion experience higher levels of work-life conflict. They may find that they have less patience to engage with family and friends at the end of the day and become frustrated with them more easily — a problem. This can lead us to feelings of guilt and loss. Pushing back against emotional exhaustion requires a combination of approaches.
Imagine that you have an internal fuel tank and a gauge on your dashboard that lets you know how full it is. Some conditions cause your fuel to burn up quickly, just as extreme weather, rough terrain, carrying a heavy load, or accelerating and braking rapidly would use gas at a greater rate than typical on-the-road scenarios. To make sure you don’t run low on fuel, you want to reduce your exposure to difficult conditions, drive more efficiently, and make sure you refuel regularly.
What Does It Mean to Feel Emotionally Drained?
An individual may feel emotionally drained when they are overwhelmed by various demands they have to contend with in their daily life. When the demands on a person exceed their personal resources and their perceived ability to cope, it can result in feeling emotionally drained.
If you are emotionally spent, there are several signs that you may experience in your daily life, including:
- Feeling negative, hopeless, helpless about your situation, and feeling unable to resolve your issues.
- Low motivation and low concentration to tackle responsibilities and to-do lists.
- Increased emotional reactivity – more irritability, frustration, anger, anxiety, and stress in dealing with challenges and also apathy since you might feel as though nothing will improve.
Let’s Look at these Approaches to Pushing Back Against Emotional Exhaustion:
1. Reducing the Drain
The first step in reducing emotional resource consumption is recognizing the circumstances (e.g., situations, tasks, relationships) that deplete you and limiting your exposure to them.
2. Learning to Conserve
The next step is learning to operate more efficiently with emotion regulation techniques, such as recognizing and acknowledging your feelings and reappraising stressful experiences.
3. Use Positive Self-Talk
Think about how you have been able to cope up to this point, what has kept you going, and how you will be able to manage moving forward. This may help you redirect your attention toward overcoming your obstacles rather than feeling overcome by them.
4. Replenishing Your Fuel
Another way to boost reserves is to engage in activities like going for walks, connecting with friends, or pursuing hobbies like cooking or gardening. Doing so promotes relaxation, and feelings of control and mastery. One insidious effect of emotional exhaustion is, that when you’re suffering from it, you may feel too tired to marshal the effort needed for exercise, social interaction, or hobbies. But you must.
Mindfulness practices, such as paying attention to your experiences from moment to moment, focusing on your breathing, spending 10 minutes thinking about what you’re grateful for, or intentionally looking for what’s positive, are yet another way to refuel.
While it may feel impossible to recover from being emotionally drained, it is important to recognize that you have the tools and skills available to you to help you get back control over your life as you navigate the world around you. Adopting the above practices doesn’t mean you won’t experience moments of stress and anxiety. But they will increase your resilience and resistance to emotional exhaustion.