emotional burnout

What to Do When You’re Emotionally Burned Out?

I’ve sort of been all over the place for the past few weeks. Though it pains me to admit, sometimes I’m terrible at managing stress. And even worse at self-care while managing stress.

My ego would tell you otherwise, but I’ve reached the uncomfortable point of emotional exhaustion.

In fact, I was convinced that I knew myself well enough to fight off emotional fatigue. However, my coping mechanisms aren’t always the healthiest. And you can always learn something new.

Where Does Emotional Burnout Come From?

You know, sometimes there are things you can sweep under the rug. But what happens when life’s challenges just keep piling up? Your body can no longer cope with the high levels of stress, and my friend, you shut down.

We’re all anxious nowadays. A lot’s been going on in the world. Emotional burnout can happen to anyone at any stage in life.

But it happens only to people with demanding jobs, right? Wrong.

Any overwhelming event can cause emotional stress: losing someone, high pressure at school, illness, money problems. Anything life-changing.

Stress is something we’ve learned to live with. However, If you’ve noticed yourself being exhausted for a long period, it’s time to check in with yourself.

What Can it Do to Your Body and Mind?

Confused, tired, and irritated. That’s what it means to be emotionally exhausted.

I was unmotivated to do anything. Even writing. It was affecting my creativity, and that was my biggest clue.

I got things done, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results. For the life of me, I couldn’t concentrate. Then I got angry with myself for being lazy, and there it was: a spiral of self-doubt and dread.

Sleep is another major thing to look out for. My sleeping schedule is unorganized as it is, but when you can’t get over 4 hours a night, something’s off.

Instead of taking a break, I thought the smart thing would be to distract myself with more things to do. That’s when all went sideways. When your body is crying for help, don’t ignore it. Headaches, an irritated stomach, and changes in your appetite are signs you need to take care of yourself.

Give Yourself Time

Once you realize you’re dealing with emotional exhaustion, take some time for yourself to recover. There’s no jumping through hoops with your mental and physical health.

In case you can’t remove yourself from the stressful environment, the best thing is to ride the awful feelings out. It’s very uncomfortable, I know. But it needs to be done. Don’t deny yourself the right to feel crappy. Get it out of your system and be patient with yourself.

Of course, there are things you can do to get back on your feet. An upset stomach is almost always an issue when dealing with vast amounts of stress. Go for less sugar, alcohol, and junk food. And less coffee. I know, I know, it’s tough. But you need all the sleep you can get.

Also, try to move your body as much as you can. If you’re too worn out for a full workout session, at least do some stretching or take a walk.

Do Self-Care Your Way

I’m a master at neglecting my own needs when I feel drained. But I’m becoming better at it, mind you.

Soaking in bubble baths, meditation, reading, painting. Whatever relieves your stress. There are no rules. You decide how to take care of yourself.

I’ve got this thing called “the 3 awesome things”. It’s like your own personal self-care kit.

It’s a simple list of three things you can do, depending on how you feel. And you can apply it to almost anything. So, here’s how it works.

What are the things we all reach for when we’re feeling down and want to get out of the funky mood? Music, hobbies, workout, TV. You name it.

Pick three songs that make you feel good. Find three TV shows you enjoy watching. Write three psychical activities that will get you moving. All the songs, shows, and activities should be ranked according to your current energy level. Let’s take this example.

Here’s my current “the 3 awesome things” playlist: 

  1. Hold My Girl by George Ezra- lowest energy level ( I’m just laying on my couch, all snuggled up with no intention to move, wanting to feel warm and fuzzy)
  2. Chew on My Heart by James Bay- medium energy level (I might stand up and dance a bit and you can never go wrong with my dude James Bay)
  3. Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi- highest energy level (I’m going to jump and scream along to this thing)

You can do the same with other stuff. On the days when I’m not willing to push myself, I’ll choose yoga. On the days when I’m better rested, I might go for a walk. And on the days when I’m pumped up, I’ll go for a run.

The whole idea is to ask yourself: How am I feeling today? And based on the answer, you choose the activity you want to do.

Don’t Isolate Yourself

When experiencing burnout, most of us want to be left alone. I get that feeling.

You don’t have to (and you shouldn’t) do it all by yourself. My overthinking, over-independent ass would never, ever, willingly admit to not feeling fine. And if you’re anything like me, you’re afraid of coming off needy or whinny.

Seriously though, asking for help is no big deal. I’ve got a friend who intuitively knows if I’m not doing so great and calls me on my BS. I might not always don’t like it, but I love her for it.

Vulnerability comes before trust. And it’s scary, it’s so awkward… Jeez, so very awkward. So, start with baby steps and it’ll feel less terrifying.

At the end of the day, being open feels good. Like I want to hug the entire world kind of good. And you can tell me that’s not a great feeling.

It will pass

Emotional exhaustion is a clear sign you need to make some changes in your lifestyle. Running on autopilot and not acknowledging your own emotional needs can only destroy your well-being.

Burnout isn’t very cool. But as any cheesy song goes: there’s always light after dark. Or something like that.

And there’s nothing an excellent song or a friendly hug can’t fix (guess the hugging part will have to wait).


Cover image: by Anne Rudolf on Unsplash