Robin D. Webb
In order to fight or alleviate mental exhaustion symptoms, let us first define what mental exhaustion is. Mental exhaustion is defined as an extreme state of physical and emotional depletion resulting from excessive and continuous stress in career, family, or personal relationships.Individuals state that they often feel emotionally overextended and exhausted from their day-to-day demands, resulting in feeling physically, psychologically, and emotionally worn out.
We all have those seasons of life when a lot is going on. The kids are going back to school, there is a big project at work, and we are having more challenging times in our marriage. We keep going for ourselves and for our families, all while trying to be supportive for everyone else.
Our bodies cannot sustain constant moving at such a strenuous, physical pace. Only a select few prime athletes can do a marathon day after day after day. NFL players endure six days of intense recovery and training in order to be able to play every Sunday.
We can feel the effects of mental exhaustion after we study for a big test, burn the midnight oil to get a big project done at work, or push through a hard week with our family’s busy schedules so it all gets done.
According to Healthline, unchecked mental exhaustion can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety, apathy, detachment, irritability, inability to process emotions, dread, and a marked decline in productivity. Mental exhaustion also affects us physically with headaches and digestive issues. It can affect our sleep and appetite, and increase our vulnerability to sickness or other diseases.
When life feels overwhelming and we are facing a major transition (a move, a new job, etc.) or a season where it feels like we are constantly on high alert, we often go into survival mode. If the chaos is continuous, mental exhaustion can become a way of life.
Symptoms of mental exhaustion.
Mental exhaustion can be manifested in several ways, including behavioral, emotional, and physical symptoms. Some of the manifested symptoms are as follows:
- Increased arguments with loved ones and family
- Feeling distracted or constantly on edge
- Using chemicals and substances as coping mechanisms (i.e. alcohol or other substances)
- Memory challenges
- Feelings of helplessness
- Feeling stressed or anxious
- Lack of motivation
- Suicidal thoughts/ideations
- Physical fatigue
- Sleep issues (sleeping too much or too little)
- Unexplained aches and pains (such as headaches or muscle aches and pain)
Steps to alleviate it.
So, what are we supposed to do?
Acknowledge that something needs to change.
Nothing will change until we acknowledge that we are burned out and that it is time for things to shift. Here is a reassuring truth: You are in control. You do have control over this situation. Will it be an overnight change? Probably not. It will require a plan, intentionality, and maybe saying goodbye to something you like. But in the end, your mental health will thank you.
See what is possible to remove.
What tasks at work can you ask to be removed off of your plate of responsibilities? It is okay to tell your boss that you cannot take on another big project or to ask to be taken off a working group.
How can you ease things at home? Can you sign up for a meal delivery service or ask your family to cook a few times a week? Can you reduce the activities that your kids are involved in to one or two activities? Can you say no to a Bible study, PTA committee, or other commitments?
To find balance, you must remove the activities or tasks that are not necessary.
Mental exhaustion is often about reduction. Look at your schedule and assess what activities or tasks are taking up the most time in your week, and remove them. In order to regain more control over one’s schedule and retain mental wellness, it begins with saying no to certain activities or tasks, setting boundaries, and defining what is important.
Set times for a break.
It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best things that an individual can do is block off times on their schedule to rest and recharge. This can be as easy as a weekly pedicure, waking up earlier to do a quiet time, or sipping your coffee slowly. It can be as simple as going to the gym after work.
Sometimes we need a longer getaway. When was the last time you took a vacation? Maybe scheduling an overnight retreat every quarter. Perhaps planning to take a trip alone. Sometimes in order to get a break, you must set boundaries and risk disappointing people. You cannot people please your way out of mental exhaustion. Taking a break sometimes requires thinking about yourself first.
Another possible option to explore is your lunch hour. Do not eat at your desk. Get up and walk around more often. The key to fighting mental exhaustion is to take control of your schedule and factor in time for what will keep you healthy and functional.
Talk to someone.
Often, we just need to feel heard. We need a safe place to debrief and vent about what is happening and what we are feeling. It is important to express how we are really feeling and ask for help. A good counselor can help us process things and find balance in our lives.
For one hour a week, turning off our cell phones and shutting out the world can work wonders for our mental wellness.
Our bodies are connected. Our mind, body, and soul work together. When one is out of alignment, we feel it. When we feel mentally exhausted, we often neglect our quiet times and stop moving. Get up earlier to go for a walk around the neighborhood. Go for a run after dinner. Get the kids together and go to the park – and get everyone playing. Find a running club, frisbee group, or yoga at the park, and make it a priority to go.
Body movement provides an incredible boost to our mental well-being. Find a gym with childcare, hire a babysitter once a week, connect with an old friend at Bingo, or take up a new physical hobby. Even if it is once a week, your mind and body will benefit.
Quiet time with God.
How is your time with God? When we hit patches of busyness and things feel like it is a daily fight to keep going, we often leave the most important Person behind.
If you cannot fit in a quiet time, make sure to use the time you have alone in the car to listen to worship music. Better yet, pray. Turn off the radio and talk to God. Give Him your commute, your free moments in the pick-up line, and your waiting at red lights.
Anytime we come to God with an open heart, He will meet us. Even if you feel you have nothing to say, sit in silence and invite God to speak.
Check your habits.
Take an honest look at how you are filling the time you do have. Turn off the TV at night and spend time with your kids. Put the phone down and engage with your family. Alcohol only increases our stress levels. Honestly evaluate why you are drinking and if that is the best thing for you. Are you drinking enough water?
Social media only robs us of our time and sends the comparison game into overdrive. What else could you be doing with that time? Take it off your phone, or set a time limit in your settings, then go do something else. Social media triggers dopamine, but in the end, it leaves us more exhausted. What are you missing out on in real life because you are lost on your phone?
It is better to begin to do something for five minutes than not at all. It is better to walk for ten minutes than stay sitting all day.
Mental exhaustion is real. But you do have the power to change what is happening. Call our offices today and schedule an appointment with one of our counselors. We would love to help you get a plan and take back control of your schedule and your life!
“Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Ayo Ogunseinde, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Homeless”, Courtesy of Ben Hershey, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Frustration”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Don’t Give Up”, Courtesy of Dan Meyers, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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