This is especially true if you’re the sort of person who carries stress in your belly, or if you clench your muscles subconsciously to brace against whatever is hurting you.
Are you walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting someone – like a megalomaniacal boss or emotionally unstable romantic partner?
Is there major upheaval in your life at the present moment in time?
Whatever the cause, you may experience physical symptoms such as TMJ from grinding your teeth, shoulder pain from hunching your shoulders, or intestinal issues (among many others).
4. Crying Easily
If you’re at the point where having toothpaste fall off your toothbrush first thing in the morning is enough to bring you to a bout of hysterical weeping… that’s really not good at all.
When you’re depleted emotionally and mentally, your natural ability to handle things like normal, day-to-day stress or upset is shaved down to pretty much nothing, so the slightest thing can make you burst into tears.
You just don’t have it in you to stem the tide of emotion and you’ve probably found yourself crying in front of colleagues, friends, and random strangers.
And you can forget about keeping it together if you see or hear about something tragic in the news. You’ll be reaching for a tissue before you know it.
Another possibility is actually the opposite of hypersensitivity, and that is:
You can’t bring yourself to feel much of anything, good or bad.
You’ve gone numb.
Whatever it is that you’re dealing with has drained your light to the point where you literally can’t feel the emotions you’d normally feel when you encounter a situation or subject.
This is sort of like depression, only instead of feeling weighed down by emotion, you’re weighed down by the absence thereof.
Anhedonia is a type of emotional detachment that specifically prevents you from being able to feel joy or pleasure, and is a strong sign that you are dangerously depleted.
6. Irritability And Anger
Another way that depletion can manifest is as ever-present irritability, or even bouts of abject rage.
Tiny things that you could ordinarily block out, like the sound of your partner’s chewing or the fact that your co-worker insists on using Comic Sans in her reports, will irritate the living crap out of you or make you want to throw the office microwave through a window.
Instead of dealing with the source of what is actually draining you, you’re hypersensitive to the tiniest irritation.
Unfortunately, this can mean you take your frustrations out on those closest to you – those who probably don’t deserve it.
Have you blown up toward your family or friends recently?
7. Lack Of Motivation
You really don’t have the wherewithal to do much of anything.
You might be wearing the same underpants a few days in a row because you can’t be bothered to change your clothes, let alone shower.
You might have lost weight because you can’t bring yourself to eat (it’s not like you have much of an appetite anyway).
And all you want to do is go back to bed so you can sleep and hide away from either the overwhelming emotions you’re dealing with, or your awareness that you don’t feel anything at all.
This is especially difficult to contend with at one’s workplace or school, since there are inevitably due dates for various tasks or assignments.
But if you have no motivation to get to those tasks, you won’t get them done on time… so they’ll accumulate, which will make you procrastinate more.
And on and on the cycle goes.
This can result in you failing classes or getting warnings at work – if not fired outright – but if you’re feeling numb, you really won’t care much about that, will you?
Hot on the heels of a lack of motivation is the feeling of hopelessness.
…that it doesn’t matter if you even try to improve your situation – no good will come of it anyway.
Or any attempt you make will be thwarted, so why bother?
It’s dangerous to reach this point, because once hopelessness sets in, you might feel so trapped in the situation that you’ll either resign yourself to this horrible fate forever, thus remaining in a state of depletion indefinitely, or consider taking drastic measures in order to stop it.
If you’re at this point, please get help: it’s a very dangerous line to cross, and you may not be able to find your way back on your own.
5 Non-Physical Reasons You’re So Completely Drained Of Energy
Now that we’ve touched upon the symptoms of emotional burnout, it’s time to looks at how you might get this way…
…many people don’t quite realize just how many factors can contribute to feeling totally depleted of energy.
We’re not talking about anemia or B12 deficiencies here, nor a lack of proper sleep after running a marathon. Nothing physical, nothing that taxes the vehicle of flesh and sinew that houses the person you are.
We’re talking about the reasons why you may find yourself curled up in a ball on your bed with leaden limbs, feeling like you don’t have enough energy in your entire being to move a single muscle.
Any (and all) of the following five issues can contribute to that feeling, and all are serious situations that really need to be addressed.
Check out the list below and think about whether any of them would explain why your energy level is hovering somewhere around Antarctica.
1. Job Dissatisfaction
Do you find that trying to build up the energy to get yourself to work is damned near impossible?
Or that once you’re at work, you just stare at whatever it is you’re supposed to be working on and can’t bring yourself to do it because it just seems pointless and awful?
Yeah, those are pretty strong signs that it’s time to get a new job.
When you’re dissatisfied at work, you may feel overwhelmed with depression and panic attacks, and that can also manifest as unbelievable exhaustion…
…not tiredness, not like you’ve run a marathon, but a soul-deep weariness that makes it difficult to perform even the most basic tasks.
It literally feels like your will and light have been sucked out of you, and no amount of coffee or other stimulants will jolt you into being able to do anything.
Work that you don’t enjoy feels like slavery.
It really does. It’s a mindless slog of drudgery that will make you sit back and wonder why the hell you’ve been given the magical gift of several decades’ worth of life on this glorious planet, only to waste it doing the mind-numbing crap you’re doing right now. Day in, day out.
There’s always a way to change your work circumstance to something you truly want to do: it just takes some planning, and courage, and some time as well.
But once you decide to make the change happen, you’ll have a goal to work towards, and you’ll find that your energy builds back up again because you can see light at the end of the tunnel.
2. Unhealthy Relationships
A lot of people stay in romantic relationships much longer than they should because they’re comfortable and complacent, and are content to maintain the status quo.
…or so they try to convince themselves.
When you’re in a romantic relationship that just isn’t working anymore, for any number of reasons, you may feel like you’re slogging through each minute.
You may want to sleep a lot (possibly as a form of escapism), spend a lot of time alone, and get irritable when you feel any sort of obligation to do anything with your partner.
This isn’t just limited to intimate relationships either: you might live with housemates who absolutely suck your will to live, either because they’re psychic vampires or simply because they’re not part of your “tribe," so you feel alienated and out of sorts when you’re in their presence.
This can happen with family members as well: just because you share DNA with people, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to bond well with them, or even resonate on the same frequency…
…and having to spend a lot of time with people whom you’re expected to get on with, but don’t, can be completely exhausting.
Problems arise when we’re doing our best to get positive reinforcement and validation from other people by doing what they expect of us, or what suits their vision of who we should be.
This is basically just playing the part in a masquerade you don’t honestly want to be involved with, but if you’re a person who’s conflict avoidant or prone to anxiety, you’ll likely keep playing that role and hate every second of it.
Pretending to be something you’re not takes an extraordinary amount of energy.
Actors who are playing roles for TV and film need to take a lot of down time in between shoots just to be able to recharge. They’re basically people who are pretending to be entirely different people, for hours at a time.
Those who are living lives to make everyone happy except themselves are actors as well, but the role is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No breaks, no time to recharge.
Is it any wonder why there’s no energy to spare after trying to maintain that charade?
As you might imagine, that’s damaging on countless levels, especially since it causes the perfectionist to deplete their own energy reserves in an attempt to reach an unattainable goal.
There’s no such thing as perfection, and striving to achieve it will do a hell of a lot more harm than good.
That’s not to say that it isn’t good to be ambitious or driven, but rather to try to do so in a healthy, self-affirming way, rather than trying to attain another person’s standards of perfection.
That’ll never happen.
5. Toxic People In Your Life
When you have people around you who drain all your light in an attempt to sort out their own messy lives, you may end up feeling that even an hour in their presence will leave you a depleted husk of your usual self.
You’ll know that you have people like this in your life because as soon as you see a text or message from them, part of you feels like it wants to shrivel up and die.
You may resign yourself to answering with a deep sigh, bracing yourself for whatever may ensue, but wishing that they’d just leave you alone.
If you react this way to the people close to you, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate their role in your world.
6 Ways To Treat Emotional Burnout (That Actually Work)
Just about all of us are going to have to contend with emotional burnout at some point in our lives.
Existence on this planet can be unbelievably beautiful, full of joy and wonder, but there will inevitably be times when it’s also full of overwhelming stress… sometimes for prolonged periods of time.
Now, some people advocate for the kind of self-care that’s easy to do, like taking a day to wallow in a bubble bath and get a manicure, or going shopping for a new set of power clothes and a chia smoothie…
…but those actions are like thin bandages covering a hemorrhaging flesh wound: they might staunch the blood flow for 0.002 seconds, but that’s about it.
Emotional burnout needs to be treated on a deeper level to really be effective.
1. Spend Time With Friends
Sometimes, spending authentic time with people close to you can be incredibly cathartic.
People tend to get burned out when they feel that they’re entirely alone in a situation; that they have the world on their shoulders and don’t have a support system to help them out.
By talking with people you care about, you realize that there are plenty of people who care about you in return.
They can help you through your troubles, even if it’s just taking your kids for an afternoon so you can sort through some things, or organizing a yard sale so you can replace the appliances that suddenly stopped working.
Take them, and use them to decompress in whatever way you possibly can.
If it’s at all possible to take a leave of absence, try to sort that out: you can’t keep putting energy out into the world without replenishing it at the source, and you can only really do that when you take a step back to regroup.
A spiritual retreat with your group of choice can work wonders: you can spend a few quiet days at a Sangha, a convent, a yurt in the woods – whatever you prefer – while connecting deeply with that community.
Spend some quality time with elders and teachers, and get their input.
When it’s time to get back to work, be candid about your burnout and see if you can have your workload eased a bit.
3. Be Creative, By Any Means Necessary
It’s really difficult to be creative when you honestly feel like you don’t have a single spoonful left of energy to give, but interestingly enough, being creative actually fills your well, even just a tiny bit at a time.
This isn’t to suggest that you sign up for NaNoWriMo (where you try to write the next great novel in a month), or create some kind of sculpted masterpiece, but making sure that you draw from your creative spirit and pouring some beauty out into the world is immensely healing.
Do you like to bake? Try out a new recipe. Are you a knitter? Do you like to sew?
Try a small project that you really enjoy and can complete quickly and easily for a small burst of accomplishment.
If you’re feeling burnt out, you may feel like it’s somehow self-indulgent to take a few moments to be creative when you “should" be doing a million other things, but you know what? Creativity is one of our greatest abilities, and it’s what drives our species forward.
It activates all kinds of areas in our brains, and you might find that you’re passively problem solving while you’re sketching or playing some guitar.
4. Get Decent Sleep
Seriously, even if you need to be prescribed sleeping pills to do it, make sure you sleep.
You can’t squeeze blood from a stone, and when you’re trying to exist on a sleep deficit, everything will be a thousand times worse.
If your home situation is really stressful, try to get away for a couple of days, whether to a hotel or a friend’s place – anywhere you can just withdraw and sleep to recharge yourself.
Exhaustion – really severe, bone-deep fatigue – only adds to the burnout that so many of us suffer from.
Without sleep, every aspect of our health and wellbeing suffers: innocuous comments from others are processed as hurtful, tiny setbacks make us feel utterly defeated, and we just end up spiraling further and further downward until we end up falling apart.
You need to rest, and replenish your resources.
If you find that you’re overdosing on caffeine to get yourself through an average day, try to avoid drinking coffee or tea after 2pm or 3pm so it doesn’t end up keeping you awake half the night.
Put away electronic devices an hour before bed, and either read or meditate. You’ll be amazed at how much difference some solid rest can make when it comes to recharging your emotional batteries.
5. Get Professional Help
If you broke a bunch of bones, you’d get yourself to a doctor to have them reset and to get yourself some painkillers, right?
Then you might need some physiotherapy to be able to function better again once they’d mended sufficiently.
If you got pneumonia, you’d need bed rest and medication, and to ease back into regular life slowly so you didn’t relapse.
Emotional and mental illness are no different, and they originate in the brain, which is a pretty solid, squishy organ sloshing around in your cranium.
If you wouldn’t refrain from seeking medical help for a broken bone or phlegmy lung, why hold back from getting help when your brain is going haywire?
Work with a healthcare professional to see which approaches may work best for you.
Undiagnosed autoimmune conditions and food allergies can wreak havoc on mental and emotional wellbeing (nightshades are incredibly inflammatory for many people and can cause panic attacks, for example), and chemical imbalances can be sorted out with medication.
6. Make Changes
Emotional burnout is generally a pretty good indicator that life changes need to be made, even if it’ll be difficult to do so.
You may have been suffering in a horrible, depleting work environment for far too long, but have held back from looking for a new job because you’re comfortable and secure where you are now, even though it’s sucking your will to live.
Perhaps your relationship has been in the hole for years and it’s time to have a serious talk with your partner.
If you’ve been a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or a child with severe special needs, you may have reached a point where you’ll need to think seriously about care facilities that are better equipped to look after them than you are.
Facing situations like these is really, really hard, and most people try to avoid them for as long as possible, even if it means that they – and others around them, including close family members – suffer greatly.
Not facing issues just means that you’ll continue to burn out until you have literally nothing left to give, and that’s a dire situation for you as well as those you love.
Rest, eat well, get the help you need, and then please be honest with yourself about the life you’re living.
You may need to reevaluate all the aspects of your situation and then take informed steps to bring about long-lasting change.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.