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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

4 Signs You’re Emotionally Drained (And What To Do)

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4 Signs You’re Emotionally Drained (And What To Do)

We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all said it. “I am just emotionally drained today!” Rarely, however, do we ponder where this phrase comes from, or just how literal these symptoms and sensations might be.

According to Healthline, emotional exhaustion is a state of being severely emotionally drained or depleted, from the build-up of stress from either your job or personal life, or both.[1]

Sometimes, this term can also be used to describe “burn out,” and the sensation of simply juggling too much and feeling the effects of a lack of energy to continue.

When we think about how fast-paced our culture and society are, it’s not a big surprise that we could all fall victim to these symptoms and ailments.

We see these symptoms readily in overly demanding jobs, whether in offices or in manual labor. However, emotional exhaustion can spring from any myriad of occupations, from parenting to creative work to entrepreneurship.

No one is exempt from feeling emotionally depleted, but there are ways to see it coming and to arm yourself against it.

Below are some signs of feeling emotionally drained, and what you can do to help yourself and your loved ones.

1. Feeling “Stuck” or “Trapped” in Life or a Particular Situation

When we’re feeling emotionally drained, we have a hard time changing and broadening our perspective of any given situation. If we’re struggling or trying to find a way out of a job, relationship, or problem, not feeling emotionally healthy can act as a strong deterrent from creating and maintaining a fresh, positive outlook.

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At some point, all of us will feel stuck in a problem in life; this becomes a sign of emotional drainage when you start to feel like you are inherently stuck within this situation, with no energy or way out.

This can also manifest as a lack of motivation to seek out new solutions, or a feeling that we’ve resolved to trudge through our problems and simply accept that things aren’t going to change for the better.

As a result, we may develop depression, anger, and irritability, which can manifest as physical dis-ease, such as headaches, physical fatigue, muscle soreness, lack of sleep, and poor appetite. [2]

The Solution

One way of getting through this sign of feeling emotionally drained is to seek out help. This can be in the form of a dear friend or family member, or it may present itself in the form of professional help, such as a therapist, doctor, or alternative medicine healer.

In many instances when we are feeling stuck and trapped in life, we have a hard time pulling ourselves out of that constant, negative loop that our mind plays through. This is really where the benefit of community can come into play.

Seeking out help not only alleviates the burden of having to feel and go through this problem alone, but it also allows you to receive input and perspective from an outside, neutral source that could be the breakthrough you need.

Other people can have a huge impact on the way our problems present themselves, showing us an alternative solution we would have never considered or found on our own.

2. Lack of Motivation to Work, Create, and Pursue Goals and Freams

Too much stress can burn out even the most joyous of plans and initiatives. It makes us feel like, no matter how hard we try, there is just not enough emotional or energetic bandwidth to do anything at all.

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This attitude and these mental and emotional states can make it very difficult for us to finish work, enjoy the process of creating something, or tackle goals and plans that we’ve committed ourselves to.

On a physical level, stress and lack of motivation can interrupt our energy levels to the point where we’re feeling fatigue, sluggishness, and a lack of an appetite.

We may feel sleepy during all periods of the day, and show a clear disinterest in performing or being productive. We may also show apathy towards the things that usually bring us happiness, like making plans with friends or taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional health.

The Solution

One way of re-energizing ourselves when we do feel a lack of motivation is to start to get clear on why we’re lacking it in the first place. [3]

Maybe it’s because we’re stretching ourselves too thin, and our to-do lists have become seriously overwhelming. If this is the case, perhaps we can look into prioritizing our work by what is the most critical, and tackling those tasks first. [4]

Another reason may be that you’re falling into the “People Pleaser” rabbit hole. This is where you’re committing your time and energy to getting things done for everyone else, without checking in with yourself first.

Can you actually handle that task or fulfill that promise? Do you even want to? These are important questions to ask, and be honest about the answers!

Once you take these steps, you can re-adjust and re-evaluate where you want to spend your time and effort, therefore kicking up your emotional energy again.

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3. Irritability and “Flying Off the Handle”

When our emotions aren’t in check, we have a harder time controlling what may be perceived as irrational anger or sudden outbursts. In reality, when we’re in the thick of that “burn out” sensation, we’re desperately trying to keep our cool and keep our work and tasks from falling apart. It’s exhausting, depleting, and just frustrating!

In these moments, when our emotions are fried and desperate for a reset, it’s easier for us to give into anger or irritability, or to sudden outbursts of rage. Emotional depletion just looks for an exit, and it doesn’t care who receives the brunt of it. We may feel regretful later, but in the moment, we’ve lost the ability to check ourselves.

The Solution

One powerful way of dissolving that anger is through breath. When we’re angry and frustrated, our breathing and heartbeat quicken, all leading to an activation of the fight-or-flight response in our systems. When that kicks in, it’s harder for us to think rationally or make sound decisions. Instead of acting, we RE-act, and not always in the best way.

When we tap back into our breathing, we allow it to soothe and reset that fight-or-flight response, so that the body can come back to homeostasis. [5]

Check out the below GIF to help you tune back into long inhales and exhales. Follow along with the animation, and notice how, after a few moments, you start to feel more relaxed, grounded, and centered.

Read more about breathing exercises: 3 Deep Breathing Exercises to Relax and Reduce Stress

4. Constant Fatigue and Poor Sleep

Some may think that feeling emotionally drained would put you to sleep right away, but the opposite is actually the case. Insomnia has been linked to a complex number of emotional and mental disorders, and because everything in the body-mind-spirit connection is intricately linked, it’s not a surprise that if one thing is off, the entire system is affected. [6]

Getting enough sleep is immensely important to the wellness of your entire being. Without it, we’re essentially running on empty, and depleting the body of what’s already a draining effort.

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Notice your sleep patterns, and pay attention if you’re having a hard time letting go of the day or your to-do list before you head to bed. Are you working over unfinished tasks while trying to fall asleep? Are you battling emotions and thoughts at night?

These all might point to being emotionally drained, which carries into the next day, with constant fatigue throughout your day and week.

The Solution

One way of checking in and alleviating these symptoms is to start creating a ritual sleep routine. A few hours before bedtime, start to wind down any use of electronics or work. Whatever wasn’t finished that day, jot it down to start first thing in the morning, but start to cut ties with it before you prepare for bedtime.

This will ensure that you’re not rummaging around in your mind for any other ideas or work, when you should be giving your mind and body much-needed rest.

If it helps, start implementing some essential oils to ease you into rest. Lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint are really soothing, and can even help with sinus issues or congestion.

Final Thoughts

Emotional exhaustion or feeling emotionally drained is a by-product of something in our everyday life that is misaligned – be it work, play, family, or anything in between. It’s essential to narrow down the root cause, and re-evaluate how you spend your time, how you prioritize your work, and how you treat your mind-body-spirit connection for optimal well-being.

More Self-Care Tips for You

Featured photo credit: Nik Shuliahin via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

Reference

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