Many people are familiar with the concept of physical exhaustion, which happens when a person pushes their body beyond reasonable limits. It usually causes somatic symptoms like muscle weakness, body soreness, lowered immune response, hormonal imbalances, and shortness of breath. However, there’s another type of fatigue that’s not as overt but just as common – mental exhaustion.
What Is Mental Exhaustion?
Mental exhaustion is a perpetual feeling of tiredness that arises from long-term exposure to stressors. Such stressors include feelings of uncertainty, family issues, excessive work commitments, or emotionally difficult events. These stimuli can induce chronic stress, which forces you to stay mentally alert even when you need to rest. It can wear you down and make it difficult to weather life’s challenges.
If you frequently feel tired, it’s crucial to figure out what’s causing your fatigue. This way, you can find healthy ways to deal with the root of the problem and avoid stressors that may trigger it in the future.
Additionally, it’s best to familiarise yourself with the common symptoms of mental exhaustion, so you can immediately spot and address them once they begin to manifest. To help you get started, below are seven signs that indicate a tired mind:
You Regularly Experience Negative Thoughts and Emotions
Mental exhaustion can take a toll on your emotional and psychological health. The stress that causes fatigue can make it difficult to relax and stay positive. As such, you may find yourself adopting a cynical or pessimistic view of life. A constant feeling of dread is another common symptom of this exhaustion. You may also experience a heightened sense of sadness on a regular basis.
Negative thoughts and emotions usually ebb away once you find ways to deal with mental exhaustion, like getting some rest or engaging in relaxing activities. However, if you’ve been experiencing a sense of hopelessness or intense sadness for more than two weeks, you should consult a mental health professional.
You Turn to Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
You may turn to unhealthy vices to cope with the negative thoughts and feelings that arise from mental exhaustion. It could lead to substance abuse, like drinking, smoking, and drug use. However, harmful substances isn’t the only coping mechanism for mental fatigue. Some people cope by engaging in distracting but self-destructive activities like gambling or overworking.
You Have Difficulty Focusing
Mental exhaustion can also make it difficult to concentrate. It is because stress tends to overload the brain, affecting how it processes information. You may get overwhelmed by simple tasks or find it challenging to complete them. A lack of focus can also cause you to get easily distracted or zone out. It may be dangerous in situations that require quick thinking or reflexes, like when you’re driving a car.
You’ve Lost Your Motivation or Interest
Life may seem like it’s lost its lustre when you’re mentally exhausted. You may feel like you’re simply going through the motions when engaging in daily activities. It may manifest as a lack of interest in the things that once brought you joy or pleasure, such as your hobbies.
You Feel Irritable, Moody, and Annoyed
Mental exhaustion can cause irritability and mood swings, as you have little energy to practice empathy or patience. You may find yourself feeling angry or annoyed at small things. It could cause you to lash out at colleagues or loved ones, putting strain on your professional and personal relationships.
You Struggle to Maintain a Healthy Sleep Pattern
An irregular sleep pattern is a telling sign of mental exhaustion. If your mind is occupied with negative thoughts, it may be difficult to fall asleep. It could start a tiresome cycle, as a lack of proper rest can worsen symptoms of mental exhaustion.
Conversely, oversleeping can also be a symptom of mental fatigue. If you have trouble waking up, this may be a sign of tiredness that goes beyond the physical. However, it’s worth noting that even with enough sleep, mental exhaustion can still leave you feeling tired.
You Often Experience Inexplicable Body Pains
While mental exhaustion mostly affects your mood and brain functions, it can also cause physical ailments. You may experience inexplicable body pains such as headaches, backaches, and muscle soreness. Mental fatigue can also cause an upset stomach or digestive tract issues, which could lead to a loss of appetite.
As shown in the list above, mental exhaustion can manifest as physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms that affect your overall well-being and relationships. While this fatigue may seem insurmountable, it is not incurable. It is why it’s important to practice self-care by getting rest and prioritising a work-life balance. A few lifestyle changes, a solid support system, and perhaps some professional assistance from a therapist or doctor, you will be able to find ways to stay resilient during stressful situations.