In this blog post, we will answer the question “why am I too tired to care anymore?”. We will put our focus on mental exhaustion, that is; the definition of mental exhaustion causes of mental exhaustion, symptoms of mental exhaustion and treatment. We will also look at self-help tips for mental exhaustion.
Why am I too tired to care anymore?
You may feel too tired to care anymore because of being continuously exposed to stressful situations. Feelings of detachment, demotivation, apathy and feeling trapped can be symptoms of mental exhaustion. The symptoms worsen when you are exposed to extreme stress and your brain is overworking.
Mental exhaustion is commonly confused with emotional exhaustion. There is a thin line between the two and we will define them to get the difference.
It is a state of feeling trapped and stuck due to accumulated stress from your work life or personal life, or both. Emotional exhaustion affects the ability to identify, process, and express feelings. It happens when you are navigating painful feelings like grief, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, and anger.
Mental exhaustion is a state of tiredness that affects thinking, memory, decision-making and problem-solving. Long, intense mental activities wear you out and affect your ability to think, solve problems or regulate emotions. Over time, it causes problems in your daily activities.
Mental exhaustion mostly affects people who work for long hours without breaks, those living with mental conditions, those with overwhelming tasks they deal with daily and those who spend a lot of time thinking through problems that cause stress.
Symptoms of mental exhaustion
The symptoms of mental exhaustion can be divided into physical, mental, emotional and behavioural signs. They include:
Mental and emotional signs
- Being less alert
- Difficulty caring about anything
- Depressive symptoms
- Anger and irritability
- Difficulty processing and managing emotions
- Decreased motivation and productivity
- Slowed movement
- Lack of concentration
- Detachment, cynicism and pessimism
- Stomach upset
- A general sense of illness
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Sleep problems
- Frequent illnesses like flu
- Postponing work at home, school or work
- Decreased performance in activities
- Use of alcohol and other drugs for self-medication
- Isolation and avoiding people
- Absenteeism from work/ school
What is the difference between stress and mental exhaustion?
Everyone experiences stress in their lives. The body reacts naturally to new, overwhelming and scary situations by producing adrenaline and cortisol that help you respond to perceived threats and also help you think faster. Once you deal with the stressor, the body returns to its normal state.
Long-term and chronic stress can lead to mental exhaustion. Mental exhaustion, on the other hand, is related to activities that require a lot of cognitive and emotional effort. This combined with not having time to rest or have a break, triggers emotional exhaustion.
Causes of mental exhaustion
This is the number one cause of mental exhaustion. Chronic stress keeps your mind and body alert at all times, therefore, wearing you off. The constant strain affects cognitive and physical functioning.
The constant thoughts about uncertainty about your future, education, family, finances, etc can cause mental exhaustion. Uncertainties keep us in a ruminating cycle of thinking about “what ifs” and what might go wrong in our lives. This takes a toll on our mental and physical health.
Having a demanding job
People with demanding jobs have little or no time to rest and take care of themselves. Their brains are constantly working and this can cause mental exhaustion. Our minds also need rest to rejuvenate and re-energise.
Worrying about family members can cause mental exhaustion. This especially happens for people with ageing or sickly family members, young children or being the breadwinner of the daily. This is because you are constantly worrying about their well-being on top of worrying about your own health.
Having many commitments
Balancing many activities like school, work, projects, businesses, etc. can cause mental exhaustion in an individual. Not being able to manage your priorities and commitments can take a toll on your mental health.
Losing a loved one
The process of grief takes a toll on one’s mental health. Sometimes grief is accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anger, and depression. Grief also takes time, and this process can accumulate and become mentally exhausting.
Getting a baby
Getting a baby is a blessing, but it can also get stressful. Taking care of a newborn is a full-time job both day and night. It is even more stressful for working mothers who have to juggle between work and caring for the child. This can be a trigger for mental exhaustion.
Living with a chronic illness
Chronic illnesses range from physical illnesses like cancer or diabetes to mental conditions like depression or bipolar. Sometimes, it gets exhausting trying to carry out normal activities when having chronic illnesses. The constant doctor visits, taking medication that might have side effects, and having to deal with relapses and recurring episodes can cause mental exhaustion.
Having to force yourself every morning to go to work that does not give you motivation is exhausting. It could be because of a toxic work environment, feelings of career stagnation, poor work pay, having different values or conflicts with coworkers. These factors cause stress, which over time can gradually increase to mental exhaustion.
What does mental exhaustion feel like?
- Tiredness in the morning
- Indifference towards work, friends and life
- Inability to focus
Side effects of being mentally exhausted
Mental exhaustion over time affects our lives and our day-to-day activities. The side effects include;
- Difficulties in relationships
- Inability to solve complex challenges and come up with new ideas
- Decreased performance at work or in school
- Feelings of isolation and disconnect from others
- Decreased self-efficacy
- Depression and anxiety
- Absenteeism from work
- Missed opportunities
- Increased dissatisfaction with most areas of your life
- Increased physical ailments
- Affects decision-making
- Increased negative emotions
- Not having the resilience to stress
- Not following through with important activities and projects
Treatment and coping mechanisms for mental exhaustion
There are several coping strategies you can do by yourself to help get rid of mental exhaustion or you can seek professional help to treat mental exhaustion. We will discuss the two methods because combining the two ways will help treat mental exhaustion faster.
Lifestyle changes that can help treat mental exhaustion
Take a break
Find some time off your busy schedule and allow your mind to rest and recharge. You can also take a long holiday, create some time for yourself every day, use lunchtime to take a walk or go eat outside the office, or reconnect with your friends by meeting up after two weeks to watch a movie or engage in fun activities.
Get rid of stressors
If you are overwhelmed at work, you can request your supervisors to let some of your colleagues help or you can delegate some duties to other people. If you are having difficulties at home, you can ask friends or family to help with them or if you can, you can hire a professional to help with household chores.
Try to get better sleep
Note that more sleep does not mean quality sleep. Oversleeping can actually worsen the condition. Instead, stick to the regular sleeping hours (around 7-9 hours) which is enough for you to have adequate rest.
Quality sleep helps the body to re energize and revitalize and also helps to boost your mood.
Practice relaxation techniques
Set aside a few minutes every day and practice some relaxation techniques. It could be meditation, yoga, guided imagery or breathing exercises. These techniques will help you ease tension and calm down and through this, you can make rational decisions that are not guided by emotions.
Regular physical exercises
Exercises trigger endorphins and adrenaline that keep your body alert and active. They also help in improving memory and improve physical and mental health. Starting exercising when you are feeling down can be difficult.
You can start with simple exercises like taking walks for thirty minutes. You can then increase the intensity of work-outs gradually as you start to improve. Exercise helps in building resilience, and improving moods, and therefore, getting rid of depressive symptoms and anxiety.
Keep a gratitude journal
We tend to have negative thoughts when we are not okay or when we are already feeling down. It becomes very difficult to see anything positive that is happening around us. This worsens the symptoms and sinks you deeper into mental exhaustion.
A gratitude journal will help you write the positive things that have happened during the day, even if it is being able to brush your teeth after two days, or the neighbour’s child smiling at you. When we have a gratitude journal to write, it gives us the responsibility of looking for something positive that is happening around us. This will help you to notice the positive things that are happening and you will start appreciating them.
Meet your basic needs
Eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, reach out to family and friends, and spend some time outside in the sun. These simple things make a tremendous difference in improving our mental health.
Look for alternatives
Sometimes we cannot have solutions to deal with all our stressors. We have to seek for other alternatives to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. If your workplace is too stressful, you can look for an alternative job or, if possible, you can ask your supervisor to shift you to a new working station/ department.
You can look for a nanny to help you take care of the house if you are a new mom, or if it is possible, you can take your ageing parents to a geriatric home.
Your psychiatrist can prescribe medication for you that will help relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. You might also be given antidepressants to help boost your mood and be able to get better sleep.
A therapist will help you identify the negative thought patterns that are causing or triggering your mental exhaustion and also help you find better coping mechanisms for stress. You can also involve a doctor to help treat the physical symptoms present.
This blog has provided you with useful information about mental exhaustion, its causes and symptoms. We have then discussed what mental exhaustion feels like and various warning signs of mental exhaustion.
Finally, we have discussed treatment and lifestyle changes that will help get rid of mental exhaustion. Please feel free to comment on the content or ask questions in the comments section below.
Frequently asked questions: too tired to care anymore
What does emotional exhaustion feel like?
People with emotional exhaustion feel like they are stuck and that they have no power to control what happens in their lives.
How do you know if you are mentally tired?
You start to lose interest in activities, isolate yourself, feel helpless, and become moody, irritable and pessimistic. You also lack the motivation to do anything in your work or personal life.
Why do I struggle to take care of myself?
Many people struggle with self-care because they are busy taking care of other people’s needs, problems, and feelings at the expense of their own.
Longhurst A. S., Raypole C. (March 3, 2022). How to treat and prevent mental exhaustion. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-exhaustion#prevention
Campbell A. C. (January 6, 2022). Overcoming mental exhaustion: causes, symptoms and how to cope. Retrieved from https://www.betterup.com/blog/mental-exhaustion
Vlillines Z. (August 4, 2020). Symptoms of mental exhaustion and tips to alleviate it. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/mentally-exhausted