How to Prevent Emotional Exhaustion in 2 Simple Steps
You know those times when you’re on edge and unable to focus and you either sleep a lot or can’t sleep at all? There are a lot of reasons we might see these things playing out in our lives; one that seems to show up a lot is emotional exhaustion.
Emotional exhaustion is often caused by long periods of ongoing stress. However, I know personally that it doesn’t have to be that long of a period. And, all people handle stress differently; we should never compare one person’s stress to another’s.
Even if it isn’t specifically diagnosed as “emotional exhaustion,” we know that stress can affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally. How does it affect you?
On a physical level, I hold ALL the tension – mostly in my shoulders/neck and stomach. Usually, I will notice that my whole body is sore after a particularly rough day or days.
On a mental level, I find myself thinking about the situation or stressors almost nonstop.
And, emotionally, I will find myself either on the verge of tears or irritable and “snappish.”
I often think, if only I could get a weekly massage or I wish I had a hot tub. But I know there are ways to avoid becoming drained; we CAN prevent emotional exhaustion.
Some of us try to avoid the feelings that arise from stress in our lives. Or, we try to make ourselves feel better by drinking, eating, shopping, etc.
The other day when I was looking at social media, I got “triggered” by something that my daughter posted. I literally thought to myself, “I don’t even know her anymore.”
That lead to another thought, “I don’t matter.” (This is one of my “go to” thoughts.) And, I got that tightness in my chest and stomach – physical feelings of overwhelming sadness.
Then, I reminded myself that my feelings are generated by thoughts. When I changed my thought to something different, my body loosened up and I started feeling better.
I thought – it might be true that I don’t know what goes on in her life, but I do know that I love her and she loves me, and this is a stage of our lives.
I also purposefully FELT the feelings of sadness in my body and let them just be there.
Both of these intentional actions lead to feeling 100% better. (Read more about feeling better, aka happy, here.)
In the past, I would have dwelled on the thought that “I don’t matter” and it would have affected me physically, mentally, and emotionally, and possibly would have “ruined” my day.
This kind of stress, I could say, was brought on by myself. Things like money, work, health, and relationship stressors aren’t always within our control. But the way we handle or react to stressors IS within our control.
Are you experiencing emotional exhaustion? Or just feeling overwhelmed by feelings associated with midlife? Join me in my pursuit to find peace, purpose, and positivity. Together we can do this!
The stress that leads to emotional exhaustion puts us at risk for health problems. Chronic stress can affect your immune system, heart, metabolism, and overall well-being. In order to prevent emotional exhaustion, the two most important (but SIMPLE) actions to take are:
- Notice Your Thoughts
- Feel Your Feelings
Notice Your Thoughts
Yes, this is harder than it sounds. I can be thinking or dwelling or ruminating for 30 minutes sometimes before I notice. However, since I’ve been practicing mindfulness, it doesn’t normally take that long.
Noticing our thoughts is so important because every thought causes a chemical reaction and that chemical reaction causes a physical response (like rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, nausea, sweating, etc.)
Mindfulness is the key here. It is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and it actually does help in so many ways (read this and you’ll see).
Once you notice your thoughts, you are able to stop the “mindless” thinking, dwelling, and stressing. At that point, you can purposefully change your thoughts. (Remember though, it’s important not to judge or be harsh with yourself for the original thoughts.)
But how? Won’t those thoughts just keep coming back into your mind? They might, yes. But, as you practice mindfulness – which is NOTICING what is going on in the moment – like noticing your thoughts – you can bring yourself back to the moment and back to your intention of thinking differently. And, as you practice this, just like with anything, you get better. It gets easier.
Feel Your Feelings
What does this even mean? Don’t we always feel our feelings? How can we not feel them? Well, a lot of times we stuff our feelings or push them away/out of our minds, so we can avoid any kind of pain or hurt.
However, shoving them down or ignoring them won’t make them go away. They will show up again and next time they will be carrying the “baggage” from the last time.
I’ve talked about this before and I’ve found it to be so true – a feeling only lasts for 90 seconds. American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön teaches that if you allow an emotion to exist for 90 seconds without judging it will disappear.
And, science agrees; Jill Bolte Taylor, in her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, says “Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience.
Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”
So, sit for 90 seconds or so with that feeling. Let it move through you. And you will be able to move on afterwards.
During midlife, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves if we want to continue to be able to do things we enjoy, stay healthy, be active, and take on new pursuits.
Intentionally taking actions to prevent emotional exhaustion can really help.
If you know me, you know I only promote things that are simple to put into practice! I’ve avoided things for many years because I thought it would be too hard, take too much effort, or just not work for me. I’m here to tell you firsthand that these practices are EASY and THEY WORK!
Give them a try and let me know what you think. I bet, after a month or so, you’ll be feeling more relaxed and able to let things roll off your back.
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