Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How to Deal With Emotional Burnout

Learning to deal with emotional exhaustion effectively.

Source: Pixabay

There are different types of burnout. Emotional burnout and occupational burnout are the most common while social burnout is common amongst introverts. This post will focus on emotional burnout because all kinds of burnout center on the unpleasant emotions we feel because of a particular situation.

Emotional burnout is a state in which one feels worn-out mentally because of accumulated stress from a situation in their personal life. It could be work-related, school-related, relationship related or it could be related to any other aspect of your life. Burnout can be very exhausting to experience. It affects how we function and how we interact with other people. It can be that itch at the back you can’t reach but it is there nonetheless.

Anyone can be at risk of experiencing emotional burnout but it is most common amongst people with demanding jobs, care-givers, people going through a major life change such as a loss of a loved one, living with a chronic illness and financial stress. The list of life challenges is endless. People who are facing major life challenges are at high risk of emotional burnout.

It is therefore essential to know how to deal with emotional burnout because it can happen to anyone at any stage of life.

Effects of not dealing with emotional burnout

Before talking about dealing with emotional burnout, it is important to talk about the effect of emotional burnout on mental and physical health if we do not deal it with. Below are several effects that emotional burnout has on your health.

  • Unhealthy release of stress hormones. Stress hormones are very important in helping us detect threats in our day-to-day life. They even motivate us to take action to eradicate the threat. When the threat resolved, the body goes back to its normal functioning state. However, a continuous release of stress hormones is bad for your health because stress hormones put the body in a state to deal with a threat. That means high heart rate, high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels and increased use of energy. Cortisol will also impair other bodily functions that are not useful in a fight-or-flight situation and this means a continuous release of the hormone will interfere with the digestive system, immune system, and reproductive system.
  • Physical ailments. Because the body is continuously on fight-or-flight mode, emotional burnout can cause a change in eating habits, change in sleeping patterns, digestion problems, weight loss or weight gain, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and headaches.
  • Challenges in social interaction. Emotional burnout may also result in failure to interact well with loved ones and coworkers. This is because of certain feelings that the individual is dealing with such as anxiety, depression, apathy, lack of motivation, confusion, low self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness. These feelings may be difficult or confusing to deal with and they interfere with how one interacts with the people around them.

Ways to deal with emotional burnout

Emotional burnout and stress are not the same. Emotional burnout results from accumulated stress over time. When you are going through emotional burnout, you think your situation can not be changed, and you feel stuck. There are a few ways that you can deal with emotional burnout if you are struggling with it.

  1. Acknowledge that you are suffering from emotional burnout. The first stage of every recovery is accepting where you stand. Acknowledge that you are emotionally exhausted and that you are not OK. Most people pretend that everything is OK when it isn’t and living in this denial does not help your situation. Acknowledging the emotional burnout puts you in a better position to deal with it.
  2. Identify why you are experiencing emotional burnout. It could be a single reason or several reasons you are suffering emotional burnout. It is important to take a few minutes to figure out why you are feeling emotional burnout.
  3. Establish solutions to your problem. Coming up with solutions to a problem can be a challenge and intimidating because sometimes you may feel like the problem is too big to solve. It is OK to give yourself time to come up with effective solutions to the problem and trust yourself that you can solve the problem. It is also Ok to seek counsel from loved ones or anyone who you feel can give you the best advice regarding the issue.
  4. Take a time-out. Taking a break can help you refocus the direction in which you are going. We often hesitate to take a time out because we have responsibilities to attend to and deadlines to meet, but it is important to understand that your health comes first above everything else. You are no good for your job or your relationships if you cannot fully give yourself. It’s OK to take a few days off work to recover from emotional burnout, it’s OK to take a break from your social life and relationships to focus on yourself.
  5. Take better care of yourself. While you are recovering, it is vital to put necessary measures in place to allow yourself to fully recover. Listen to your body, get rest when you feel tired, eat when you feel hungry and do activities that elevate your mood such as exercise or watching a funny movie. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and eat lots of vegetables. Spoil yourself with a treat once in a while too. Learn to do things at a pace that you can manage and don’t be afraid to say no if you can’t do something or attend an event.

Emotional burnout in most cases can be avoided if you always take measures to care of yourself. Do not overwork yourself, be kind to yourself and your body, be a better communicator and love yourself enough to put yourself first always.

More from Sarah-Len Mutiwasekwa
More from Psychology Today