We have all been in situations where we’ve lost control completely and desperately. Such situations require a remarkable amount of emotional strength, which we manage to gather at times, while we tend to feel rather defeated most of the time.
Even having to be strong can be quite stressful. In fact, in a study that was conducted on emotional exhaustion in nurses, who often have to deal with situations of demand, control, and extreme fatigue, researchers discovered some really interesting information on the meaning of this specific type of exhaustion. Hence, we decided to go through the most important things everyone should know about dealing with emotional burnout, so make sure to keep reading until the end of the article to learn how you can cope with and prevent emotional burnout!
1. A simple explanation of what is emotional exhaustion
Being emotionally exhausted comes from feeling overloaded or getting overwhelmed. And unlike what many people think, overworking is not the only cause of emotional exhaustion, which is also called burnout syndrome. Emotional exhaustion happens in a variety of situations, such as in a relationship, during parenting, or in jobs where there’s life at stake. Nurses, for example, tend to take on more responsibility than they can handle and often have to deal with an overload of emotions, which manifests as physical tiredness and a heavy feeling of lack of control over life. Let’s take a further look into the study on emotional exhaustion in nurses that we’ve mentioned earlier.
2. Here’s what the study found
The study was conducted on 96 nurses from the ER and ICU by a team of researchers from the University of Barcelona, led by Dr. Jordi Fernandez-Castro. The team analyzed the way nurses perceived rewards, effort, control, and demands, as well as, measured how the nurses’ perception changed depending on the task at hand. To figure out whether these elements were associated with emotional exhaustion, the researchers used an app that was specifically designed for this purpose; every nurse had to answer four questions linked to reward, effort, control, and demand while doing their tasks. By the end of the study, it was found that fatigue decreased with reward, but when demand was more important, the level of emotional exhaustion always increased accordingly. In other words, the importance of a task and what the task performer gets out of it can both affect workplace fatigue tremendously.
3. What causes emotional exhaustion?
Nurses from the previously-mentioned study suffered from chronic stress because of the nature of their job. However, this doesn’t mean that emotional burnout is linked to certain jobs or people. Anyone can be exposed to emotional exhaustion. Anyone among us can get progressively overwhelmed with negative thoughts, emotions, or feelings to the extent that they can no longer cope with the stress. The feeling of fatigue may escalate throughout the day, especially when dealing with highly demanding tasks, and it can only get a little better when there is a perceived reward (personal or financial) to compensate for it. Besides being exposed to a highly demanding work environment, other circumstances could also bring about emotional exhaustion, such as: Having a chronic illness Being financially unstable Feeling social pressure from your family and/or at school Going through a big change in life (death, divorce, …)
4. Signs of emotional burnout
Although emotional exhaustion can hit silently, you can still detect it by listening to your body and paying attention to certain symptoms, like when you have sleeping problems, depression, headaches, or when you feel more physical fatigue than normal. But keep in mind that certain symptoms have no link whatsoever to exhaustion. In this case, it’s best to seek professional help. What’s more, when suffering from emotional exhaustion, you may also find it hard to focus on or visualize things. So if you suddenly begin to have difficulty concentrating, staying organized, or planning things in your mind, then it’s a strong sign you might be emotionally exhausted.
5. How to recover from emotional burnout
The best emotional burnout treatment is making some effective lifestyle changes to help relieve stress, exhaustion, and discomfort. These techniques might not be as easy as you’d like them to be, but trust us, they certainly will get much easier as you begin forming healthy habits. Introducing these small changes into your daily habits can significantly help you manage your symptoms and even prevent emotional burnout:
- Get rid of the stressor Even though it isn’t always possible, eliminating the stressor is the best way to treat stress. For example, depending on what’s getting on your nerves, you can change your job/company or get transferred to another department.
- Eat healthily You should choose a balanced diet that’s rich in lean meats, whole grains, veggies, and fruits while avoiding processed/fried food and sugary snacks. Eating healthy can improve your digestion, sleep, and energy levels, which, in turn, enhances your emotional state.
- Exercise You can choose any physical activity you like. Even a 30-minutes walk every day can remarkably improve your emotional state and take your mind off your daily problems.
- Limit your alcohol consumption Alcohol may boost your mood, but it’s only temporary and will likely leave you more anxious and depressed than before.
- Get enough sleep Making sure that you get enough good sleep every single night is a crucial part of both your emotional and physical wellbeing.
- Practice mindfulness Mindfulness techniques can reduce stress and anxiety as well as help balance your emotions.
- You can try meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, regular walks in nature, or writing down your thoughts and feelings. Whatever works for you. Connect with someone you trust Talking it out can go a long way in relieving you from stress and improving your mood.
- Don’t forget to take a break Take a vacation, go to the movies, treat yourself to a spa day… Just remember that you deserve a nice break every now and then.
- Meet with a professional Along with making lifestyle changes, a therapist can help you work through a stressful period using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy, or applied relaxation techniques…
- Tell us about your own experience with emotional burnout and which method worked best for you.