The Signs of Mental Exhaustion
This will be a different type of blog than our previous discussions on the weekly topic. It would be inauthentic for me to write a blog that gives you all the tips and tricks of how I have mastered mental exhaustion. It would be inauthentic because mental exhaustion is the battle I fight every day. So, this post will be about our connective tissue of feeling mentally worn out and how to prevent the ripple of mentally exhausted decision making.
You know the feeling when you get plenty of sleep but still can’t motivate yourself to get out of the bed? Or how about when your mind is stuck in a loop on something that is happening in your life and you can’t, no matter how you try, stop thinking about that loop. Or how about those times when you have so much to do and despite knowing you need to get in motion, you stay stuck only to beat yourself up for not accomplishing anything. Most of us have experienced these moments. Some of us, experience them on a regular basis.
I am one of those people that struggle with the mental loops, the self-critique, feeling like I can’t motivate myself to get to the to- do list. I get paralyzed with indecision over the simplest of daily decisions. I have a lot of physical energy and find ways to push my body through the day. I also believe I am mentally very tough. This mental toughness leads to burn out and mental burn out is a battle for me. In the last few months, when people ask me how I am doing, I found myself answering that “I am good, but I am really tired.” I say it every time I am asked even now after I am cognitive of it. This is one of the many warning signs for me that I am suffering from mental exhaustion. I can’t give great advice on how to prevent mental exhaustion, but I can share that over time I have learned to understand the warning signs of mental exhaustion. Understanding the warning signs for me has helped me ward off poor decision making and kept me from falling into deep depressions when I am overly worn out.
I know that I am starting to lose mental energy when I am struggling to feel grateful. I can mentally turn hard situations into lessons rather easily when my mind is healthy and refreshed. When my mind is overly tired, I skew to negativity in situations very easily. When I am being negative, I get impatient with even the slightest bump in my relationships. The truth is, I am confident that I have written people out of my life during times of mental exhaustion. Maybe these people were meant to be in my life but my ability to absorb the bumps in my relationships disappears with mental energies. Understanding the signs of my mental decline helps me to understand the negative outcomes of these moments in my life and my patience with others is one of the first declines I see. When I feel this coming on, I have developed a strategy to spend a little more time with myself. I must remove myself from anxiety producing conversations and events until I am feeling like myself again. I have yet to prevent this decline in my mental energy, but I have decided to mitigate its impact when I feel it coming on.
Another major symptom of mental exhaustion for me is procrastination. I get to the place where I am doing everything at the last minute or not getting it done at all. The anxiety of having everything done at the last minute only makes the mental exhaustion worse. When I am in a procrastination spin, I beat myself up for not getting in front of the to-do list. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about all the items I need to complete. The whole cycle becomes a spiral. Once again, I haven’t found the cure, but I have learned to prevent the symptoms of a temporary exhaustion from causing more permanent damage. When I am in the procrastination spiral I must become more structured. I start saying no to a few activities I would normally participate in so that I can have time to rest without beating myself up for not getting something done. I must look at my calendar and block off time to get things done rather than letting my days flow more organically like I prefer to. This little trick helps me stay focused when I know I am going to spiral. I also block off time to do nothing. I block out rest time because then there is an item on my to-do list that I get to check off. Also, when I block out time to get things done, I can let go of thinking about it in the middle of the night because I have a plan.
Mental exhaustion happens to all of us and we all have triggers and unwanted consequences as a result. Some of us are mentally exhausted from how busy our schedules are and how much we must remember in a day. Some of us are mentally exhausted because we are overthinkers. Some of us are mentally exhausted because we have people in our life that are taking our oxygen out of our space. Some of us are just mentally exhausted because we can’t get off the self-talk treadmill that we are on every day. Maybe your exhaustion comes from one or all these places. No matter the cause, it’s important to recognize that you are not alone in feeling like you will never find the energy your mind needs to keep you going. Mental exhaustion will come and go like the seasons and it is important to remember that these seasons will end but what we do when we are in the middle of them can be more permanent.
Spend this week reflecting on your own triggers and the consequences you may be paying for the decisions you make when you are in the throws of mental exhaustion. Try to give yourself an out. Write down one strategy you are going to use to combat making decisions in the short term that will hurt you in the long term. The moments that you look back and say, I wasn’t being myself or I am not proud of the person I was being are probably the moments you were suffering from mental exhaustion. Develop a few simple strategies for coping with the inevitable moments where finding the strength to be your best self seems impossible.