Mental exhaustion, believe it or not, is a medical condition that deserves discussion and proper handling.
Extreme fatigue, also known as Mental exhaustion, is accompanied by additional emotions, including indifference, cynicism, and impatience. If you’ve lately experienced prolonged stress, find it difficult to concentrate, or lack interest in activities you often find enjoyable, you may be mentally weary.
Like physical overuse injuries, mental weariness frequently results from misuse. It is harder to pinpoint, although it is more similar to repeated stress disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. The cause of mental and emotional weariness is overstressing your mind, not overworking a particular bodily region.
It is entirely possible to become mentally exhausted, and it happens more frequently than it should. It is inevitable that mental tiredness will occur after a prolonged period of stress or an intensely emotional period. Our minds will eventually show symptoms of mental tiredness if we don’t take sufficient care, just as our bodies do when we push ourselves too hard.
It feels so much nicer to put off doing the dishes or checking your accounts after a long day at work, don’t you think?
What results in mental fatigue?
Numerous factors might lead to mental weariness. However, after prolonged stress, most people experience Mental exhaustion. This is particularly true if the pressures make it harder for someone to think or deplete their resources.
For instance, you might be in charge of finishing a difficult project with many moving elements and compromises. High-level project management abilities and political acumen would be necessary for this (e.g., increased load).
Another illustration would be going on business trips. You would get jet lag if you frequently changed time zones (reduced resources). Numerous pressures involve both more work and fewer resources.
Increased cognitive load results from business travel to a foreign place where you don’t speak the language. Coordinating medical care and deciphering foreign jargon while controlling emotions may be required when taking care of a sick family member (increased load). But you might also be sleeping less (reduced resources). Mental weariness can develop over time as a result of poor self-care, excessive responsibility, and stress.
Common causes of emotional and Mental exhaustion
Although there are several pressures that might leave you feeling mentally spent, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 7 below.
The most frequent reason for Mental exhaustion is this. Your body and brain are constantly on high alert due to chronic stress. This slowly starts to degrade your wellbeing. Compassion fatigue or a lack of empathy can result from prolonged stress. The constant pressure can make it challenging to muster an emotional response.
The human stress response was created to be effective in the presence of immediate stress (think fight-or-flight). It is, however, a considerably less successful response to a persistent, nagging sense of uncertainty. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, regrettably, feeling uncertain has been all too common. As a result, Mental exhaustion is more prevalent than ever.
Stress at work
Many different things might cause stress at work. It can result from a clash of ideals, trouble prioritizing and organizing work, or a high-demand, risky employment. There are some vocations (or study programs) that need a lot of fresh learning. They might also call for analyzing and making sense of a lot of data. Whatever the cause, leaving work at work isn’t always an option. Workplace stress might even progress into burnout if it is not managed. Your tension at work could carry over to your weekends and eventually result in a terrible case of the Sunday frights.
The tension of worrying about a family member is one of the few stressful things. It can be mentally draining to care for young children, ill family members, or elderly parents. Families can cause a variety of difficulties, even if everyone is in good health. Estrangements, conflicts, and divorce tend to follow you into every aspect of your life. In the end, family issues can be a significant contributor to Mental exhaustion.
Juggling several obligations
Many people have other responsibilities on top of taking care of their families; these responsibilities entail specifics, schedules, logistics, and difficulties. You could feel like you’re never “off” when juggling a demanding school or training program, a second job, or a freelance business. You run the risk of losing your mental energy if you can’t or don’t know how to manage your priorities.
Numerous factors can result in emotional stress. The experience is the same regardless of the cause. It might be challenging to unwind when there are persistently bad sentiments, things happening, and circumstances. This cerebral lethargy can easily follow from this emotional depletion.
You won’t get very far if the tank is empty of fuel. It’s simple to put off self-care when you’re busy or feeling low. However, over time, this will have an impact on your capacity to remain calm under pressure. Brain fog could be a complication of a chronic condition like multiple sclerosis or chronic fatigue syndrome. Instead of just getting through it, it’s crucial to practice self-care with great diligence.
Mental exhaustion was researched, and here is what was found.
Don’t just label it laziness; a new study published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology suggests that making judgments that are easier in the short term but worse overall may be a biological regulating mechanism to counteract cognitive weariness.
The author of the study Mathias Pessiglione is the Inserm research director at the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris. “Influential theories suggested that Mental exhaustion is a sort of illusion cooked up by the brain to make us stop what we are doing and turn to a more gratifying activity,” he said in a news release. Mental exhaustion would be a signal that makes us stop working, but for a different reason: to preserve the integrity of brain functioning, according to our findings, which reveal that cognitive work leads to a true functional alteration – accumulation of noxious substances.
In the experiment, 40 participants were given the option of a simple or difficult activity that required them to distinguish letters on a screen for more than six hours. During the course of the trial, participants provided feedback on their levels of Mental exhaustion, and researchers employed magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to track their metabolic reaction.
Then, each participant was given the option of choosing a smaller, more immediate reward that needed less cognitive restraint or a larger, longer-term incentive that required some impulse control (for instance, I can give you $10 now or put $50 in your bank account tomorrow).
According to the study, participants who had to work longer on the six-hour activity were more willing to accept the lesser incentive. Researchers discovered that participants’ levels of glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning, increased with the intensity of their mental processes.
The study concluded that the glutamate accumulation after prolonged periods of focused thought causes a response in the brain that makes it more challenging to use the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that allows us to control our thoughts, leading to decisions that are more impulsive than strategic. After a long day, less deliberate consideration will go into decisions, decreasing the likelihood that glutamate will continue to build up to potentially dangerous levels.
Make sure you aren’t too fatigued before making a big decision or when attempting to keep up with your to-do list, advised study author Antonius Wiehler, a cognitive neuroscientist and postdoctoral researcher at the Paris Brain Institute.
The study also found that it may be challenging for people to assess their level of Mental exhaustion appropriately.
Take breaks and try new things to prevent Mental exhaustion
We must first learn to identify Mental exhaustion in order to learn how to combat it.
According to Phillip Ackerman, a psychology professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, you are less likely to experience Mental exhaustion while engaging in an enjoyable activity than when engaging in an unpleasant one. Ackerman was not a part of the investigation.
He said, “Consider how much more mentally worn out you may feel after 30 minutes reading a textbook than you would if you stayed up late reading a novel.
But Ackerman asserts that if you engage in any activity that requires mental effort for a sufficient amount of time, you will probably become exhausted.
Long periods of difficult thought are sometimes unavoidable, so you have to put out your best effort. In those circumstances, Ackerman said, how you handle Mental exhaustion might make all the difference.
He clarified that feeling tired is not the same as doing worse.
There are three common responses to feeling exhausted: continuing the activity with less effort, concentrating on getting through the difficulty, or pushing oneself to think even more forcefully.
According to him, the first alternative frequently results in a decline in performance because the task is given less focus and effort without a chance to recuperate properly. The third can improve your thinking and focus, but if you have to keep going for a very long period, you run the risk of coming down violently. Over the course of the intense thought timeframe, the second frequently keeps up a similar or even better level of performance, he continued.
In the best-case situation, Ackerman said, people can prevent cognitive Mental exhaustion by scheduling pauses throughout the challenging thinking.
If they involve engaging in a different activity, those breaks might be rejuvenating for a worn-out mind. Changing things around helps refresh a worn-out mind, he said, even if it involves something else that demands effort.
Therefore, it could be beneficial to take a walk outside or play a game of cards with a buddy to break up a long day of concentrated research. Additionally, taking time off may result in even better results when you return to work.
Pessiglione added that genuine rest is also beneficial.
“I would use two tried-and-true methods: rest and sleep! There is strong evidence to suggest that glutamate is removed from synapses while we sleep,” he stated.
What if you wake up already tired?
Almost every night, despite getting seven to eight hours of sleep, you wake up feeling exhausted. How could you be sleeping according to a golden rule so correctly and still feel so off?
A 2015 study found that this gap is frequently brought on by a heightened state of sleep inertia, a circadian process that affects memory, mood, reaction time, and attentiveness after awakening. After first turning off the alarm, some people feel drowsy and perform worse during this time. The effects of sleep inertia often disappear within 15 to 60 minutes, but they can linger for several hours.
Even sleep that seems adequate may not be of high quality.
The more sleep-deprived a person is, the worse their sleep inertia becomes, affecting more complex cognitive abilities like evaluative thinking, decision-making, creativity, and rule usage.
But even if your profession does not involve saving lives or nighttime truck driving, hours of sleep inertia can still have a negative impact on your quality of life.
The first step in dealing with this is to evaluate your sleep using the “two Qs,” according to pulmonary and sleep expert Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. “If you’re receiving a good amount of sleep, the next thing to consider is whether you’re getting a good quality of sleep.”
Dasgupta advised seeking out a sleep expert who can examine you for a primary or underlying sleep condition. However, there are other elements that are more easily changeable that may be obstructing the restorative and recuperative processes, such as memory consolidation, hormone regulation, and emotional regulation or processing, all of which must occur while you sleep.
The president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles’ David Geffen School of Medicine, Jennifer Martin, said that while many conditions can make people feel tired, they may not necessarily make them feel ready to fall asleep.
Anemia, chronic obstructive lung disease, metabolic or thyroid disorders, and chronic pain issues are a few examples.
A routine physical with your family doctor could be “a crucial first step” if you’re experiencing unexplained exhaustion, according to Martin.
You could need more than eight hours of sleep to feel rejuvenated because the National Sleep Foundation also states that healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. According to Christopher Barnes, a management professor at the University of Washington who specializes in the connection between sleep and work, you can try sleeping an hour earlier or waking up an hour later than usual to see if that makes a difference.
Martin explained that if you are inactive, your body can become accustomed to only requiring small amounts of energy, which can cause you to feel more exhausted than you actually should when attempting to carry out routine everyday tasks.
Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of vigorous physical activity each week, according to the World Health Organization, while pregnant women should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic and strengthening activity each week.
We may have different timetables on weekdays compared to weekends, Barnes said. People who work shift-based occupations may see scheduling changes as well.
“To say something like, “Okay, well, it’s Friday night,” is very typical behavior. I can stay up a little later because I don’t have to work tomorrow morning, “said Barnes. Since you have off on Sunday as well, you might stay up later on Saturday night and get to bed earlier on Sunday to prepare for the work week.
But at this point, you’ve quickly rearranged your sleep routine to include a few hours less. Barnes added, “This is very much like jet lag.” That quick reset isn’t really effective.
In order to practice good sleep hygiene, your bedroom should only be used for sleeping and having sex at night. It should also be dark, quiet, and cool.
Limit alcohol and heavy or spicy foods to at least two hours before night, and stay away from caffeine-containing beverages fewer than six hours before going to bed. Both alcohol and certain foods can contribute to digestive problems that inhibit deep sleep and restorative sleep, respectively.
Do you need professional help to fight mental exhaustion?
It’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional. However, it might be challenging to ask for assistance when you’re mentally exhausted.
In the event that you encounter any of the following, get in touch with a professional straight away:
- Fear strikes
- plans and ideas to hurt yourself or others
- hysterical sobbing
- Missing work frequently and perhaps risking your job
- inability to care for your loved ones, even children
- disregard for personal hygiene
These are all signs that your mental health issue can be more severe than just mental fatigue. To start feeling better, you might require professional assistance.
Even though it might seem debilitating, mental exhaustion eventually passes. You probably won’t recover from mental exhaustion in a single night. However, you can start to overcome chronic fatigue and form habits to help yourself thrive once more with aid and self-awareness.
Not only is exhaustion physical. Although you might not be aware of it, mental and emotional stress can also make you feel exhausted. Make a call to Philadelphia Holistic Clinic if you suspect that you could be mentally or emotionally drained.
You can also schedule your appointment online using our secure application here: