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5 Signs Of Mental Exhaustion To Look For If You're Psyched Out At Work

9 min read
Published on 14 November, 2022

Do you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed or zoning out amidst work? Do you start to feel like you cannot focus at work, or the day doesn’t seem to get over? If yes, you're likely experiencing mental exhaustion.

Always remember that physical health and mental health goes hand in hand. Just like when you're physically exhausted after an intense workout when your mind is occupied with many things or activities, you can experience mental exhaustion.

You must be mentally exhausted if you feel worn out or extremely tired at work. When you push yourself too hard at work, your mind is bound to display mental exhaustion signs and symptoms.

This article will discuss mental exhaustion in the workplace and what it looks like. It will help you to get a better insight into what to do and how to prevent it.

What Is Mental Exhaustion?

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Mental exhaustion is the feeling of extreme tiredness characterized by feelings including irritability, cynicism, and apathy. It happens when your brain receives too much stimulation or has to maintain an increased activity level without rest.

According to psychologist Sheva Assar, Ph.D., it is a state of little mental fatigue that negatively affects your cognitive process due to prolonged stress. It is a state of being emotionally drained or mentally exhausted due to chronic stress or burnout. However, it is not the same as emotional exhaustion though.

"The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results." -- Tony Robbins

The word mental refers to cognitive skills like thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. On the other hand, emotions refer mostly to your feelings and ability to process, identify and express them.

But you can experience both mental exhaustion and emotional exhaustion at the same time. Both can leave you detached from reality and trigger you unmotivated, unpathetic, and trapped.

Again, you might confuse stress with mental exhaustion, yet another different theory. Stress can cause mental exhaustion but is not necessarily the only cause behind it. Everyone experiences stress, and it's natural for the human body to react to new overwhelming situations.

However, suppose your stressors or challenges continue for a long period of time. In that case, they can interfere with your body's natural defensive processes and lead to mental exhaustion.

Suggested Read: 10 Means to Raise Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace

What Causes Mental Exhaustion At Work?

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Mental exhaustion can happen to anyone at any time, especially at work, where there are a lot of stressors. Workplace stress is inevitable and can get triggered due to many factors like job dissatisfaction or workload pressure.

Long-term stress can cause exhaustion and mental fatigue. Although many confuse depression, anxiety, and stress as mental exhaustion, those are just signs of it. When they all accumulate, you experience total physical and mental exhaustion.

Stress at work can take many forms. A high-demand, risk-oriented job may cause poor management or difficulty managing tasks and priorities.

No matter the reason, leaving work at work is not always possible. Workplace stress can even lead to burnout if left unchecked. It could spill over into your weekends when your workplace does not prioritize healthy boundaries and work-life balance.

Here are a few more factors that might cause mental exhaustion at work -

  • Emotional stress and prevalent negative emotions.

  • Exposure to chronic stress and uncertainty.

  • Difficulty juggling multiple tasks and commitments.

  • Strained relationships both at work and in personal life.

  • Poor self-care.

Suggested Read: How Can Managers Support Mental Health in the Workplace

5 Signs Of Mental Exhaustion At Work

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Work-related stress is inherent, and it often leads to burnout. Burnout at work has become the invisible pandemic often overlooked because of the hustle and grind culture. But the World Health Organization has defined burnout as the tip of the vital exhaustion iceberg. A recent study has shown that almost 23 percent of employees worldwide experience burnout or mental exhaustion at work.

You might be on the verge of burnout if your work requires a lot of time and you have little left for your personal life. If you're feeling exhausted or drained of energy because of work demand and is always in a bad mood, then there's a high chance that you're mentally exhausted.

One of the key factors of mental exhaustion at work is when you feel like you're overextended or exhausted by your work. But here are five more signs and symptoms of mental exhaustion at work to give you a better insight into knowing if you need a break -

1. Counterproductive Work Behavior

"Balance in work is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices." — Betsy Jacobson

When you're mentally exhausted, you feel drained and lack the motivation to do even the most basic work. You might be delaying or postponing the easiest tasks because you're not feeling like doing them. It is because when you're mentally exhausted, you're emotionally drained too.

Long work hours, lack of appreciation, and low job satisfaction can cause mental exhaustion and affect productivity. And when you're exhausted, you're more likely to make erros at work.

Here are a few signs that you are experiencing mental fatigue at work-

  • The tendency to procrastinate increases.

  • It has a negative impact on your ability to work effectively.

  • You might find it difficult to keep focus and solve problems.

  • You might find it challenging to manage your time and work commitments.

  • Finding yourself calling out of work more often leads to work absenteeism.

2. A Reduction In Professional Efficacy

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When you're mentally exhausted, you will lack the motivation to work or communicate with your colleagues. You will find yourself hesitant towards doing the minimum at work.

There is an increased distance between you and your job as you might find yourself delaying or postponing important tasks, improving skills, or even completing projects and meeting deadlines. You're more prone to procrastinate and feel zoned out at work.

Thus, as a result, your professional efficacy can be negatively affected due to mental exhaustion.

Here are a few signs of your experiencing mental fatigue at work -

  • A decline in motivation and productivity.

  • Experiencing apathy and detachment from work.

  • Experiencing brain fog and decreased mental clarity.

  • Having problems recalling and retaining information.

  • Lack of interest or easily distracted from your work.

Suggested Read: 13 Methods To Increase Energy and Motivation At Work

3. Physical Fatigue And Energy Depletion

"Your energy is currency. Spend it well." — Adrienne Bosh

When you're mentally exhausted, it affects your physical health too and can manifest psychosomatically. The stressors at work can accumulate and result in various bodily ailments, leading to body exhaustion, i.e., your body is always stressed out. It can be anything from experiencing sleep deprivation to changing sleep patterns. It can also be your inability to perform productively due to falling sick more frequently.

Here are a few more signs of experiencing physical fatigue as a result of mental exhaustion-

  • Lack of sleep or unable to fall asleep.

  • Experiencing frequent headaches, migraine, and body aches.

  • Experiencing unexplained frequent cold and fever.

  • High blood pressure and irregular heart rate.

  • Bowel irritability and upset stomach.

  • Sense of overall unwellness.

Suggested Read: How Sleep Deprivation Affects Work Performance

4. A Persistent Feeling Or Emotion Of Negativity

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You will also experience other mental health symptoms when you're mentally exhausted. It negatively impacts your mental health as it triggers your sympathetic nervous system leading to feelings of panic, anxiety, and worry.

You're more prone to negativity, and since your thoughts are closely linked to your feelings, you become gloomy when you're not feeling good. You're more cranky and easily irritable and frustrated with your work.

Again, if you see yourself being overly judgemental and critical of your colleagues or harsh about your organization, that might be another sign of you being mentally exhausted.

The following are some more signs of exhaustion causing mood swings:

  • Depression and a tendency to express negativity.

  • Feeling disconnected and isolated from reality.

  • Unable to perform complex tasks or meet deadlines at work.

  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed and having severe anxiety.

  • Feeling of confusion and lack of motivation to do even the simplest of tasks.

  • Strained relationships both at work and in personal life.

  • Not paying attention to your overall wellness and happiness.

Suggested Read : Promoting Workplace Wellness Through Emotional Regulation at Work

5. A Feeling Of Pressure And Overwhelm At Work

"It's also our collective delusion that overwork and burnout are the prices we must pay in order to succeed." — Arianna Huffington

Exhausted employees often cannot handle the pressures of their jobs. If you're mentally exhausted and tired, it can be quite challenging to meet the demands and work on them effectively. You might find yourself feeling pressure to succeed, without time to finish your work or do a good job, or without time to plan for your day and proactively deal with work demands.

Since your work schedule demands more time and energy, so you hardly find any left to meet your personal need or self-care programs. It, in a way, hinders your ability to focus and concentrate at work. Even the slightest tasks might seem like a burden to you, and you get easily overwhelmed upon the thought of its completion.

Here are a few more signs of you being overwhelmed at work due to mental exhaustion -

  • Increased procrastination and avoidance at work.

  • Difficulty meeting important tasks and deadlines.

  • Experiencing burnout and extreme anxiety at work.

  • A feeling of helplessness and a tendency to overthink.

  • Inability to manage daily tasks.

  • Decreased job satisfaction.

Suggested Read : 7 Ways You Can Help Employees Dealing With Work Anxiety

Tips To Prevent Mental Exhaustion

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Overcoming mental exhaustion can be challenging but not impossible. It can happen to anyone, and when you're mentally exhausted, you're on the verge of a breakdown too. It can make even the simplest tasks more challenging and stressful.

However, it takes little effort and awareness to change the patterns, which leads to feeling mentally drained. You can take a few preemptive steps to lower your chances of getting mentally exhausted.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid mental exhaustion at work -

  • Try to manage work work-life balance.

  • Identify and try to eliminate the stressors.

  • Schedule your day to take regular breaks in-between work.

  • Clear up your desk and organize your workspace.

  • Practice gratitude or take part in a gratitude challenge at work.

  • Try to get an adequate amount of sleep.

  • Practice mindfulness or practice meditation at work.

  • Try to reduce your screen time and get outside for fresh air.

  • Try to get out of your comfort zone and do something new.

  • Practice positive thinking and listen to positive affirmations.

  • Make time for self-care and positive distractions.

  • Focus your attention on what you can control rather than what you cannot.

  • Learn to say no. Set up healthy boundaries at work.

  • Keep in touch with your family or colleagues by being more open.

  • Refrain from exhausting yourself with more work. Take some time off if you're feeling sick.

  • Seek out a mental health professional or therapist

Suggested Read: 10 Reasons To Reassure Behavioral Therapy For A Nine-To-Fiver

How Do You Know When You Need Professional Help?

Talking to a therapist or professional help is always a better idea. It would be best if you did not neglect it, as prevention is always better than cure. Therapy is the most effective way to treat mental exhaustion. The following are some signs that you should seek help-

  • Frequent panic attacks.

  • Negative thoughts or self-harming thoughts.

  • Depression.

  • Severe anxiety.

  • More absences or taking sick leaves from work.

  • A sudden outburst of emotions or crying.

  • Lack of attention to self-care or hygiene.

  • Always worrying about losing your job.

Summing It Up

Although it might sound easy to wave away mental health issues at the moment, it can have a deliberate long-term effect on you. Untreated mental exhaustion can negatively affect your overall wellness. It can also hinder both the dynamics of your personal and professional relationships. But even though it might feel overwhelming, mental exhaustion doesn't last forever. It doesn't happen overnight, and you likely won't recover overnight.

However, with support, self-awareness, and professional help, you can begin to overcome mental fatigue and develop habits to help yourself thrive again. Paying attention to your emotional state in all of its nuances and focusing on preventive self-care will help improve your mental health.

I hope this article helped you to get a better understanding of mental exhaustion and how to work on it.

This article is written by Neha Yasmin who is a content marketer at Vantage Circle. A selenophile with a penchant for discovering great meals and drinks. Is a self-proclaimed binge racer with a knack for cooking in her spare time. For queries, reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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