Mental Exhaustion: Symptoms, Signs, & 11 Ways to Overcome

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25 February 2024

7 Mins

Are you feeling tired all the time and it feels like you need a break from everything? If yes, then you might be experiencing mental fatigue.

These days, we all feel mentally tired at some point because of life's uncertainty, stress, and busyness. But being tired all the time can cause problems in our personal and work lives.

Let's talk about how feeling mentally tired affects us, what signs to look out for, and how we can feel better again.

What is Mental Exhaustion?

Mental exhaustion, or mental fatigue, is a feeling when your mind feels extremely tired and worn out from too much thinking, stress, or emotional strain. It's like feeling drained and low on energy, and it's more about your mind feeling tired than your body.

Mental exhaustion can make it hard to concentrate, lead to feelings of irritability or frustration, and even affect your decision-making abilities. It can also result in physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and disturbances in sleep patterns.

It often happens when you have been dealing with a lot of stress or intense emotions for a long time without giving yourself a chance to rest and recharge. For example, if a student is preparing for exams and is studying for long hours, it can lead to difficulties in concentration, mood disturbances, and fatigue.

Not only does mental exhaustion affect how we work, but it also impacts our relationships with others. When we are mentally exhausted, we feel more irritable or impatient, leading to arguments or misunderstandings with family, friends, or coworkers. Due to this, we can have less patience for things that usually wouldn't bother us as much.

Mental Exhaustion Symptoms & Signs

Mental exhaustion usually includes a variety of symptoms. Some symptoms can be moderate, such as mild mental fatigue, which you may not notice initially. However, other ones can appear suddenly and can impact your emotions and wellbeing right away.

Emotional symptoms related to mental exhaustion

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Persistent sadness or moodiness
  • Increased irritability or frustration
  • High level of anxiety or worry
  • Feeling emotionally drained or numb

Physical symptoms related to mental exhaustion

  • Fatigue or low energy levels
  • Headaches or body aches
  • Digestive issues, such as stomach pain or nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleep patterns
  • Weakened immune system, leading to frequent illnesses

Behavioral symptoms related to mental exhaustion

  • Decreased motivation or productivity
  • Withdrawal from social activities or relationships
  • Increased reliance on substances like caffeine or alcohol
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Avoidance of responsibilities or tasks

If you notice any of the symptoms, it is best to consult a psychologist or mental health expert so that you can get into the root cause and find solutions to overcome the issue.

7 common causes of mental and emotional exhaustion

If you are in a high-stress environment, like a demanding job, a challenging academic program, or a chaotic family situation, you might experience mental exhaustion. If you do not have enough support, healthy coping mechanisms, or stress management skills, you are more likely to develop symptoms of mental fatigue.

Here are some possible reasons behind your extreme mental tiredness:

  1. Chronic stress: When you deal with lots of stress for a long time, like pressure from work or tough situations in life, it can wear you out mentally.
  2. Working too much: If you are working all the time without breaks, it can lead to burnout, leaving you feeling drained.
  3. Dealing with loss or trauma: Going through tough experiences like losing someone you love or facing traumatic events can really take a toll on your emotions.
  4. Not getting enough sleep: If you are not sleeping well or not enough, it can make you feel mentally tired and emotionally drained.
  5. Not setting limits: When you have trouble saying no to people or [setting boundaries, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities.
  6. Unhealthy habits: Eating poorly, not exercising, and not taking care of yourself can leave you feeling worn out mentally.
  7. Negative thinking: Constantly thinking negatively or worrying too much can wear you down emotionally, making you feel exhausted.

It's important to figure out why you feel mentally and emotionally exhausted. By managing stress, taking care of yourself, asking for help, and finding balance in your life, you can start feeling better, stronger, and happier.

How Is Mental Exhaustion Unique From Other Conditions?

Mental exhaustion, although related to different conditions like stress, depression, physical exhaustion, and burnout, has specific characteristics that set it apart from other conditions:

Stress versus mental exhaustion

Stress is typically a reaction to external pressures or demands, while mental exhaustion results from prolonged exposure to stressors without adequate rest or coping mechanisms. Mental exhaustion often involves cognitive fatigue and emotional drain beyond typical stress responses.

Depression versus mental exhaustion

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in or pleasure in activities. Mental exhaustion can accompany depression, but it's more about feeling mentally drained and fatigued than experiencing specific symptoms of depression.

Physical versus mental exhaustion

Physical exhaustion stems from the body's fatigue due to physical exertion, whereas mental exhaustion arises from cognitive tasks, emotional strain, or stress. Physical exhaustion affects energy levels and physical capabilities, while mental exhaustion impacts cognitive functions, emotional well-being, and motivation.

Burnout versus mental exhaustion

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress, often related to work or caregiving roles. Mental exhaustion is a component of burnout, but burnout encompasses feelings of cynicism, detachment, and reduced effectiveness due to chronic workplace stress or high levels of responsibility.

11 Ways to Overcome Mental Exhaustion

Feeling mentally exhausted can be draining and frustrating, but there are ways to manage your symptoms. It's important to address the problem early on because ignoring it can make things worse over time.

Here are 11 effective strategies to help manage and overcome mental exhaustion:

1. Take breaks

It's important to give yourself regular breaks throughout the day, even if they're short. Stepping away from work or stressful situations allows your mind to rest and recover. You could take a short walk, practice deep breathing, or simply close your eyes and relax for a few minutes.

2. Prioritize self-care

Self-care activities are essential for maintaining mental and emotional well-being. Dedicate time each day to activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, listening to music, spending time outdoors, or enjoying a hobby.

3. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment without judgment. Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga, can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and promote a sense of calmness and clarity.

4. Set boundaries

Learning to set boundaries is crucial for protecting your mental health and preventing burnout. Be assertive about your limits and communicate them clearly to others. Saying no to additional responsibilities or commitments that exceed your capacity is not only okay but necessary for your well-being.

5. Get adequate sleep

Quality sleep is essential for cognitive function, emotional regulation, and overall health. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Create a relaxing bedtime routine, avoid caffeine and electronics before bed, and create a comfortable sleep environment to improve the quality of your sleep.

6. Eat well

A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients that support brain function and energy levels. Avoid excessive consumption of sugary or processed foods, which can lead to energy crashes and mood swings.

7. Limit screen time

Excessive screen time, especially on electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers, can contribute to mental fatigue and disrupt sleep patterns. Set boundaries around screen time and prioritize activities that promote relaxation and connection with others.

8. Stay active

Regular physical activity not only benefits your physical health but also has numerous mental health benefits. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, dancing, or cycling, to release endorphins, reduce stress, and improve your overall mood.

9. Seek support

Don't hesitate to reach out to friends, family members, or mental health professionals if you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling to cope with mental exhaustion. Talking about your feelings and experiences can provide validation, support, and perspective.

10. Manage stress

Identify sources of stress in your life and develop effective coping strategies to manage them. This may include practicing time management techniques, problem-solving skills, assertiveness training, or seeking professional counseling or therapy.

11. Practice gratitude

Cultivating a sense of gratitude can shift your focus from negative thoughts and emotions to the positive aspects of your life. Take time each day to reflect on the things you are thankful for, whether it's your relationships, accomplishments, or simple pleasures. Keeping a gratitude journal can help reinforce this practice.

How Can Now&Me Help?

If you need help with burnout, Now&Me is here for you, which is a safe and comfortable platform for people facing everyday challenges and feeling mentally exhausted. On this platform, you can share your feelings freely and chat with therapists and coaches for free and for further help, you can talk to them starting at just Rs 30/-.

Moreover, you will also find helpful articles and guides about mental health to overcome your everyday challenges. And the best part? In our community, you will meet people who genuinely understand what you are going through and are ready to support you.

Don't wait any longer; take the first step towards feeling better mentally and emotionally. Download the Now&Me app today, where understanding and support await you. It's time to prioritize your mental health and discover a community that cares.


Now&Me articles are written by experienced mental health contributors and are purely based on scientific research and evidence-based practices, which are thoroughly reviewed by experts, including therapists and psychologists with various specialties, to ensure accuracy and alignment with current industry standards.

However, it is important to note that the information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individual circumstances vary, and it is advisable to consult with a qualified mental health professional for personalized advice and guidance.

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