What are the causes and consequences of mental exhaustion?

When we live high levels of stress for a long time, mental exhaustion and its consequences for health come. We tell you more about it.

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 10 September, 2022

Not only the body gets tired. The mind, if subjected to too many demands for a long time, also becomes saturated. When this happens, we stop performing adequately, our mood and our relationships are affected, and we lose quality of life. This mental exhaustion is present in a large part of the population, so it is imperative to learn to recognize it and address it properly.

This state of stress, overflow and exhaustion is so common that we can normalize it. How can we not feel tired and irritable with the pace of life we ​​lead? Nevertheless, the health consequences of remaining in this dynamic can be devastating. From obesity, headaches or heart problems to a wide variety of diseases related to a weakened immune system.

If you suspect that you are reaching the limit of your mental and emotional possibilities, that your body asks you to calm down, we invite you to continue reading.

What is mental exhaustion?

Children can also suffer from mental exhaustion.

mental exhaustion It is a state of psychological exhaustion that a person reaches after having been subjected to high levels of stress. in a prolonged way. Let us bear in mind that stress appears when we value that environmental demands exceed our resources to face them. In this way, mental exhaustion arises, we feel that we have been dragging an overexertion for a long time and we no longer give more of ourselves.

As we said, identifying that we are psychologically exhausted is not easy because we have normalized these types of states. Still, these are some of the symptoms that appear and to which we should pay attention:

  • Large difficulty concentrating and paying attention. The mind is scattered and there may be frequent forgetfulness and distractions.
  • Alterations in sleep and appetite. Insomnia may occur or, conversely, an excessive need to rest. Similarly, the person may feel that his stomach is closed or, on the contrary, eat much more than necessary.
  • The mood is often irritable, impatient, and even aggressive sometimes. Any small difficulty overwhelms us and takes us out of our center because we are already at the limit.
  • Apathy, reluctance and demotivation appear. We no longer enjoy everyday things or spend time with the pleasures and interests that we once had.
  • It is common for them to arise physical symptoms such as migraines, muscle spasms, palpitations, or digestive problems.
  • If the situation is prolonged, the risk of suffering increases. anxiety and mood disorders.


Why does mental exhaustion occur?

Work is one of the main causes of mental exhaustion, along with personal or family financial situation.

Mental exhaustion has various causes and. in most cases, several of them converge. If it occurs in children and young people, the academic requirement may have a lot to do with it.

A heavy homework and study load, difficulty understanding and progressing at the expected pace, or an excessive focus on grades can take their toll. Similarly, if the daily routine is full of activities (academies, extracurricular activities, workshops…), the mind can become saturated.

In adults, work is one of the main sources of stress. Excessively long working hours, high demands in the workplaceassuming too many tasks and responsibilities, and not disconnecting when finished are some of the most important points.

To all this, we must add a possible economic instability which also takes its toll on emotional health. If we are not sure that we can keep our job or the salary is not enough to cover the needs, the mental load of worries is continuous.

On the other hand, personal relationships can also contribute to this situation. Yes we live in tense environments, with constant conflicts with relatives or our partner, this overloads us emotionally. This mental exhaustion can appear even more, if we have a sick relative in our charge. The well-studied “caregiver syndrome” generates a burnout which is devastating.



Finally, it is worth mentioning that it is not always the real events that overwhelm us, but our own way of managing them. There are people who live extremely anchored in the past or constantly anxious about the future, that have made worry an inseparable companion. It is important that we know how to take care of and regulate our thoughts and emotions because, otherwise, we will be significantly increasing our mental load.

How to overcome this dynamic

As we have seen, mental exhaustion sooner or later takes its toll on physical and emotional health. Thus, if you have been identified in the above situations, we propose some steps you can take to start taking care of yourself:

  • Reduce, as much as possible, your daily workload and obligations. There are certain unavoidable aspects but, in other cases, learning to delegate, ask for help and trust others can liberate us enormously.
  • Set aside time for leisure and enjoyment each day. Prioritize this space as much as you do your obligations. Dedicate this time to taking care of yourself, that hobby that you like so much, to chat with your friends or simply to take a relaxing bath or read a good book. Rest, fun and silence are as necessary as work.
  • Look for a practice that helps you calm down, to disconnect from abroad and to reconnect with you. It can be through meditation, breathing exercises, a sport or a dance class. If this chosen activity is part of your routine, it will help reduce your stress levels.
  • Learn to take care instead of worrying. Avoid falling into mental rumination and, on the contrary, take the actions that are in your power to improve a situation.
  • Take care of your life habits. Although it may not seem like it, a healthy diet is essential for the body to obtain all the necessary nutrients and to be able to function properly on a physical, cognitive and emotional level. Likewise, flee from a sedentary lifestyle and try to move more. And, finally, take care of your sleep and rest every day the necessary hours. Again, do not see this as an option but as a commitment that you have to make with yourself.

Finally, if the above guidelines are not enough, or if you are not able to carry them out on your own, contact a professional. If we don’t make adjustments, stress and mental exhaustion only increase and their detrimental effects accumulate. Seek help to learn to manage your time and your thoughts in a better way.

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