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  • Writer's pictureDr. Julia

Mental Exhaustion Symptoms

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

How to know when mental exhaustion symptoms are present so you can take action

Exhausted. Distracted. Emotionally drained. Unmotivated.

Sound familiar? You may be experiencing mental exhaustion symptoms.

Once mental exhaustion takes hold, it impacts, well, everything.

Our productivity.

Our mood.

Our social interactions.

And more.

Address mental exhaustion by learning:

1) Reasons for mental exhaustion symptoms

2) Symptoms of mental exhaustion

3) How to cope

mental exhaustion symptoms

Mental Exhaustion Symptoms: Common Causes

Mental exhaustion is usually characterized by feeling tired and fatigued, irritable, apathetic, or low energy mentally. This tends to be the case even after proper sleep.

There are many reasons for mental exhaustion, but it often originates from experiencing high levels of stress and overexerting or over stressing the mind.

Experiencing high levels of stress or intense emotions regularly, especially if we are not coping well, can lead to mental exhaustion.

Mental exhaustion shares symptoms with burnout and both are often caused by high or poorly managed stress. However, burnout usually refers to exhaustion related to the workplace specifically, while mental exhaustion can be related to the job or any other areas of life.

Common causes of mental exhaustion:

Chronic or Long-Term Stress

While stress is a natural part of life, chronic stress or stress that is not well managed can result in mental exhaustion. When stress is high, this causes the body’s activation system to work much harder. It also causes a series of cognitive changes that can fatigue us more quickly.

Because chronic stress causes the mind and body to be on high alert more frequently, chronic stress is one of the top reasons for mental exhaustion.

High Cognitive Demands

If there are many demands on us cognitively, this can also lead to mental exhaustion. This often is related to stressors in our lives that require a high level of concentration, attention, and other cognitive abilities.

This might include regularly completing challenging projects without a break, having to problem solve big issues in the workplace or at home, or having to perform in challenging environments, such as working in a different time zone or having to travel to an unfamiliar country.

Work-Life Balance Issues

A common cause of mental exhaustion is poor work life balance, or poor balance in life in general. Many people find themselves working extreme hours, with little time for other things.

Or, some might find it difficult to balance the demands of work, family life, and other activities of daily living. Having to juggle so many things in modern day society can be exhausting and overwhelming at times.


Uncertainty tends to be a breeding ground for high stress and anxiety. When uncertainty is present, the mind tries to fill in the blanks, often with conclusions that are inaccurate or unhelpful. Uncertainty has been especially high during the pandemic with the constant change. Having to deal with uncertainty within the context of constant change can be mentally exhausting.

Neglecting Self-Care

In our busy lives, taking care of ourselves often falls to the bottom of the list or disappears off the list completely. However, when we are on the go constantly and are not taking time for ourselves, to unwind, and to relax, mental exhaustion is much more likely.

mentally and emotionally exhausted

Common Mental Exhaustion Symptoms

Mental exhaustion may show up in different ways for different people. Mental exhaustion often results in emotional, cognitive, and behavioral changes.

Emotional Changes

When stress is high and we have less time to take care of ourselves, this will always lead to changes in how we experience emotions and how we manage. Those who are mentally exhausted are likely to experience:

· Irritability

· Getting easily annoyed with others

· Quickness to anger

· Low motivation

· Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and down

· Self-doubt and pessimism

Cognitive Changes

Under stress and fatigue, we also experience a series of cognitive changes that may be clues that we are feeling mentally exhausted. Cognitive changes may include the following:

· Distractibility

· Poor attention and focus

· Difficulty with decision making

· Feeling brain fog or cloudy mentally

· Forgetfulness

Behavior Changes

When we are mentally exhausted, we are also likely to experience a change in our behavior. Behavioral changes may include the following:

· Procrastinating or avoiding tasks

· Sleeping more or less than usual

· Eating more or less than usual

· Isolating from others

· Turning to substances to cope

There are many symptoms related to mental exhaustion. As you can imagine (and have probably experienced), these symptoms interfere in our social lives, work life, and in many other ways.

mental fatigue anxiety

How to Cope with Mental Exhaustion

Mental exhaustion is well, exhausting. The good news is, there are many things that can be done to cope with mental exhaustion.

Recognize Signs Early

One of the important ways to manage and prevent mental exhaustion is with early recognition. Identify the symptoms above that apply to you.

What are the earliest signs that you are going down the road of mental exhaustion? Early intervention is one of the most important management tools.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Chronic or poorly managed stress and anxiety is one of the most common reasons for mental exhaustion. Therefore, managing stress and anxiety is crucial for avoiding mental exhaustion. This includes doing things to calm the nervous system, taking time for stress relief and leisure activities, and managing unhelpful thinking.

Improve Work-Life Balance

Competing demands in our work and the rest of our lives can cause mental exhaustion. While balance might not be perfectly equal, finding ways to maximize productivity in the workplace can help individuals leave work at work to transition into the rest of their day.

Schedule Small Breaks

Taking breaks is necessary to allow the mind to relax, reduce stress, and also improve cognitive ability. This can boost productivity, which often improves work-life balance and allows for more time for self-care and leisure activities.


If you're feeling mentally exhausted right now, you are not alone. Mental exhaustion can interfere in our lives in so many frustrating ways. But, it doesn't have to.....

Notice the early signs that you are going down that path, and take action early.

Consider the management strategies discussed today and see where you might make some changes. Managing stress is one of the best general ways to prevent mental exhaustion and cope with it.


Mental exhaustion getting you down? My signature 1:1 coaching program will help you regain your energy, focus, and productivity, asap.

Book a discovery call so we can make a game plan to stop stress and exhaustion from getting in your life, for good.

-----About Dr. Julia

Hi! I'm Dr. Julia. Health psychologist, stress and sleep expert, and creator of the Master Stress Method.

I have worked with thousands of individuals in major hospitals, university medical centers, and primary care settings to improve their stress levels, sleep, and overall emotional and physical well being.

My current focus is helping busy professionals prevent and manage the high stress that is getting in the way of their productivity, mood, sleep, and their ability to reach their full potential.

My 8-week, 1:1 coaching program has helped hundreds of stressed out, overwhelmed, and burned out clients significantly reduce their stress and anxiety, improve their sleep, and maximize their productivity, in just 8 short weeks.

I can't wait to help you stop the struggle with stress, for good. Let's chat :)


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