Written by Amy Beecham
Exhausted? Overwhelmed? All of the above? Why are we so reluctant to talk about how tired we are?
If someone were to ask you right now how you feel – how you really feel – what would you say?
Fine? OK? As well as can be, considering it all? Or perhaps teetering on the edge, confused, scared, anxious and everything in between.
In a recent Instagram post, New York-based therapist Divya Robin (aka @mindmatterswithdiv) set out five types of fatigue that so many of us are experiencing but not talking about, including helper fatigue, mood fatigue, future fatigue and compassion fatigue among them.
“A gentle reminder that fatigue shows up as a result of many things – and to always put your needs first,” she wrote in the caption. “That may look like saying no, showing up but doing the minimum or whatever else that looks like for you.”
According to Lara Waycot, a BACP registered therapist, these experiences can be widely grouped into two types of exhaustion: mental and social fatigue.
With the return to the office, a backlog of celebrations that were postponed due to the pandemic and yet another ‘revenge summer’ to be had, it’s no wonder that while we might look forward to these events, the sense of requirement to socialise can leave us feeling overwhelmed and drained of energy.
Mental fatigue, Waycot says, can manifest from the sense of pressure we put on ourselves, either at work, in our friendships or in relationships. Solving problems at work and being a supportive partner as well as an open ear for any woes leaves little time for ourselves and can lead to us feeling like we’re pouring from an empty cup, something we know is never good.
“We can get to the point of exhaustion where we feel stuck and as though we have no choice but to keep moving forward, whether that is with social engagements or work commitments,” she tells Stylist.
“We can easily fall into distorted thinking patterns whereby we believe that other people would be able to manage the level of stress we are experiencing. And the fact we feel overwhelmed means there is something wrong with us,” Waycot explains.
“It may be that this exhaustion has risen because we are always seeking to exceed the expectations of others and so communicating that we are struggling would conflict with how we want to be perceived.”
It’s true. Even when there are so many ‘valid’ reasons for us to be out of sorts, we still downplay our feelings, as if there is a hierarchy of struggle that our “first world problems” fall at the very bottom of.
However, as Waycot highlights: “Recognising that your wellbeing is important and prioritising yourself is not selfish.”
“If mental or social fatigue is something you experience often, it is helpful to start to track how and what causes this so you can begin to learn and understand how it plays out and what helps to bring you back to a more grounded state.”
How to check in with yourself if you’re experiencing emotional fatigue
Waycot’s best tip? Get back to basics.
“Reassess your commitments, diet, sleep routine and how much movement you are getting,” she explains.
“When we become so emotionally exhausted, these basics that keep us healthy are easily neglected and are incredibly important to our overall wellbeing.”
“Beyond this, it is helpful to reach out to your network. We can find ourselves withdrawing from others when in fact making connections with others and sharing is important to help us see the bigger picture and decrease the tunnel vision that we may be experiencing. And finally, speak to a qualified professional such as a therapist.”
“Prevention is always better than cure,” she concludes. “The earlier you recognise that you are experiencing emotional fatigue, the easier it will be to manage.”
Lara Waycot is currently taking part in BACP’s Therapy talks campaign aiming to demystify therapy.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’s list of mental health helplines and services.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.
For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected] In a crisis, call 999.
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