Last minute unexpected events, daily commitments, tensions, frustrations, sadness, anger and a sense of helplessness… We are a kaleidoscope of emotions. However, drop by drop the "vase of emotions" is filling up. When we don't make sure we empty it, these negative affective states can overwhelm us. In fact, when we feel about to explode or are so tense that everything irritates us, it is likely that it is due to emotional exhaustion.
Encapsulated emotions, unsatisfied lives
When we feel exhausted and mentally saturated we have to stop, take a break along the way to find our balance. But we don't always give ourselves this opportunity. We often ignore the signs of fatigue and emotional saturation. We go a little further. Always a little more. Until we have reached the verge of collapse, on the verge of touching bottom emotionally.
In fact, emotional exhaustion occurs when we do not allow ourselves the opportunity to express our worries, tensions and negative affective states. If we keep all that anguish, frustration, anger or sadness within us, those emotions will continue to grow, feeding on each other.
Repressed emotions do not disappear, they hide in our unconscious and from there they continue to exert their influence, determining our behaviors and our decisions. As a result of the inner tension, our nerves surface and we become hyper-reactive. The slightest setback bothers us. The slightest problem puts us in a bad mood. We begin to feel tired of everything and everyone because the emotional burden we carry is too heavy.
Emotional exhaustion not only worsens our mood and makes us more irritable, it can also lead to a real mental breakdown. When emotions take over, we find it difficult to think clearly. Emotional chaos is transferred to the cognitive sphere. Therefore, we feel mentally blocked, it is difficult for us to pay attention and concentrate, remember things and solve problems.
Furthermore, emotional exhaustion also ends up overloading our organism. Muscles, joints and vital organs are affected as they are constantly bombarded with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. That is why it is not unusual for repressed emotions to end up manifesting in the body through various ailments and diseases.
Recognize, accept and express emotions
We live in a society that deeply represses all that is natural and instinctive. For decades, emotions have been considered an unwanted travel companion that we must subdue with reason. The idea has been conveyed that emotions are an impediment and disorient our "inner compass", when in reality the opposite is true.
Emotions are not our enemies, they are deep signals of our being that tell us that something we like or dislike, is good for us or, on the contrary, harms us. Emotions are the connecting point of our deepest self with the environment. Therefore, to deny them is to deny ourselves. To suppress them is to suppress ourselves.
“What you deny submits to you. Everything that happens to us, correctly understood, leads us to ourselves ”, wrote Carl G. Jung. So instead of running away or repressing emotions, we need to re-tune into them. We must learn to recognize their signals and understand the message they want to convey to us.
To do this, we need to voice our emotions when they ask us. If we don't allow them to express themselves, they will end up building up and generating unnecessary psychological tensions. Instead, we need to integrate them into our lives and give them back the place they deserve.
To do this, it can help us to make a list of the problems we are facing right now and to write down the emotions and feelings we have about each of our worries or obligations. This will help us understand our reality from a different perspective. It will allow us to move away from the rational narrative that we weave - many times by resorting to defense mechanisms such as rationalization - to build a richer and more complex vision that comes from our deepest self.
Not obsessing, the key to avoiding emotional exhaustion
At first glance it may seem like a contradiction in terms. But it isn't. We need to know when it's time to reconnect with our emotions and when we are obsessed with them. In fact, emotional exhaustion is closely related to rumination.
For example, how we respond to early depressive symptoms has been seen to have a decisive influence on their duration and intensity. In particular, people who get carried away by their rumination, focusing their attention on its symptoms or possible causes and consequences, will suffer the effects of depression longer than those who choose to be distracted.
Research has shown that people with a ruminative response style are more likely to intensify their depressed mood, increasing the risk of progressing to clinical depression. Furthermore, rumination increases the tendency to make negative attributions, fuels pessimism, and affects our ability to solve problems.
This does not mean that we should forget about emotions, allowing them to build up, but rather that we should not be caught in their vicious circle. Emotional management involves a first moment of attention that must be followed by a second moment in which we let go of those emotions. Indefinitely dwelling on what we are feeling can end up aggravating that pain, anger or sadness. It is like forever crying over spilled milk, feeling pity for ourselves.
Therefore, we must make sure that once we get the message that certain emotions want to convey to us, we let them go. That "letting go" is essential to reset the mind and regain balance. Only in this way will we avoid the emotional exhaustion that makes us feel bad.
We can also apply other ways of "emotional decompression". Laughing, for example, is a great way to release negative emotions, as well as artistic activities in which to channel our emotions. These activities are small breaths of fresh air that lighten our emotional baggage to unload the burden and make life much more enjoyable.