I am a firm believer that your work should fill you up rather than deplete you.
Work should be a passionate endeavor that, for the most part, adds joy and fulfillment to your life. It should energize you and give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
I know, I know — maybe that sounds improbable and unrealistic. Work is work. It’s the thing you have to do to pay for what you need and get a few (or a lot) of the things you want.
In fact, for many of you reading this post, work is drudgery. It’s exhausting and leaves you so wrung out that you hardly have time to enjoy the things your income affords you.
I’ve had jobs like that before. I’ve come home from work like a zombie, too tired to do anything except plop on the couch and zone out in front of the television. I’ve awakened in the morning with a low level dread, only to plod through the next work day counting the hours before I could race home.
Even with jobs that I’ve enjoyed, there were periods when I felt so emotionally drained and mentally exhausted that I lost that lovin’ feeling for the work I was doing.
It took me a long time to realize that allowing my work to drag me down wasn’t in my long-term best interest. Work makes up the vast majority of our waking hours.
If we’re exhausted and unhappy at work, then most of our life will be spent feeling exhausted and unhappy. That’s not how I want to live my life, and I’m sure it’s not how you want to live yours.
If you ponder how short life is, then accepting this situation becomes untenable. Think about it for a second. Let’s say you live to age 90. How many years do you have left? Multiply that number by 365 to see how many days you have left.
Do you want to give up any of those days to exhaustion, anxiety, and burnout? Wouldn’t you rather reclaim your life and live it in a way that invigorates you?
If you’re feeling tired and overwhelmed, maybe you think that’s just your temperament or physical constitution. Maybe you think you have a low-level virus, or you need to take vitamins. Maybe you don’t think it’s your job that’s dragging you down.
Here are 10 signs you’re emotionally drained and some ideas for turning it around to feel energized, uplifted, and motivated instead:
1. You dread going to work.
Rather than feeling excited or happy to get up in the morning and begin your work day, you feel a sense of dread or anxiety. The thought of going into work almost makes you physically ill.
This is a huge sign of emotional exhaustion with your job. When you feel completely resistant to even show up at the office, you know that something is wrong.
2. You feel anxious, overwhelmed, or pressured on the job.
While you are working, you never feel on top of things. It constantly feels like you’re racing against the clock or some deadline. Or perhaps you feel on edge because of expectations about your performance.
You don’t feel secure or confident that you are pleasing your boss or meeting specified goals.
You might feel overwhelmed because you have more on your plate than you can realistically handle, and you don’t have the support you need. Or you haven’t figured out how to delegate or say “No” to requests for your time.
3. The people around you drain or annoy you.
If you don’t surround yourself with people you respect and like, then you are bound to feel exhausted and unhappy. When you feel unappreciated or disrespected, it creates a wave of negative feelings that can impact your work performance and overall feelings about your job.
If your boss is difficult, if you have staff members who don’t pull their weight, or if you deal with clients who treat you badly, then you’re expending emotional energy just trying to deal with these personalities.
4. You’ve lost motivation for your daily duties.
When you’re emotionally drained, you find that very little excites you anymore. You just don’t feel much motivation to focus on your projects or tasks, except the negative motivation of being reprimanded or losing your job.
Even activities that you once found enjoyable now feels like a struggle. You have to force yourself to get tasks done, and sometimes you do it so half-heartedly that it doesn’t meet the standards you set for yourself or the expectations of your employer.
5. You stop caring about excellence.
If you were one someone who always demanded excellence from yourself and those around you, then then your lack of caring about it is a huge red flag.
You might still get the job done, and maybe others don’t notice the things falling through the cracks, but YOU notice and can feel yourself slipping.
You just don’t have the energy to push yourself anymore.
6. You get sick more often or have unexplained physical symptoms.
Our bodies have an interesting way of revealing what’s going on in our emotional worlds.
If you’re feeling emotionally and mentally drained, your body will respond with a weakened immune system and physical symptoms that have no medical diagnosis.
You may get so tired and run down from your work that you catch frequent colds and viruses, have regular headaches and intestinal problems, or you get the classic stress-related ailment — an ulcer.
Sleep disorders, like trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night, are also signs of emotional distress.
You might also slipped into a depression or an anxiety disorder that makes it nearly impossible to function at work.
7. You come home from work too tired to do anything.
When you get home from work, do you feel inspired to go exercise, spend time with friends, or focus on a project? Or do you feel so exhausted and burnt out that you just want to eat something and veg out until bedtime?
If you consistently feel exhausted, even from a normal day, and have no motivation to do anything, then your job is definitely depleting you.
8. You’re personal relationships are suffering.
Maybe you try to hold it all together when you’re on the job. You try to be polite to a rude client and hold your tongue when your boss acts like a jerk.
But when you come home, your spouse, children, and friends take the brunt of your frustrations and fatigue. You snap at them, neglect the relationships, or spend your free time complaining about your career.
You’re noticing that the internal pain you’re feeling is negatively impacting your connections with the people you care about.
9. You can’t escape feelings of stress, even at home.
It’s one thing to feel stressed-out and overwhelmed at worked, but your home should be your sanctuary where you can unwind and feel calm.
However, if your stress is so constant that you feel it once you’re home, then it’s clear you’re burning out. When stress gets to be overwhelming, it feels impossible to calm yourself down and relax.
You always feel on high alert, with the fight or flight anxiety that simply exhausts you.
10. Your mind is filled with negative thoughts about your work.
One of the side effects of constant stress is repetitive thinking. Your mind latches on to all of the worries, frustrations, and anger, and it loops over and over again to the point that you can’t stop thinking about it.
You go to bed thinking about your work problems. You might wake up in the middle of the night thinking about them, and they are the first thing that comes to mind when you get up in the morning.
All of this ruminating makes you so distracted, it’s hard to focus on the tasks you should be working on.
Are any of these signs familiar to you? Do you think you might be emotionally exhausted at work? If so, here are some important questions to ask yourself to help you figure out a game plan for change.
- Are you emotionally exhausted because of a temporary life or work situation? Is this something that will pass in time, and you just need to wait it out?
- Do you feel like you’re in the wrong career in general? You’ve never felt passionate about the work you do, but you used to be able to push through without feeling exhausted. But now you simply can’t do it any longer.
- Do you have a hard time saying “No” to people who want you to add one more thing to your already full list of projects? Do you bite off more than you can chew because you hate disappointing people?
- Are you a perfectionist who has to perform at 110% all of the time? You feel you can’t delegate or do even the most negligible tasks halfway?
- Do you like the work you do, but you have a boss or associate who is making your life miserable, and you see no change in the offing?
- Have you neglected to address your work/life balance? Are you spending long hours at work, but you’re forgetting to exercise, spend time with family and friends, or eat healthy?
- Do you enjoy the work you are doing, but you feel under-utilized or under-appreciated? Have you been working extra hard to prove yourself, only to see nothing in return for your efforts?
- Is there something else happening in your life that is causing you to feel anxious or depressed, and it is sapping your energy and motivation in your daily activities?
Write down your answers to these questions, thinking carefully about a triggering event or cause for your emotional exhaustion at work. Understanding the reasons why you feel so exhausted, and whether the problem is short term or on-going, can help you craft a solution for moving forward.
If the situation is temporary, then perhaps you can wait it out and let your family and friends know that you need extra support during this time.
If you don’t feel passionate about your work, or you simply know it’s not the right job for you, then it’s time to work on finding your passion and transitioning to a job that is more fulfilling and enjoyable.
If you take on more projects than you are able to handle, think about ways you can kindly but firmly say “No” to requests. Be realistic about how much time each of your tasks or projects take, and communicate that to your boss, clients, and employees. It doesn’t serve anyone for you to exhaust yourself trying to be superman or woman.
If you are a perfectionist, you probably recognize how this tendency causes your exhaustion. Perfectionism is often a symptom of low confidence or low self-esteem. You feel the need to prove yourself by constantly raising the bar. You might consider connecting with a coach or therapist to help break free from the perfectionism trap so you can focus your energy on what is MOST important (which isn’t everything!).
If you feel exhausted by a boss or associate, and you know there is no way the situation is going to change, then it’s time to look for another job. Why waste your valuable time around people who drag you down and deplete you?
If you like your job, but you know you’re spending too much time working and not enough time taking care of yourself, then it’s time to address this head on. No matter how much you like your work, your body and mind need a break. You also need to maintain your relationships. Make a commitment to yourself about when you will leave work and how you can better tend to your personal life.
If your work exhaustion is a symptom of something bigger going on in your life, then now is the time to be honest with yourself and deal with it. Life challenges can become so overwhelming that they impact your ability to do your job. Seek the support and help you need so you have the emotional energy to do your work with joy.