In March 2020 the english government enforced a national lockdown due to the rise of an (at the time) unknown disease: Covid-19. Now, two years later, after numerous waves and tens of thousands of deaths, we find ourselves reliving moments of unprecedented suffering again. This time, no longer because of the pandemic, which now seems almost under control, but because of a war.
Just as we had begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel called coronavirus, our lives were in fact turned upside down again. Three weeks ago, the whole world woke up with news that it thought, and even desperately hoped, never to hear. Russia invaded Ukraine, declaring war on a Western democracy.
These dramatic, disconcerting and unpredictable events have presented themselves at our doorstep and seem to be prolonging one of the darkest periods of our existence and of our recent history.
Emotionally speaking, the parallels between Covid-19 and the Russian war on Ukraine are very strong: the fear that has conditioned and dominated our lives in the last two years, has today transformed into uncertainty and insecurity. It is difficult to describe our emotions from the beginning of the pandemic till now. The 24/7 news cycle that has been bombarding us with negativity for two years is inflicting deep wounds on our well-being. Sure, our feelings as observers of the conflict are nothing compared to the pain of those in it, but that doesn't mean they are less valid. We are tired, stressed, scared and have almost completely lost faith in the future. The mental distress we experience has a name: emotional exhaustion.
Emotional exhaustion, also known as emotional fatigue, is a state in which one feels emotionally exhausted and drained due to the stress accumulated from one's personal life or conditioned by the events that surround us. Just like the pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
People with emotional fatigue often feel they have no control over what happens in their life. They feel emotionally drained and overwhelmed, to the point that they aren't sure how to get on with their life. They experience a mixture of fatigue, anger, disgust, despair, hypervigilance, anxiety and pain. The more this malaise continues, the less energetic and motivated the sufferer feels.
Emotional exhaustion doesn't occur out of the blue: these feelings tend to accumulate over a long period of time. And, in turn, can have a significant impact on a person's daily life, behavior and relationships.
How to overcome emotional exhaustion
With everything we have on our plates, it’s no surprise that we suffer from some sort of mental exhaustion. The first step to feel better and gain back control of your life is to admit and acknowledge the problem.
For example, learning to operate with greater emotional efficiency and with emotion regulation techniques, such as recognizing your feelings and reappraising stressful experiences, can be really useful. Stepping outside one's own point of view and considering the larger context of the situation will help better understand the circumstances and put things into perspective.
Moreover, experts suggest to make lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms of emotional exhaustion. In order to do so, one can make use of some psychological techniques. They won’t be easy to carry out at first, but they’ll get easier as you begin to form healthier habits.
When possibile, the best way to eliminate emotional exhaustion is to eliminate the stressor. For example, if the work environment is the cause of your stress and anxiety, consider changing jobs or companies. If the current socio-political situation is the source of your exhaustion, try to take a break from the news.
Experts also suggest to keep up with a good, balanced and healthy lifestyle, which means getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy, limiting the consumption of alcol and cigarettes.
Finally, try to focus on what's positive in your life. Embrace joy, do what stirs your heart, rediscover your inner child, spark curiosity and soak up the small moments. There's nothing better than fighting mental exhaustion with feel-good emotions.
Written by Miriam Tagini