Feeling Mentally Drained? Nine Tips For Mental Wellness

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feeling consistently overwhelmed may indicate mental burnout or a connected concern like depression. If you feel your brain is consistently overloaded, there could be several causes, including stress, depression, anxiety, burnout, exhaustion, and sensory overload. Mental exhaustion can have a negative impact on your life, but there are a few steps you can take to increase your wellness and care for your mind and body. 

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Mental exhaustion can develop into a serious condition

What does it mean to be mentally drained?

Mental exhaustion is more than stress. It may leave you feeling physically drained and emotionally exhausted. In addition, it can impact your concentration, ability to sleep, relationships, and physical health. When left unaddressed, it can also lead to mental health challenges like anxiety and depression.

Many circumstances can lead to mental exhaustion. It might build up from untreated chronic stress or burnout. However, for some people, it may come up quickly due to challenging and stressful situations, like losing a job or experiencing extreme sensory overload. Examples of other situations that can lead to feeling mentally drained may include the following:

  • Financial stress
  • Health concerns
  • A high-pressure job
  • Juggling many tasks at once 
  • Challenges at school or work 
  • Family or relationship conflict
  • A mental illness
  • An unhealthy work-life balance
  • Caring for another adult 
  • Being a single parent or doing most of the parenting duties in a relationship 
  • Not having time for leisure 

The catalyst for mental exhaustion is different for each person. Your symptoms are valid if you’re feeling drained but don’t fit into one of those categories. 

Nine tips for reducing mental exhaustion and improving mental well-being 

There are a few steps you might take to reduce mental exhaustion and burnout, including the following. 

Talk to your doctor

Talk to your physician if you’re feeling mentally exhausted and are unsure why. There are physical health conditions that can impact how you feel mentally. It could be that you have problems with your thyroid, anemia, or several other health conditions. 

Talking to your doctor can help you rule out if there’s a physical health condition affecting your energy and mental wellness. Your physician might also recommend strategies you can use daily to cope with mental fatigue. You might be referred to a mental health professional for further support if you do not have a physical illness. 

Reduce sensory input

When coping with mental exhaustion, giving your brain a break may be beneficial. For instance, if your phone’s notifications consistently go off, you might feel pressured to respond or check your social media. An article in Harvard Business Review addressed that keeping your notification on vibrate can distract you from your tasks. Silencing your phone can give you a break from the media. 

In addition, you may benefit from reducing other sensory inputs, like sounds, light, visual stimulation, smells, and touch. Go into a quiet room, turn the lights down, and block out noise. Spending time with yourself without distractions may help you recharge and return to your daily routine in a calmer state.

You might also turn off notifications on apps you don’t need on your phone. For example, social media, email, or shopping accounts may send consistent notifications that fill up your phone and can cause an urge to check your accounts. You can turn these notifications off and view updates and activity on your account when you log in at certain times of the day to reduce mental overload. 

Organize your schedule 

Mental exhaustion can sometimes result from over-committing. Some people may struggle with taking on more than they can take and can start feeling burned out. If you don’t have time to relax or recharge during your day, look at your calendar. See what you have committed to and look for activities to cut out of your schedule. 

If you cannot cut any activities from your schedule, ask yourself why you are taking on so many duties. Is someone in your life not holding their weight? Has your workplace asked you to take more hours? Do you struggle with setting boundaries? These questions may lead you to a potential solution. 

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Exercise

There are multiple ways exercising can reduce mental burnout. When you exercise, there are chemicals released in your brain that boost your mood and increase energy, called endorphins. Exercise may also help you sleep better at night, which can lead to feeling more mentally rested in the morning. Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends you pay attention to what time of day you exercise. Some people struggle to fall asleep if they exercise too close to the time they want to sleep. 

You don’t necessarily require a rigorous exercise schedule to get the benefits from exercise. Going for 30-minute walks in your neighborhood may also boost your mental health. The fresh air can guide you in overcoming mental exhaustion.

Use relaxation techniques

Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing may offer a way to pull away from the busyness of your day and calm yourself physically and mentally. You can practice mindfulness meditation and deep breathing anywhere. If you’re feeling mentally exhausted during your workday, you can sit at your desk and spend a few minutes meditating or breathing deeply to potentially re-energize yourself.

Journal

Journalling can help you release some of your worries of the day. As you see your thoughts written down on paper, you may better organize them and walk away with a clear understanding of any actions you want to take. Keeping all your thoughts in your head can add to the overwhelming feeling. Getting them out onto paper may free up your thought space. If you use journaling to plan your days, this act can keep you from trying to remember information solely in your mind. 

Improve your time management skills

Along with cleaning up your calendar, working on time management skills may be helpful if you regularly deal with mental exhaustion. Not knowing how to organize your time effectively can make you feel you’ve taken on too much. 

Identifying common time wasters in your day, such as scrolling through social media or checking emails multiple times a day, can help you get more work done in a shorter amount of time. You may be able to download an app that helps you track your goals. Some apps offer games or creatures you can take care of to complete your goals. These apps may be beneficial if you like being rewarded for changes. 

Get enough sleep 

Feeling physically or mentally rested can be difficult if you’re not getting proper sleep at night. Too little or too much sleep can impact your physical and mental health.

If you’re struggling regardless of what you try, you can talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to work on addressing the root cause. Sleeping in a dark room with a cool temperature may help. Using white noise can also help you to fall asleep and stay asleep by blocking out other sounds that might make sleeping difficult. 

Getty/AnnaStills
Mental exhaustion can develop into a serious condition

Talk to a therapist 

Mental exhaustion can sometimes indicate an underlying mental illness, extreme burnout, or chronic stress. In some cases, it can lead to mental health conditions. Talking to a therapist may offer support and guidance if you’re struggling to handle daily functions, emotions, and relationships because you feel mentally exhausted.

If you don’t have enough time to commit to therapy, you might also try online counseling through a platform like BetterHelp. Online therapy platforms can offer messaging with your therapist and a choice of when you attend therapy, whether in the morning, at night, on the weekend, or on a holiday. Some therapists may open time slots for those unavailable at other hours. 

A licensed therapist can help you identify the causes of your mental exhaustion and teach you coping strategies, including mindfulness. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been proven effective in treating stress and burnout. Additionally, online forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy effectively reduce symptoms of chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.  

Takeaway

Mental exhaustion can occur from time to time. However, if you notice this symptom is occurring for longer than a few days, it might be a sign that a change could benefit you. Consider reaching out to a licensed therapist to get started. You’re not alone, and relief is available.
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