Signs of mental exhaustion you shouldn’t ignore headaches to feeling trapped

In 2019, burnout was officially recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an “occupational phenomenon”.

What’s worse is that many are unaware they are even in this state as it’s become a way of life.

Mental exhaustion can happen when your brain receives too much stimulation or has to maintain an intense level of activity without rest, says Healthline.

The mental charity Mind describes is as being in “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.

This intense exhaustion can occur after long-term stresses most commonly at work or when a person has worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.

It’s important to note that mental exhaustion is not always work-related as an array of events can trigger the condition.

What are warning signs you may be experiencing burnout?

Symptoms of mental exhaustion

Unhealthy habits

When feeling severely mentally exhausted, turning to substances to help provide a boost is all too common.

“Mental fatigue can take an even harder toll on those who already have a substance use disorder,” explains WebMD.

The link is often because drug addiction “changes parts of the brain that help you manage stress and compulsive behaviour”.

Pains and aches
Complaints such as headaches, sore muscles, back pain or stomach issues are all commonplace with mental exhaustion.

“If you have an ongoing illness, such as fibromyalgia, you may hurt a little bit more than usual,” adds WebMD.

Lack of sleep
Previous research found that people who have jobs with a high “cognitive workload” report more symptoms of insomnia than those who don’t have mentally exhausting work.

These sleep problems arise due to the emotional side effects of mental fatigue like anxiety or depression.

A lack of shut-eye can make mental fatigue worse.

Coincidentally, being in a constant state of alertness and worry makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep.

Other signs of burnout include:

Feeling tired or drained most of the time

Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated

Feeling detached/alone in the world

Having a cynical/negative outlook


Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done

Feeling overwhelmed.

Triggers for mental exhaustion include:

Having a demanding or high-pressure job
Working long hours without taking time off to rest
Experiencing financial stress
Job dissatisfaction
Providing care for a loved one who’s ill or has special needs
Living with a chronic illness or mental health condition
Losing a loved one
Having a baby
Lack of work-life balance or emotional support.