World of Psychology
Avoiding Emotional Exhaustion: Filling Our Emotional Tank
Emotional exhaustion occurs when you have exceeded your capacity for emotional stress. Many of us feel it, even when we’re not aware that we’ve exhausted our emotional reserves.
Emotional exhaustion is usually manifested both by physical symptoms and a sense of being psychologically and emotionally drained.
Signs of emotional exhaustion include, but are not limited to:
- low tolerance to stress or stressful situations;
- lack of motivation; and
- physical fatigue.
Let’s face it, when we’re emotionally drained we have little tolerance for anything. So what can be done about it?
It’s often hard to be attentive because we are too tired to care. We lack motivation because we are too tired to do anything. Last, but not least we become physically tired because we have worn ourselves out mentally.
It is important to notice these signs of emotional exhaustion to avoid further interpersonal, work, school, or other problems. It is also important to notice these signs to prevent more physical or emotional dangers.
Emotional exhaustion can be avoided if we notice the signs in the early stages. We may be able to avoid further damage if we are able to use positive coping skills to deal with stress. There are several positive coping skills which can include:
- staying in the moment
- taking things one step at a time, and
- asking for help.
We may also avoid this if we learn to take breaks when needed instead of pushing our limits. It may also be helpful to learn how to say no, and to be OK with saying no. By saying no, we decrease the chances of taking on too much and becoming overwhelmed.
We may need to set appropriate boundaries with those who have a tendency to be emotionally draining. When we are emotionally drained it becomes extremely difficult to deal with someone who is emotionally needy. If we give what we have left emotionally to others when we have very little, what are we left with?
Thankfully, there are ways to recover from emotional exhaustion. One way to recover is to remove yourself from the stressor or the stressful event. Once you identify a person or situation as stressful, eliminate it. If you are unable to eliminate the stressor, take time to develop healthier ways to cope. Find moments throughout your day to take a walk, browse the Web, engage in deep breathing, mindfulness activities, or grounding. Choose or invent whatever will keep you sane. You may also find solace in physical activities such as exercise or yoga. Physical activities often release our happy hormones, making it easier to recuperate from an emotional exhausting time.
I often teach what I call the 4R principle – relax, rest, reflect, and release. I feel we should first relax, putting our mind and body at ease and then rest by sleeping and allowing our body to recharge. The amount of time spent on relaxing and resting depend upon the degree of emotional exhaustion. Once we have accomplished the first two, we can move on to reflecting. This involves looking back at the events that led up to the exhaustion and what we can do differently in the future to avoid the same outcome. After reflecting, we are then able to release what has taken place, no longer focusing on the past, feeling recharged, and ready to move toward the future.
By being aware of our mind and body, we can detect the signs of emotional exhaustion early and work on ways to avoid a total breakdown. If we pass the point of no return and we hit our stress peak, we have the opportunity to recover and start again. We can empty our emotional tanks of negativity and begin filling them with the things that matter most — starting with self-care.
Psych Central News
Want to Maintain a Motor Skill? Watch Your Mistakes
Emerging research suggests that maintaining a motor memory for performing a simple task – that is, knowing how to do something without having to think about — requires feedback.
Paradoxically, Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered that if people are unable to perceive their own errors as they complete a routine, simple task, their skill will decline over time.
The researchers report that the human brain does not passively forget our good techniques, but chooses to put aside what it has learned. The brain selects which actions to perform and needs the experience of errors to aid in the selection of the proper actions.
The amount of force needed to lift an empty glass versus a full one, to shut a car door or pick up a box, even to move a limb accurately from one place to another — all of these are motor memories.
In the study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers describe their latest efforts to study how motor memories are formed and lost by focusing on one well-known experimental phenomenon.
In the scenario, people learn to do a task well, but are asked to keep doing it while receiving deliberately misleading feedback indicating that their performance is perfect every time. In fact, their actual performance will gradually get worse.
It had been assumed that the decline was due to the decay of memories in the absence of reinforcement, said Reza Shadmehr, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
But when Shadmehr and graduate student Pavan Vaswani asked volunteers to learn a simple task with a few twists designed to deliberately manipulate the brain’s motor control system, they learned otherwise.
The volunteers were told to push a joystick quickly toward a red dot on a computer screen. But the volunteers’ hands were placed under the screen, where they couldn’t see them, and their starting point was shown on the screen as a blue dot.
In addition, as the volunteers moved the joystick toward the red dot, a force within the contraption would suddenly push the joystick to the left. So the volunteers practiced until they could move the blue dot straight to and past the red dot by compensating for the leftward push with pressure toward the right.
Once the volunteers had mastered the task, Shadmehr and Vaswani changed it up without their knowing. For one group of 24 volunteers, they added a stiff spring to the joystick device that would guide the user straight to the target, but would also measure the amount of rightward force the volunteers were applying.
To the volunteers, it looked as though they were now doing the task perfectly every time, and, as in previous experiments, they gradually stopped pushing to the right, apparently “forgetting” what they had learned.
For a different group of 19 volunteers, though, the researchers not only added the spring, but also changed the feedback on the screen not to reflect what was actually happening during each task, but to show feedback similar to reruns of earlier efforts.
The volunteers weren’t seeing the errors they were actually making, but feedback that looked convincingly like errors they might have made. This group continued to do the task as they’d learned, applying the right amount of force to the joystick hundreds of times.
This shows that decline in technique “isn’t just a process of forgetting,” said Vaswani. “Your brain notices that you are doing this task perfectly, and you see what you can do differently.”
Said Shadmehr, “Our results correct a component of knowledge we thought we understood. Neuroscientists thought decay was intrinsic to motor memories, but in fact it’s not decay — it’s selection.”
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine