Emotional exhaustion: striving for perfection…

She was tired. So very tired. And as the moments wore on, she could feel the levels of fatigue rise within her, feeding her anxiety. In an instant, her emotions exploded and poured from her being with the same intensity and fury of lava erupting from a volcano. Words spilled from her mouth. Words that articulated caged feelings that had lay dormant for weeks.

This outpouring of emotion, in such intense form was out of her control, as according to World Health Organisation (WHO), she was experiencing the ‘occupational phenomenon’ known as emotional exhaustion. WHO states emotional exhaustion is on the rise in the workplace, particularly for those whose roles are laden with high expectations and prolonged exposure to stressors, which are defined as a previous traumatic life event or situation.

Further, The Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS), defines a stressor as “anything that causes the release of stress hormones“, which are our bodies natural response to stress and prompts what is colloquially known as our ‘fight or flight response’. The Mayo Clinic states, “stress is often interpreted as a threat to survival. When this happens, it increases the release of stress hormones from your brain, further contributing to your experience of emotional exhaustion.

Jane Leonard from Medical News Today writes that an emotionally exhausted person may appear unusually cynical or pessimistic, and may lose their motivation to perform simple tasks. If an individual is exposed to stressors for a prolonged period, the level of emotional exhaustion rises and they may react with fear, aggression or an uncharacteristic display of emotion. Further, it is important to allow the emotionally exhausted person to express these emotions, as an intense outburst is often an emotive release and as a result of the stressor being eradicated. The Mayo Clinic confirms the latter by saying that once the ‘stressor’ has been removed, “… the amount of stress hormone released is decreased so you are able are able to feel more emotionally balanced...”

So as aspects of her life changed, the intensity of her emotions began to recede and she realised she was okay. 

She realised it was also okay to fill silence with intensity and conviction. It was okay to display caged feelings. It was okay to be vulnerable. 

And it was okay that her emotional explosion appeared erratic and out of character. It was needed and in fact, immensely cathartic. 

Yes, she had been tired, so very tired…

Images: Stanley&Bear Photography


Mayo Clinic

The Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS)


Help Guide

World Health Organisation


Dis-like: how social media feeds into perfectionism