Yesterday I was feeling emotionally drained, or at least that’s how I interpreted my state of being. The morning had been busy so I didn’t feel the ramifications of it until the afternoon, but when I did it was almost a feeling of numbness. I found myself just sitting in my recliner aimlessly watching the minutes pass by. I guess the actual term for how I was feeling is emotional exhaustion and that is defined by Healthline as, “a state of feeling emotionally worn-out and drained as a result of accumulated stress from both your personal or work lives, or a combination of both.” (Healthline, n.d.). The symptoms of emotional exhaustion include, but are not limited to: lack of motivation (check), irritability (check), absentmindedness (check), and difficulty concentrating (check). I was not feeling great and I found myself wondering what might be causing my emotionless state. I thought about how my weekend had started and the varying emotions I had experienced up till that point and determined that I was just tapped out, I was running on empty.
Friday had been rough day at work, and that’s was just the start of what would be a roller coaster of a weekend when it came to the emotions I would experience. I was supposed to have jury duty on Friday and after a long week in the office I was actually looking forward to going to jury duty (if that demonstrates how long my week had been). Well, turns out thatI did not have to go to jury duty. I had called in on Thursday night and the recording said not to report which meant I was going to work and wasn’t particularly excited about it. Work was not kind to me, almost as if it knew I didn’t want to be here. There were some situations that arose that were, to put it mildly, frustrating and had me counting down the minutes till the clock struck five. I survived the countdown and was able to go home and have a pleasant night with the family. I was feeling pretty good going into Saturday morning and we were able to have some fun as a family. We went to the zoo with Brooks, watched him run from enclosure to enclosure seeing as many animals as he could see and then had a funnel cake before heading back home. That’s when Saturday took a turn for the worse.
Saturday afternoon was set aside for homework. I am in the last class for my Bachelor’s Degree and I have carried a 4.0 GPA over the last two years. Over that time I have had some challenging assignments and some professors that I have found to be generally annoying; but overall this most recent college experience has been a good one. I just started this last class a week ago and I find the professor to be knowledgeable and down to earth. He had said in his introductory lecture that we try to have fun with this class and not take it too seriously, that it was going to be okay. I had done well on my first couple of assignments and had turned in a short essay on Thursday that I think I did well on (no grade yet so we will see), and now it was Saturday afternoon and time for the next assignment. This particular assignment was a 130 question, multiple choice test in which you could not navigate away from the window the test was displayed on and you only had three minutes allotted for each question. None of that makes for a good scenario and then we can add a cherry on top that the test encompassed material from the entire business program including math based word problems. To say that I did not do well would be an understatement. Luckily fifty percent of the grade is based on participating in the exam so I was able to still manage a B overall, but the whole premise of it was more than mildly infuriating. It was almost laughable because at the end of the assessment the results page informed me that I did better than fifty percent of others who had taken it, and that is ridiculous considering how poorly I did. My feelings of happiness and joy from spending the morning at the zoo quickly evaporated and were replaced my anger and irritation. Then the anxiety set in. I spent a good amount of time after that figuring out what grades I would need to get on following assignments in order to maintain my 4.0, but that wasn’t the only reason I had to be anxious because Saturday was coming to an end and Sunday morning was looming.
Sunday was going to be an important day because for the past year I have been the co chair of a committee at church and the resolution we had been working on was coming to a vote Sunday morning at the congregational meeting. Prior to the vote, I was going to deliver a statement asking the congregation to approve the resolution. Now I actually like public speaking, I tend to volunteer for it when the opportunity arises and have been told that I speak well, but that does not reduce the fear and anxiety I experience with it. In preparation I had written my speech about a week ago, I had rehearsed it thousands of times in my head, I had stood in my office and delivered it to my computer monitors, and I had recited it driving too and from work each day. I was ready, but I was still nervous. I knew my nervousness was on public display come Sunday morning because my wife was sitting behind me with her hand on my back, comforting me. She knows me so well and having her there to support me made things better than they would have been otherwise; it also helped that my impression of the room was that our resolution was going to be widely supported. Nevertheless the time came for me to speak, I walked up to the microphone and read what I had wrote. I am told I did fine, and I got a nice round of applause when I was done, but I don’t remember much of from my time up there other than thinking to myself “is my voice really that shaky or am I just imagining things?”.
After my speech the vote was cast and the resolution that we had spent a year on passed unanimously. Then came the joy and the relief. I was thrilled to see such support for our measure and hear the hooting and hollering of congregational members who were excited about what we had accomplished. I was also relieved. I had pushed for the vote when others had raised some concerns about us being ready. The team had worked so hard, put in so much time and effort to bring us to the time of the vote, and while I was sure we were going to have the votes to pass; there is always that bit of doubt inside that wonders what if. The meeting concluded shortly after the vote and I brought Brooks home to give him lunch and get him down for a nap and that is when the sense of complete depletion set in.
I had experienced a full range of emotions within a span of 48 hours. I had gone from frustration and irritation at work, to happiness at the zoo, to anger and panic over the test, to anxiety and nervousness about my speech, and finally joy and relief over the vote. I had run through all of the emotions and come Sunday afternoon it was their turn to run through me. I had nothing left to give and as proof of how I was feeling in that moment, I spent the afternoon watching the last two movies in the Twilight series because I did not have to extend any mental capacity or invest any emotional energy into them. I slept like a rock last night, as expected, and awoke this morning with a renewed energy. I had wasted quite a bit of time yesterday that I could have been working on things here, but I was able to make up for that today.
My research compared this feeling of emotional exhaustion or being emotionally drained to that of burnout. A feeling that society is all too familiar with these days as we live through an ongoing pandemic and issues with short staffing in the workplace. The added stress of more work to go around with fewer people to do it and trying to remain ourselves and our family members safe and healthy, in addition to all the other issues we deal with in our daily lives has increased burnout and led to this feeling of emotional exhaustion. While there is no miracle cure for this feeling of driving through life on an empty gas tank, we need to do our bed to to combat it. For me the answer is time with family, unwinding with a simplistic movie or television show, or simply working on things here as a way to escape reality. Whatever the solution is for you, my hope is that you will find a way to fill up your tank and keep moving forward.
Healthline. (n.d.). Emotional Exhaustion: What It Is and How to Treat It. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/emotional-exhaustion