How To Reduce Emotional Exhaustion

How To Give Fewer F*cks

by | Aug 23, 2019

They had already exchanged 21 WhatsApp messages that weekend, but it was the double ping she received en route to their Sunday dinner date that made 27-year-old Chloe’s adrenaline surge. “I’m so sorry to do this…” her friend Karen wrote, before bailing for the third time that month. Furious, Chloe stewed: her shoulders clenched, she wrote a passive-aggressive retort never to be sent, then realised that she’d also been lumbered with cancelling the reservation. Far from ending the weekend rested, she felt hopeless, mind-frazzled and shit.

This shit has a name – emotional exhaustion – and it’s a real phenomenon.

“We’re talking about the first stage of burnout, brought on when you’re constantly exposed to stressful situations and, rather than deal with them effectively, you ignore them and let the stress fester,” says Dr Amelia Nagoski, feminist academic and co-author of Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle.

“Emotions are based in the body, so emotional exhaustion becomes a kind of physical exhaustion when you don’t complete the cycle from stress response to relaxation. For example, your muscles tense up without the release that’s supposed to follow.”

Because fatigue from feelings is deemed less important than the kind you feel after running a half-marathon, you likely ignore it. Or, worse still, blame yourself for not handling so called #FirstWorldProblems. Instead of resting, you power on, with bottled-up stress draining your energy like Google Maps tracking in the background. As for the consequences? The list of conditions that can be traced back to exhaustion – both the mental (anxiety and depression) and the physical (raised blood pressure and migraines) – is extensive. Which makes you question, what would happen if you followed the memes and … actually gave fewer fucks?

RELATED: 10 Must-Haves For Emotional Health

Femme Fatigue

Both your gender and the time you’re living through suggest that if emotional exhaustion has a target, it’s going to be you. As well as the stress that comes from being permanently plugged in, certain professions are notorious emotional leeches (high pressure industries, such as financial trading, plus ‘giver’ roles like those in medicine, social care and teaching), and women are disproportionately represented in both paid and unpaid care work. In her 2017 book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, Kate Manne, assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University, describes a society of two groups: the human beings, then the human givers, whose role is to offer time, attention and affection to the beings. No prizes for guessing which one most women fit into.

“There is a social expectation for women to be happy, calm, generous, attentive givers,” says Nagoski. “It isn’t that women’s personalities are burning out faster than men’s; being a woman is more stressful than being a man because society makes it so.”

So, how do you put emotional exhaustion to bed before it beds you? The first step, according to Nagoski, is to take it back to what happens physiologically when a stress-trigger strikes. She cites the fight or flight response. Imagine, for a moment, you’re confronted with a lion. Neurological and hormonal activity pushes blood and oxygen into your muscles, your heart pounds faster. But when you flee, you’re putting all that cortisol to good use, or “completing the stress cycle”. Now imagine the lion is a short-notice unit inspection by your landlord. “If you never talk about an emotion, never think about it, stuff it away … then your muscles still have tension that never got released. And it adds up: day after day, year after year,” Nagoski warns. “You have to do something that signals to your body that you’re safe, or else you’ll stay in that state.”

While exercise is the gold standard for stress elimination, anything that allows your body to return to a state of relaxation works, from a night of dancing to an impromptu game of ‘my boss is a bigger dick than yours’ with your closest mates.

RELATED9 Things You Can Do Every Day To Improve Your Mental Health

Emotional Investment

While sweating off your frustration might do wonders for your heart rate, such tactics can’t future-proof you against future fuck-giving. So what can? In a word: boundaries.

“A boundary is any decision that governs your behaviour,” explains psychotherapist Jennie Miller. “When you set clear boundaries, everyone knows where they stand and where you draw the line.”

What does setting them look like IRL? It’s about getting slippers-and-PJs comfy with the word ‘no’. When friend-frazzled Chloe realised Karen’s flakiness was messing with her energy, her take on ‘no’ meant screening Karen’s calls.

“For me, boundary-setting means not instantly replying to her on WhatsApp or taking her late-night phone calls where she offloads all her dating dramas and doesn’t even ask how I am,” she explains. “I now arrange for us to do something like a barre class, instead of dinner. If she bails, I’m happy doing that solo; but usually it means quality time spent on more equal terms. For once, I’m giving more fucks about myself than someone else, and it feels great.”

Ready to lose a few fucks, too? Miller suggests starting with scenarios where you’re not emotionally invested – turning down an up sell in a cafe or rejecting the job opportunity that you know is wrong for you – to build your confidence for those times when you are. Think: opting out of a dinner with your crew where you know you’ll drop $100 and feel guilty about it. If it seems unkind, know that bottled-up resentment is as legit a health concern as a scratchy throat. They’re your fucks, now use them wisely.

RELATED: 10 Signs Of Burnout And How To Treat It

Recommended to you

8 Of The Best Exercise Shorts That Will Power You Through A Summer Of Movement

It’s official: Shorts Season is officially here. While lockdown has seen many of us realise that activewear is less something to be worn for a workout and more a uniform we choose to do any and all daily activities in, when the warmer temperatures roll around, that favourite pair of sweatpants and leggings sometimes don’t cut it. Sure, they might be a staple in any wardrobe, but the Aussie sun doesn’t listen to reason, no matter how comfortable or cute it might be. And when it comes to summer, working out in leggings can feel like being trapped in a sauna, the sweat pooling at your ankles and around the waistband – as well as those other areas we won’t mention here. 

But as we transition from leggings to shorts, it becomes clear pretty quickly that not all shorts are created equal, and certainly not all shorts are fit for a workout. Take it from us at Women’s Health HQ, we’ve been there, tried it and lived to see the consequences. From the shorts that look cute but ride up to show your undies on the run, to those that feel like being strapped into a harness that’s digging into your hip bones. Then there are the fabrics that can cause chafing – a big no – and those that basically shine a spotlight on any area you might be sweating. 

Thankfully, a number of brands are here to cater to your exercise needs with innovative materials, fabrics and sustainable options to see you through a summer of movement. Regardless of your workout preferences or daily activity, we’ve selected the best shorts that will ensure you feel good in your body, shorts that get you excited to embrace the day and attack it with energy, that make you want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be walking, running, or socialising in the park. Here are our pick of the best bike shorts below. 

Nagnata

Uptown Biker, $240

What says summer more than a pop of orange and the sleek shape of these Nagnata biker shorts? With its mid-length and horizontal raised rib side detail, these are shorts you can wear both for a workout and out to meet the girls. Made in Australia with a technical knit fabrication, the double-layer jacquard provides gentle sculpting qualities for the body, making it an excellent choice for light to moderate fitness activities like yoga, pilates or barre. 

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.defineSlot(gamData.adUnit, [300, 250], 'gam_midarticle_pos2_3') .defineSizeMapping(gamData.sizeMap.midarticle) .setTargeting('pos', '2') .addService(googletag.pubads()); googletag.display('gam_midarticle_pos2_3'); });

New Balance

Q Speed Fuel Short, $70

We love the colour of these shorts from New Balance which are cut with a sleek, speedy look that also helps to elongate the legs. Featuring NB DRY moisture wicking fabric, these are the shorts you want for high intensity exercise or long runs, keeping you comfortable and dry. There’s also an interior brief for added comfort and a stash pocket to keep your essentials. 

All Access

Ultra High Rise Zip Front Biker Short, $78

Yes, the colour is amazing but the fit is equally sensational on these All Access shorts. For those who love a high-rise fit and wide waistband that holds you in at the waist, look no further. The sleek, shiny look offers mid-compression and the fabric is moisture-wicking, so you can stay comfortable even during your sweatiest workouts. 

Nike

Nike x Naomi Osaka Utility Short, $90

Few things are worse than heading out the door for a run and realising your shorts offer no pockets for those essentials you need. You’re left to hold your iPhone, keys, and anything else you might need in your sweaty palm. Thankfully, Naomi Osaka knows what we need when it comes to exercise shorts and these utility shorts from her collaboration with Nike offer all that and more with a relaxed fit and elastic waistband. 

Tracksmith

Session short Tights, $72

When it comes to bike shorts, you want to feel supported and held in but you also want to be able to breathe. These Tracksmith session short tights are exceptional in offering support while still ensuring comfort remains a priority. Forget about chafing, these shorts won’t ride up and down and the fabric offers more coverage and support against the body. 

Outdoor Voices

Relay 3” Short, $48

Who said summer shorts have to be boring? Outdoor Voices brings fashion-forward style and playfulness to their collections with fun prints and exciting colours. We love the relay 3” shorts for their ultralight, quick-drying fabric that also happens to be made from recycled polyester. But more importantly, we love the print and Poppy Swirl is as good as it gets. There’s even a hidden pocket for your valuables, too. 

Lululemon

Align High-Rise Short 6”, $69

If you’re familiar with the buttery-soft feel of Lululemon’s tights, you’ll want to get your hands on a pair of their shorts, too. Made with the same Nulu fabric that their tights are known for, these shorts feel weightless and super soft. They might be our go-to staple for any workout, but the feel is so second-skin that it’s hard to not wear them for every other activity, too. 

Spiritual Gangster

Seamless Biker Short, $112

These biker shorts from Spiritual Gangster move with you, thanks to a three-tiered compressive waistband that offers a flattering high waist that hugs you in all the right places, without proving constrictive. They offer medium compression but are built for all day comfort, and the colour is a true summer staple because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love tie-dye?