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November 2, 2022
Stress is a universal and affects people around the world of all ages. During the pandemic, most people experienced a shift in their usual routines, jobs, ways of coping, ability to connect with friends and family, and more. Covid-19 impacted everyone differently, but for many, this meant significant changes to daily life, leaving many more stressed than ever and dealing with the long term implications of emotional exhaustion. As a current graduate student who has done my last few years of graduate school online, then in person, back online, and now fully in person without masks, coping with the stress of school, the pandemic, and the general turbulence of the world has not always been easy for me.
While the pandemic has had many devastating impacts, one of the positive things that has come from this experience is that people are now acutely aware of the importance of mental health and wellbeing. As we now learn to grapple with the implications of a global pandemic, it is important that we keep an eye on the state of our mental health. Many of us may have unknowingly fallen into a state of emotional exhaustion or burnout, which can occur after long periods of prolonged stress.  In this article, you’ll find more information about the signs and symptoms of emotional exhaustion and some of the practices that we at Botanica are using to help support ourselves in times of long-term stress.
Stress is a natural human emotional and physiological phenomenon that helps us respond to potential threats.  While short-term stress is common, long-term stress can leave us feeling tired and worn out and this is understood as emotional exhaustion.  Many of us can relate to a time in our lives when overwhelming things just seemed to keep happening. In most cases, emotional exhaustion accumulates over time and can impact our emotional state, our physical wellbeing, and our ability to perform in social and work contexts. 
All of these symptoms will be experienced differently by various individuals and emotional exhaustion presents differently in individuals. Importantly, emotional exhaustion is not just another word for burnout, but is a symptom of burnout.  Burnout often describes the impact of chronic stress on the mind and the body and can have long terms effects.  It’s important to take your stress seriously and understand that it can greatly impact your daily life.
Now that we know a bit more about what emotional exhaustion is and how it manifests in our bodies, it’s time to figure out what kinds of things we can do to help ourselves when we are emotionally exhausted.
Once we acknowledge that we are feeling emotionally exhausted, it’s important to start noticing what kinds of stressors are contributing to how we feel. Identifying these triggers can help ground us in our journey to learning positive coping strategies. It is very hard to start addressing challenges when we aren’t even sure what they are! So, the next time you feel extremely stressed, think about what actions, words, people, or events are going on in your life and rate your reaction to those stressors. Noticing what makes us feel emotionally stressed, helps us begin to change our reactions to those triggers.
When we are emotionally stressed, chances are we have been giving too much energy to others and aren’t making time to nourish ourselves. This doesn’t mean we can’t continue to support others, but it is your reminder that YOU are also deserving, worthy, and in need of care. Try carving out 15 minutes a day for yourself to practice self-care. Maybe this means you turn your phone off during that time, watch your favourite show, move your body, or take a walk. Do whatever you need to help to help you feel grounded. Creating this kind of routine can also help you feel more organized in a time when you’re experiencing a lack of control.
As we grapple with the things that feel out of our control, it is so important to connect to the things that we already have. Keeping a gratitude journal is an easy and tangible way to practice gratitude. You might try listing 3 things that you’re grateful for daily or try responding to the prompts in this 52-week gratitude journey.
Adaptogens help the body cope with stress, quite literally easing one’s ability to “adapt” to different situations.  Incorporating an adaptogen into your routine is a simple way to help nourish your body. Try Botanica’s Holy Basil Liquid Capsule or add in one of these other herbs to help combat stress.
Although it is important to work through emotions on our own, asking for help as you deal with stress can be essential. Feeling alone in your struggle exacerbates feelings of isolation. Connecting with friends, talking to a therapist or a medical professional are some of the ways we can seek social support. For those experiencing anxiety and depression, medication might be needed but should be discussed with your doctor.
When we aren’t used to setting boundaries, doing so for the first time can be very uncomfortable, but help you in the long run as it creates space for you to reflect rather than react and care for yourself. Work can be one of the most difficult places to set boundaries but when it comes to emotional exhaustion, establishing a positive work-life balance is essential. Even if it means that you respond to one less email or don’t look at your phone after a certain time, just noticing how good it can feel to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’, can help you notice the ways you are giving too much when you yourself need support.
While we think of stress as something mental, it often has physical implications. When we spend so much time in our heads worrying, it is easy to feel disconnected from our bodies. As a student who spends hours thinking, moving my body has been one of the ways that I combat mental exhaustion. Practicing yoga, going on hikes, dancing, Pilates, and lifting weights have all helped me become more in tune with my body and help me connect to what I am feeling, not just what I am thinking. Find a kind of movement that feels good for you so that it is something you get excited about, rather than dread.
These are some of the ways we are caring for ourselves after several years of prolonged personal and global stress. Acknowledging where you are at is not a weakness, it is a strength. Asking for the help you need or implementing new patterns to help you live a joyful life takes time and energy, but you are worth it.
 “Stress.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Accessed October 18, 2022. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/stress.
   “Emotional Exhaustion during Times of Unrest.” Mayo Clinic Health System. Mayo Clinic Health System, August 25, 2022. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/emotional-exhaustion-during-times-of-unrest.
 “Holy Basil Liquid Capsule – Herbs.” Botanica, September 23, 2022. https://botanicahealth.com/product/holy-basil-liquid-capsule/.