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What is Stress Exhaustion?

Stress exhaustion can lead to depression.
Stress exhaustion can negatively affect work performance.
Sleep is an important factor in reducing stress.
Students may experience stress exhaustion.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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Stress exhaustion is a combination of physical and emotional exhaustion that is the result of prolonged high stress situations. Combined with lack of rest, exhaustion can be highly debilitating. People who suffer from this condition feel overwhelmed by the events around them. Many also experience feelings of frustration and helplessness. If not addressed, it can lead to additional health problems.

The immune system, the body's first line of defense against illness, is affected by stress. High amounts of stress release hormones that depress the immune system. In the short term, this may not have a detrimental effect, but in the long term, the immune system will be compromised by these hormones. Stress exhaustion has been linked with depression, heart disease, and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Stress exhaustion also affects work performance. Making the right decision can be very difficult for an individual who is suffering from exhaustion. In the corporate world, this condition is often referred to as burnout. Some high pressure work environments do not make sufficient allowances for stress, making it difficult for workers to communicate their needs.

Individuals of all ages, classes, and occupations can be affected by stress exhaustion. In the case of students, high intensity schoolwork combined with working long hours can be dangerous. Housewives often juggle a wide variety of difficult tasks including caring for children and maintaining a household. Other individuals may experience a unique combination of factors that result in exhaustion.

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To prevent stress exhaustion, stress management techniques should be used, starting with enough healthy sleep. There are a variety of techniques to improve sleeping habits, starting with setting a consistent sleep schedule. Refraining from food, stimulants, and exercise for at least four hours before sleeping has also been shown to improve sleep. The bedroom should be kept calm, quiet, and orderly to help sleepers relax. It is much easier to make rational and productive decisions when properly rested.

Stress should also be kept to a manageable level, and individuals should not be shy about communicating their needs. People should be conscious of what upsets and stresses them, and the issues should be addressed rather than buried. Developing a balanced and healthy life is a good stress management technique, and people should make an effort to socialize and build ties outside of their stressful environments. A healthy diet is also helpful. Some individuals also benefit from religious practice, meditation, or relaxing body disciplines such as yoga.

If stress can be reduced before an individual reaches the stage of exhaustion, a happier and healthier life will most likely result. In some cases, professional help may be needed to help implement healthier living techniques. A greater awareness of stress exhaustion, particularly in corporate environments, has led to more support for employees suffering from it. This can be an avoidable condition.

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Discuss this Article

anon327552
Post 6

@ais89ggs.: I'm sorry for you that your brother sees it this way. You have responsibilities and he has responsibilities, and taking care of your mother should not have anything to do with where you work or he does. Your mother is mother to both of you not him. If he can't be there to help in person, discuss him contributing financially to hire a person to help you out. You need to take care of yourself and your own health before you get burned out.

Suggest then that he cover the weekends to give you a break if he can't help out during the week.

anon170166
Post 5

I was on-line trying to find a word for what I was feeling. Sounds like stress exhaustion takes the cake. I am working on my B.S. as a full-time student, a mother of two 9 and 2, a wife of 18 years and working full-time in a high stress environment. I was doing well managing for 20 months, until recently.

It is difficult for me to focus, express my thoughts in an intelligent manner (I work for a law firm), I cannot do more that one function at a time and I am so tired I could sleep for at least 2 weeks. In addition to my general day-to-day life, I have to deal with my parents' needs and a mentally/physically handicapped brother who has been in the hospital for a month. So what do I do? I would love some advice. I hate sounding like life has just beat me down and know that somewhere inside me there still lives that strong independent person that could handle "anything" thrown at her.

anon16764
Post 3

You certainly have my sympathy. I totally understand. Taking care of aging parents is immensely difficult and a thankless task plus trying to keep your family together and all the myriad of daily chores that there is no time for. I wish you the best and hope you find the inner strength to keep going.

anon9745
Post 2

I know what you're going through. My father in law got very sick from his emphysema and was in the hospital for a month. Then, he went to a nursing home for 1 week until he passed. We drove 40 miles one way to the hospital everyday after work. When he was in the nursing home, we actually didn't even go to work. We were there almost 24/7. Our son stayed with my parents and our house was neglected. I am also a full time student so it took all I had to keep up.

I have been trying to catch up on sleep, but it's not working. I'm so exhausted. It seems like the work has just started. We're now cleaning out his apartment in 1 weekend, working with insurance companies, calling to close all his accounts etc. My husband is his only son, and honestly, we do know women take better care of this stuff ;) so it's pretty much all on me. All the while I'm still going to school, taking care of our son, working full time and helping my own parents with their issues.

The thing I do is just remind myself that it could be worse. Things could be much worse. You just have to plan one thing at a time and prioritize. It's hard to say that cleaning my house is more important than spending time with my loved one, but life goes on and we can't give up on what is already happening.

No matter what anyone says, the exhaustion is just too much. I have my melt downs once in a while, and that gets me through the next few days. I just can't wait to get back to normal, whatever that may be.

-S-

ais89ggs
Post 1

I feel like I am suffering from stress exhaustion.

My mother fell and fractured her pelvic bone on 1-5-2008 and although she is in a skilled nursing facility (previously in the hospital) it has been up to me to handle 100% of the responsibility. I have an older brother (I'm 43, brother is 46 & mother is 81) but he says since I don't work (outside the home) that our mother is my responsibility.

I have a 9.5 yo daughter at home & a husband that works 3rd shift. My typical day: take daughter to school, go to hospital (or nursing facility,) pick daughter up from school, return to nursing facility, go home ... every day.

I am physically, mentally, emotionally worn out even though when I try to sleep I toss & turn all night. I am, literally, at the end of my rope with nowhere to turn.

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