Mental exhaustion, also called cognitive fatigue or mental fatigue, is a state of extreme tiredness often accompanied by difficulty concentrating, decreased alertness, disordered thinking, and reduced productivity.


Have you ever felt like, “I want to sleep but my brain won’t stop talking to itself?” or that your brain feels drained from doing simple tasks or activities you enjoy? Do you feel like you have difficulty concentrating? If you’re having these episodes, you may be suffering from mental exhaustion.

Mental exhaustion is the feeling characterized by low mental energy and irritability, mostly caused by long-term stress. Mental fatigue is part of stress-related exhaustion disorder (ED)[1] which is a condition that goes past physical tiredness as it impacts various cognitive functions such as concentration, memory, and decision-making abilities. It can also have a profound effect on physical well-being as well.

Mental exhaustion can obscure clarity of thought and hinder productivity, leaving people feeling drained, overwhelmed, and unable to cope with the demands of daily life. In today’s fast-paced world, mental exhaustion has become a prevalent concern affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and consequences of mental exhaustion is crucial for developing effective strategies to treat and manage its impact on overall health and well-being.

What is mental exhaustion?

Mental exhaustion, also called cognitive fatigue or mental fatigue[2], is a state of extreme tiredness often accompanied by difficulty concentrating, decreased alertness, disordered thinking, and reduced productivity. It can also manifest in other ways including memory problems, decreased motivation, and emotional sensitivity. It often results from prolonged periods of stress (chronic stress), work stress, family and other personal issues, lack of sleep, emotional issues, or a combination of factors without sufficient rest and recovery. This mental state is serious because it can significantly impair cognitive function, making it challenging to perform daily tasks and responsibilities efficiently.

What are the symptoms of mental exhaustion?

Symptoms of mental exhaustion can manifest in various ways and often include not only signs of mental issues but also emotional, physical, and behavioral disturbances. Recognizing these signs of mental exhaustion is essential for taking proactive steps to address and manage it effectively.

1. Mental and Emotional Signs

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems and recalling information
  • Increased irritability and mood swings
  • Increased anxiety and excessive worrying
  • Caring less about or feeling indifferent about things (apathy)
  • Depressive mood
  • Lack of motivation

2. Physical Signs

  • Fatigue and lethargic
  • Headaches and chronic migraines[3]
  • Muscle aches and tension
  • Digestive issues such as nausea, stomach pain, or changes in appetite may arise as a result of stress affecting the digestive system.
  • Sleep disturbances

3. Behavioral Signs

  • Decreased motivation
  • Social withdrawal or isolating from others
  • Increased procrastination and difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired decision-making and solving problems abilities
  • Abuse of alcohol, drugs, and gambling, unhealthy risk-taking, and heightened sexual urges to “self-medicate” or cope
  • Reduced productivity in work or daily tasks

What are the causes of mental exhaustion?

Mental exhaustion can arise from a variety of factors and being able to manage this issue often requires identifying and addressing the underlying causes.

1. Chronic stress

Prolonged exposure to stressful situations, whether related to work, relationships, finances, or other aspects of life, can lead to mental exhaustion. Constantly feeling overwhelmed by stressors without adequate coping mechanisms can drain mental energy over time.

2. Work-related pressures

High job demands, long hours, tight deadlines, and a lack of autonomy or control in the workplace can contribute to mental exhaustion[4]. These are mainly true in work environments with high levels of competition, perfectionism, or unrealistic expectations.

3. Emotional strain

Dealing with intense emotions such as grief, sadness, anger, or anxiety can be mentally taxing to the brain[5]. Constantly suppressing or trying to manage these emotions without proper support can lead to exhaustion.

4. Sleep disturbances

Poor sleep quality or insufficient sleep can impair cognitive function and contribute to mental exhaustion. Sleep deprivation[6] also contributes to difficulty in completing daily tasks. Sleep disorders, irregular sleep patterns, or disruptions caused by environmental factors can all impact overall mental health.

5. Overstimulation

Sensory overload is caused by exposure to excessive stimuli. It consists of constant loud noises, bright lights, crowded spaces, or information overload from digital devices and media that overwhelm the mind and lead to mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion.

6. Lifestyle factors

Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise, excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption, and neglecting relaxation and self-care, can cause mental exhaustion.

7. Traumatic experiences

The exposure to traumatic events, whether recent or past, can have profound effects on mental well-being and contribute to feelings of exhaustion. It can be particularly true if not adequately addressed or processed.

8. Burnout

Prolonged exposure to chronic stress and overwhelming work demands can lead to burnout[7], a specific type of mental exhaustion characterized by feelings of detachment, and a reduced sense of accomplishment. These often happen in work environments that are not well-organized and managed. In the health field, 46% of healthcare workers[8] reported feeling burnout in 2022. They also reported feelings of anxiety and depression along with burnout.

Stress vs. mental exhaustion

Stress and mental exhaustion are related but have distinct concepts that can impact individuals differently.

Stress is a natural response to perceived threats or demands, triggering physiological and psychological reactions aimed at coping with or adapting to challenges. These can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and can arise from various sources such as work, relationships, financial pressures, or major life changes. While some levels of stress can be motivating and adaptive, chronic or excessive stress can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health, leading to symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.

Mental exhaustion, on the other hand, can occur when someone feels fatigued from prolonged internal stress, even if they are not experiencing significant stress from external sources. Chronic stress can later cause different mental and physical issues that can lead to poor overall health.

These distinctions are pertinent between stress and mental exhaustion and can help individuals identify and address their specific challenges more effectively.

Physical exhaustion vs. mental exhaustion

Physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion are both states of fatigue, but they also differ in how they occur and their effects on overall health.

Physical exhaustion primarily stems from physical exertion or overexertion. It occurs when the body’s energy reserves are depleted due to strenuous physical activity, inadequate rest, or prolonged exertion. It is often characterized by physical symptoms such as muscle weakness, soreness, decreased coordination, and overall feelings of physical fatigue. Individuals experiencing physical exhaustion may feel physically drained and may struggle to perform physical tasks or activities.

While physical and mental exhaustion can occur independently, they can also influence each other. For example, mental exhaustion can affect overall physical performance while extreme physical tiredness can cause mental burnout. Additionally, addressing one type of exhaustion can help alleviate the symptoms of the other.

Good Mental Health

How to treat and cope with mental exhaustion

Treating and coping with mental exhaustion involves a combination of strategies to reduce stress, replenish mental energy, and promote overall well-being. It may be looking into individual causes to manage and cope with stress.

1. Remove the stressor

Identify and address sources of stress whenever possible. These may involve setting boundaries, delegating tasks in the work environment, or making lifestyle changes to reduce overall stress levels.

2. Take a break

Give yourself regular breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. Taking short breaks between tasks can help prevent cognitive overload and reduce mental fatigue.

3. Relaxation techniques

Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness exercises to promote relaxation and reduce stress.

4. Try to Get More Sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for mental and physical health. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep to alleviate physical and mental exhaustion.

Also, consider incorporating natural sleep aids like NUU3 Deep Sleep Gummies, which contain ingredients such as melatonin, chamomile, and lemon balm leaf extract to promote relaxation and support restful sleep. It also allows you to fall asleep faster and helps to prevent sleep disturbances. Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

5. Keep a gratitude journal

Cultivate a positive mindset by keeping a gratitude journal. Regularly reflecting on things you’re grateful for can help shift focus away from stressors and promote positive feelings.

6. Exercise

Engage in regular physical activity, as exercise has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost mental resilience. Find activities you enjoy and incorporate them into your routine.

7. Check-in with Basic Needs

It’s important to look at the basic needs if feeling mentally exhausted to see if something is lacking or not properly balanced.

  • Nutrition: Eat a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to provide your body and brain with essential nutrients. Drinking enough water also helps lessen mental exhaustion[9], as dehydration can enhance anxiety and depressive moods.
  • Physical Activity: Aim for regular exercise to promote overall health and reduce stress. Even short walks or gentle stretching during a work break can be beneficial.
  • Sunlight and Fresh Air: Spend time outdoors to soak up natural sunlight and fresh air, which can improve mood and energy levels.
  • Social Support: Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. Connecting with others and sharing your feelings can provide emotional support and perspective.

How to prevent mental exhaustion

Preventing mental exhaustion involves proactive measures to manage stress, prioritize self-care, and maintain healthy boundaries. By incorporating these preventive measures into your daily life, you can reduce the risk of mental exhaustion, promote overall well-being, and stay resilient in the face of stress and challenges.

1. Take Regular Time Off

Schedule regular breaks and vacations to rest and recharge. Taking time away from work or responsibilities allows your mind to rest and rejuvenate, reducing the risk of burnout and mental exhaustion.

2. Make Time for Self-Care

Prioritize activities that promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being, such as exercise, hobbies, relaxation techniques, and other activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. These can be as simple as reading a book outdoors or listening to your favorite music.

3. Rest When You’re Sick

Listen to your body and prioritize rest when you feel unwell. Pushing through illness can prolong recovery time and increase the risk of mental and physical exhaustion.

4. Stay Connected to Loved Ones

Maintain strong social connections with friends, family, and supportive individuals. Spending time with loved ones can strengthen emotional support, perspective, and a sense of belonging, reducing feelings of isolation and stress. These will also enhance your mood and help you to stay positive.

5. Know When to Say No

Set realistic boundaries and prioritize your commitments based on your capacity and well-being. Learn to say no to additional responsibilities or activities when you’re feeling overwhelmed to prevent overextension and mental exhaustion.

6. Practice Stress Management

Develop healthy coping strategies to manage stress effectively, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, yoga, or journaling. These techniques can help reduce stress levels and build resilience to prevent mental exhaustion.

7. Maintain Work-Life Balance

Strive for a balance between work, personal life, and leisure activities. Set boundaries around work hours, avoid overworking, and prioritize time for relaxation, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. Knowing when it is time to work and when it is time to relax helps your body feel at ease so you can become a productive, positive individual.


How do you overcome mental fatigue?

Overcoming mental fatigue involves implementing strategies to replenish mental energy and promote cognitive well-being.

Try taking breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge.
  • Prioritize sleep to help rest the brain and body and become recharged for the next day.
  • Implement more physical activity by exercising regularly for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Find activities you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or dancing, and incorporate them into your routine.
  • Fuel your body and brain with a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Limit caffeine, sugar, and processed foods consumption, as they can contribute to energy crashes and fatigue.
  • Manage stress by identifying the stressors in your life and developing effective coping strategies to manage them.
  • Stay connected with supportive friends, family members, or peers.
  • Seek professional help if you're experiencing persistent mental fatigue or if it's significantly impacting your daily functioning and overall health well-being.

Why is my brain so tired?

Feeling mentally tired or experiencing brain fatigue can occur for various reasons, including

  • Stress, most likely chronic stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Overstimulation
  • Poor nutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Emotional factors such as anxiety or depression
  • Trying to juggle too many tasks


Understanding the factors and stressors contributing to mental fatigue is crucial for effectively managing and lessening its impact on overall well-being. Whether stemming from chronic stress, lack of sleep, overstimulation, or other lifestyle factors, mental fatigue can significantly impair cognitive function and diminish quality of life. By prioritizing self-care, implementing stress management techniques, and seeking support when needed, individuals can take proactive steps to overcome mental fatigue and promote mental resilience.

Additionally, maintaining a balanced lifestyle that includes adequate rest, regular physical activity, healthy nutrition, positive social connections, and self-care can help sustain mental energy and overall health. Implementing these preventative strategies can help to cultivate a more resilient and vibrant mindset, enabling you to navigate life with greater clarity, focus, and enjoyment.