Being physically drained and emotionally drained are not the same thing. Even though they can sometimes look similar.
Why is it helpful to know if you’re emotionally drained?
It can save you a fight and it can help you take better care of yourself because being emotionally drained is not something we really know to watch out for and often minimize it thinking: “I shouldn’t be tired”.
This is especially important for people who are highly sensitive, empathic, introverted or (if you’re familiar with Human Design) non-energy types like Projectors, Manifestors or Reflectors.
Knowing when you’re emotionally drained starts with identifying the signs leading up to this state, so let’s talk about what they are.
Even Small Tasks Seem Overwhelming
Ever opened an email and been like “I can’t”… and then you go back later and realize it wasn’t that big of a deal? You don’t know why, but in that moment, a small task felt overwhelming.
The same thing can happen with your kids when you ask them to do a chore or they’re trying to do homework. If they’re navigating emotional intensity that’s going on at home or school, a small task feels like a big ask because they only have so much emotional bandwidth, and at the moment, it’s maxed out.
There is no more energy or headspace left to deal with a situation because you don’t have the emotional capacity to take on anything else, even something minor.
Just like physical growth spurts, there are such things as emotional growth spurts. So if your kid is going through a period of time where they are getting especially overwhelmed, this could possibly be what’s going on.
If this is happening, develop a practice of taking the overwhelm as a sign to take some space to do something else completely, and come back to it later. Or a sign that it’s a good time to pair back on extra activities, projects, tasks.
For a kid, let them play but try to avoid screen time because that doesn’t let them metabolize emotion. It’s better for them to move or go with you on an errand, something that can engage them and create a break. If this is happening for you, go do something you enjoy that recharges you, then come back.
You’re Making Easy Mistakes You Wouldn’t Usually Make
This is your time to tag yourself out. Give yourself permission to take a break because that’s what you need. Allow extra grace and compassion here and downshift to just covering the basics. You will be more upset with yourself if you continue to make mistakes that have to be corrected, then if it takes you longer to complete a task due to taking a break and taking it slow.
Same thing if this starts showing up for your child.
Instead of getting critical and trying to get more strict around mistakes, simply realize, oh, this is time for rest. Don’t focus on the mistakes, focus on what is leading to the mistakes which is the need to rest and take a break.
Usually if you or your child start doing this, you’re not necessarily aware that you’re drained. This is just how the mind/body/brain starts to go into energy conservation mode.
So, start to pay attention when easy mistakes start happening so you can recognize that this is your system’s way of letting you know you need to power down.
Listening to your body and your performance will give you good indicators about what is happening inside of you and what you need.
You Feel Like It’s Always Going to Be This Way
There’s something about getting into a space of overwhelm that causes you to lose all sense of time and reality.
“Emotional dysregulation refers to difficulty in regulating emotions. It can manifest in several ways, such as feeling overwhelmed by seemingly minor things, struggling to control impulsive behaviors, or having unpredictable outbursts.”(Medical News Today | What is emotional dysregulation?; Zia Sherrell, MPH on April 7, 2022)
Your thoughts and general outlook are clouded by your emotions and it feels like it always will be and always has been this way.
Dysregulation is temporary, especially when we are able to see the dysregulation is happening. Obviously, it will persist longer if we don’t do something about it.
So when you find yourself experiencing feelings of despair, saying or thinking that something will “always be” and “never will be”, it’s likely that you are emotionally drained.
Same thing goes for your kid. When you start to hear “always” and “never”, then you know it’s time to recharge and reset.
Everyone is different in how they express being emotionally or physically drained, and it’s not always obvious.
You see kids resisting sleep the most when they are overtired and likewise, people resist situations that require emotional stability as a result of being overwhelmed emotionally.
So the guidance is to start observing yourself and others for the cues you get signaling that you are emotionally drained.