Many people subconsciously deal with stress by exhausting themselves to the point of not caring, but therapists warn this is far from a lasting solution
There are few things worse than staying up all night worrying about what to do the next day. But while anxiety and insomnia can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, if you find yourself in this situation, you might want to look on the bright side — at least you’re too tired to stress about it now.
Exhausting yourself to the point of not caring may not be the most popular or conventional stress management tactic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Many people, myself included, can understand that they are too tired to be stressed – that feeling when you hit a wall and you don’t have the ability to care anymore. And many of us want it to be so. Therapist Naj Alikhan also has many clients who have resorted to excessive hours, excessive exercise, and generally excessive exertion as a subconscious solution to their otherwise unmanageable stress.
“To exhaust yourself physically and mentally is absolutely an effective stress reduction technique,” says Alikhan. When we’re in a state of stress, our bodies are overflowing with hormones, but about 20 minutes of exercise can be a great way to burn off that excess adrenaline and cortisol. In these cases, you are venting your stress and using healthy coping skills. That said, it’s a problem if that’s the only thing you do for your stress.
“Using exhaustion as a way to manage or reduce anxiety is a risky practice that is not sustainable,” warns Alikhan. It’s tempting to lean into fatigue as a check, but the all-too-regular combination of stress and exhaustion strains our brains and bodies. “Using one to fix the other is a recipe for burnout, and if left unchecked, eventually depression,” says Alikhan.
Chances are that the stress you feel on any given day stems from a variety of factors and likely manifests itself in different symptoms. And so, the best way to deal with it is to hit it from all angles. This means always making room to sleep or talk about your feelings, as well as other more sustainable practices than perpetual exhaustion.
Again, it’s not that straining yourself to the point of being numb to what’s stressing you is the worst thing in the world – it just can’t be the only thing.