Emotional exhaustion is debilitating. You constantly feel emotionally worn out and drained, which makes it difficult to deal with any new obstacles or challenges.
Symptoms of emotional exhaustion are different for everyone, but they can include a combination of low energy, feeling unmotivated, feeling constantly stressed out, angry, or indifferent.
Sleeplessness, general fatigue, inability to concentrate, brain fog, personality changes, anxiety, and depression are also all related to emotional exhaustion.
What causes emotional exhaustion?
There are different causes of emotional exhaustion for different people. However, everyone runs a greater risk of emotional exhaustion if they’re under stressful circumstances for too long, or if they’re experiencing an ongoing negative work or personal life crisis. Long term stress definitely contributes to burnout and emotional exhaustion. That’s why circumstances like ongoing long work hours or even bringing a new baby home cause emotional exhaustion.
Generally speaking, burnout is caused by situations where there is a general lack of control or a fast-paced lifestyle with little opportunity to slow down, reflect, or, care for oneself.
If this continues with no respite, burnout and exhaustion can damage your physical health as well.
What is Pratyahara?
Pratyahara is a method of sensory withdrawal. While this sound intimidating at first, it’s extremely beneficial to completely disconnect from stressful situations and the world in general, so you can unplug in a way that soothes and refreshes you.
Withdrawing from sensory stimulation allows your nervous system to finally relax. Because you’re not responding to outside stimuli, your sense of self-awareness grows as does your inner stability.
Since we experience the world primarily through our senses, depriving those senses for some time really helps us to look and reflect inward.
THE UNTETHERED SENSES
While it’s true we live in a world that bombards our senses, the truth is, sensory overload has been an issue for thousands of years.
An undisciplined mind is so influenced by sensory experiences, that it lacks good judgment, and follows along with the habits and desires of the senses.
And the untrained senses, when left to their own devices, latch onto the pleasures available to them at the moment. They’re motivated by past experiences as well as desire, fear, and cravings.
This can cause problems since the senses aren’t interested in your ongoing well-being, so, many spiritual faiths address managing this in their ideology.
CREATING POSITIVE HABITS
Yoga especially has lots of disciplines to manage sensory overload. These disciplines or practices are called “tapas,” which loosely translated means “penance, austerity or self-discipline.”
However, some of these tapas are extreme, such as the vrikshasana method of going for 100 years on your tiptoes! Luckily, there are better ways.
Ideally, you would implement lifestyle changes that help modify your habitual response to stimulation, as well as use natural body functions that help inhibit the senses. Practices such as asana rely on breathing evenly through both nostrils so that the mind is no longer occupied by external sensory stimuli, and instead, moves inward.
In yoga tradition, another form sensory detachment is called pratyahara. Pratyahara is misunderstood because it falls in between internal and external practices for sensory detachment. Technically, sleep is considered a natural form of pratyahara because our consciousness detaches from our senses. However, true pratyahara requires a conscious awareness or detaching from our sensing and allowing the subconscious mind to surface.
THE LIGHT OF AWARENESS
The best part of detaching from our senses to give ourselves respite, is, that our consciousness becomes far more sensitive. When the senses back off, our intuition can step forward and play a bigger role. Practicing pratyahara allows us to free our conscious awareness from behavior patterns.
Breaking old habits and behavioral patterns is hard, and sometimes stressful. Ironically, many of us choose to start new “healthy” habits or stop old habits, when we are stressed to the max. But pratyahara allows us to break free of the behaviors that we repeat, constantly, instead of desperately seeking out a new “better” habit or behavior.
However, it takes time and practice to learn pratyahara to a point that it benefits us.
How to Apply Pratyahara
It’s important to make pratyahara a healthy practice. It’s not intended to be the end result of difficulties or stress, and it’s not intended to be a last resort.
Rather, it’s a means to an end, and the end isn’t to end pain or stress. It’s to remain conscious of everything, including the desires of our senses, while allowing the subconscious mind to surface and work freely. The benefit of this, especially for the emotionally exhausted, is that pratyahara allows you to relax, and once you grow into the habit of it, you relax more freely and and learn how to practice restfulness.
Because pratyahara involves separating the consciousness from sensory pulls, one is able to separate out thinking, feeling, and the will when practicing.
It’s up to the seeker to decide to use this aspect of separation to their benefit. But to the emotionally exhausted, pratyahara becomes a means to depart from a sensory overload, and not only gain respite, but gain an advantage over their current circumstances.