Four Signs of Survival Fatigue (Mental Exhaustion) and Steps for Dealing with it

July 22, 2017 rmaddox

Have you ever heard the old quote, “Life is like a box of chocolates”? The meaning of this quote is you never know what you are going to get. We know that chocolate boxes normally come with a description of what’s inside and where each piece of chocolate is placed in the box. Oh, my friends, only if life was like a box of chocolates. Just imagine if every aspect of your life was a piece of chocolate in a box that you received at the age of 13. On the back side of the box would be a list of every chocolate in the box, describing various parts of your life. For Instance, a piece of chocolate that represented your friends, another for your jobs, yet another representing your finances, every relationship, decisions that you would have to make in life and so on. I can’t help but wonder if you have already thought of the person or part of your life that you would want to take out of the box the moment you opened it. The thought of changing the negative aspects of your past is all a part of this experience called life.

Let’s face it: there are so many distractions and challenges in life that we may easily lose focus of our plan for success. When we lose focus of what we want out of life or our well laid-out plan to achieve our goals, this can lead to a lack of self-confidence. Not only does our self-confidence begin to fade but we start to exhibit the signs of what I call “survival fatigue”. Survival fatigue occurs when a person is mentally exhausted from attempting to deal with the various problems in their life. The circumstances or problems which may lead to survival fatigue range from relationships to parenthood to finances to medical problems and employment issues. During these challenging times, a person may become mentally exhausted.  At this point, they begin to make poor and rushed decisions and often interpret a situation as being far more critical than it really is.

Therefore, here are four signs of survival fatigue and ways to deal with it.


We all have our own personal tolerance levels when it comes to dealing with problems and people, but when you are mentally exhausted, your tolerance level can drop 20 degrees below zero. On such occasions, the last thing you want is other people pressing you for assistance. You are in survival mode, attempting to hold the pieces of your life together, and you just want to focus on finding a solution to the problems in your life. Although you are smiling in the presence of others, they have no idea of the mental energy you are using to maintain a smile and to control persistent thoughts of what’s going on in your life. Now, they may notice some changes in your behavior, such as you having become distant or irritable outside of your normal character. Some people will express their concern for your welfare, or just because they need something to talk about at the water cooler.

The key here is to remember that other people may not be fully aware of your circumstances. When frustration occurs during the periods of mental exhaustion, you need to take time out. I love the way in football, basketball, and in other sports, players call a timeout when the opponent is beginning to gain momentum. Many people should consider implementing this tactic of calling a time out when things begin to feel out of control. Taking time out will allow you to take a step back and prioritize your goals for getting things back on track. The initial emotion during the prioritizing stage may seem overwhelming. But once you face each of your problems, I think you may find that some of your fears can be easily conquered.


When you reach the point, you start telling yourself, “I’m not going to think about it anymore. I’m just going to make the most of my life.” For some reason, you get the brilliant idea that if you just don’t think about it, everything will work itself out. So you begin to look for distractions that offer a visual impact, such as going to a movie, bar/club or even calling someone you haven’t spoken to in over a year. This behavior normally leads to additional problems down the line. You may find that many of the issues that you have ignored in your life have become an even bigger obstacle to overcome.

I would recommend using your time wisely to deal with your problems. It may not be possible to tackle all of your problems at once. Therefore, you must learn to have time as your ally. Problems seem to attract more problems the longer they linger in your life. We all need a mental getaway from the challenges of life, but don’t take a full vacation from the reality of your obligations. There is so much more you can accomplish in life when you develop a sense of readiness to accomplish your goals without fears of your past blocking your way.



Here is a term I use for someone who is attempting to attack every area of their life where they see a  potential problem, without creating a plan of attack. Bouncing is one of the biggest signs I have noticed in people experiencing survival fatigue. Mentally, they have reached the point of all or nothing when it comes to resolving their issues. Often they are using temporary fixes for their problems, which give them a false sense of accomplishment, when in reality, they are in the same place as before, and in some cases, the temporary solution has placed them in a worse situation.

So focus on putting together a plan to address your problems one at a time. Once you have addressed one problem, determine if there are any additional resources from that solution, which could help resolve the next problem. When you attempt to take on multiple problems, it is easy to become overwhelmed and lose confidence in yourself. Make use of the resources that you have available to you, and don’t overextend yourself. Bouncing from one problem to the next may result in you overlooking important information. Create a realistic plan of attack and focus on your scheduled objectives.


Deteriorating Health

There are various ways to deal with high levels of stress in life. In some cases, people may choose to participate in activities or create habits that are not beneficial to them in the long run. This type of behavior may include excessive drinking, smoking, overeating, lack of sleep, self-isolation and unproductive relationships. There are other ways, not listed here, that people may use to deal with stress so, it’s important to perform a self-evaluation. Often, we will hear people make a comment when they notice something has changed about us. Don’t take it personally, use this as constructive criticism to evaluate yourself.

To live life to its fullest, you must incorporate a healthy lifestyle that will help you deal with stress.  Maintaining a regular exercise program while eating balanced meals makes for a great start to move forward in life. Working out gives you something to look forward to in regards to your physical health. It can also help you burn energy and refresh your thoughts. Consider the information you are taking in daily from social media and the people around you. Try implementing some positive motivational messages and add them to your music playlist, especially when you are walking, driving or working out. There are a lot of great motivational speeches on YouTube. Your spiritual beliefs can help you as well. Have you considered having a family night with a comedy movie and no conversation about life’s issues? Creating a home of laughter and embracing your family through positive communication can motivate you to see that your hard work is worth the effort.

I have experienced survival fatigue, and I am not ashamed to say it was not the best time of my life. I questioned my purpose with God, and I begged for peace. I only learn to use these skills after facing the challenges of life. I pray that this is a helpful guide for anyone currently dealing with survival exhaustion. You will feel the power when you rise into this journey called life!