Article Thumbnail

Is It Possible to Be Too Tired to Be Stressed?

Many people unconsciously cope with stress by exhausting themselves to the point of not caring, but therapists warn that this is far from a sustainable solution

There are few things that feel worse than staying up all night worrying about what you have to do the next day. But as much as 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 over it now.

Exhausting yourself to the point of not caring anymore may not be the most popular or conventional stress-management tactic, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work. Plenty of people, including myself, can relate to being too tired to be stressed — that feeling when you hit a wall and no longer have the capacity to care. And there’s many of us who want it that way. Therapist Naj Alikhan also has many clients who have resorted to overscheduling, over-exercising and generally overextending themselves as a subconscious solution for their otherwise unmanageable stress.  

“Exhausting yourself physically and mentally is absolutely an effective stress-reduction technique,” Alikhan explains. When we’re in a state of stress, our bodies surge with hormones, but 20 minutes or so of exercise can be a great way to burn off that extra adrenaline and cortisol. In these instances, you’re making your stress tap out and using a healthy coping skill. That said, it’s a problem if this is the only thing you’re doing for your stress. 

“Using exhaustion as a way to manage or lessen anxiety is a risky practice that isn’t sustainable,” Alikhan warns. It’s tempting to lean into being tired as a way to check out, but combining stress and exhaustion too regularly puts a strain on our brains and bodies. “Using one to fix the other is a recipe for burnout, and if left unchecked, eventually depression,” Alikhan says.

The odds are good that the stress you’re experiencing on any given day stems from a variety of factors, and likely manifests through different symptoms. And so, the best way to manage it is to hit it from all angles. This means you should always make space for sleep or talking about your feelings, along with other practices that are more sustainable than perpetual exhaustion.

Again, not that tiring yourself out to the point of being impervious to what’s stressing you out is the worst thing in the world — it just can’t be the only thing.