Managing Emotional Exhaustion at Work

We’ve all faced times where our emotional resilience is tested and we’re not sure if we can carry on like before. Even the most experienced vets, nurses, admins and more may feel the toll of long hours, unfortunate outcomes and the heat of passionate pet owners. 

When you’re feeling rundown or strung out, it’s important to address those feelings as soon as you can. “Soldiering on” may be necessary now and then, but it can become unsustainable. After all, a glass that’s overflowing can’t take any more. 

Don’t let emotional exhaustion affect your work and professional relationships. If you’re feeling burnt out, now might be the time to care of yourself as much as you do for our beloved pets. 


Notice the signs

Before you can care for your emotional needs, it’s important to understand them. Try asking yourself these questions:

  • Have you been irritable or less focussed at work?
  • Are you having trouble sleeping, or finding enough energy during the day?
  • Have your feelings towards work changed? For example, are you less motivated, excited or cheerful than usual? Do you dread coming in each day?

This is just a start, so don’t hesitate to dive deeper and see if further red flags present themselves. In the meantime, if any of these questions ring true to you, please read on to see our suggestions for responding to them.



Humans are empathetic beings, but sometimes we need to segment that part of ourselves in order to maintain objective decision making and mental resilience. 

It may seem incredibly obvious, but nobody can do everything, and sometimes things are out of our control or just don’t work out. 

Try to remind yourself that you are only human and you’re doing your job to the best of your abilities. Don’t blame yourself when things go south, and don’t bring work home with you; your personal hours are your sanctuary and recovery period. Use them to disconnect completely from clinic time and return in better spirits. 


Practice mindfulness 

If you’re struggling to separate your work life from your home life, and the emotions of others from your sense of self, try practicing these simple mindfulness techniques:

  • Breathe: Yes, that’s it. Focus on breathing in and out, in and out. Steady, controlled. Fill your lungs and empty them as a deliberate act. Even just a minute can force your physical stress reactions down and calm your mind along with it. 
  • Focus on the here and now: Don’t over-analyse everything that has happened or could happen; instead, ground yourself in what’s happening at this very moment and what you can find joy in. 
  • Take in your surroundings: Slow down your mind and pick out small sensations around you. What does your environment smell like? Look like? Sound like? What can you taste, or feel? Pick out individual feelings in your body, starting from your toes and working upwards. By the time you get to the top of your head, it may feel less overwhelming.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; if you’d like to learn more, consider seeking further meditation and grounding techniques that you can easily fit into your work schedule. 


Take care of your physical health

Mental and physical health are often intertwined. Try taking stock of your current habits and see what changes could help improve your mindset. For example:

  • Cut down on coffee: Too much caffeine can cause irritability, anxiety and insomnia, which of course can make it harder to regulate your emotions under stress.
  • Exercise more: Vets and nurses are always on their feet, but short bursts of more intense exertion can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Even if you can’t find the time at home, try fitting in a short workout during lunch to boost your mood for the afternoon.
  • Get some sleep: Do whatever you can to fit in a full night’s rest, even if you think you can manage with less. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to maintain both physical and mental wellbeing. 


Ask for help

Your team is there to support you, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. This could be as simple as confiding in a trusted colleague about whatever is weighing you down. You might be surprised how many people feel the same way as you.

On the other hand, if you’re exhausted because you’re struggling with a team member, don’t default to self-blame. There may be no good guy or bad guy in this situation, just a clash of personalities. However, if it is a pervasive issue, don’t hesitate to speak with your manager. It is best for the emotional health of all involved to deal with problem colleagues; you have enough on your plate already. 

Your manager can also help you more generally by approving time off or restructuring work hours. Often there is no one specific thing causing our burnout – it’s just too much for too long. Remember: you are entitled to a certain amount of leave, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.


At the end of the day, there is no fix-all cure for exhaustion at work, and stressors may come in all shapes and sizes. Some are within our control, and some are not. What matters is being able to identify the issue and get to the root of it where possible, understand your responses, manage the symptoms of burnout and ask for help where needed. You may find this making a difference not only in the moment, but also in your outlook as a whole.

Do you have any more tips for managing emotional exhaustion at work? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!