In the relentless and fast-paced nature of life, stress is a common condition. Stress can often be overwhelming and impact the body in both physical and psychological ways. Thus, learning about how stress impacts the body is a crucial part of stress management. According to Hans Selye, a prominent medical researcher, there are three stages that our body experiences during stress, namely, the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage. The exhaustion stage is the last stage of the body’s response to stress. This article explores the exhaustion stage of the stress response in depth.

What Happens In The Exhaustion Stage?

The exhaustion stage is the final stage of the body’s response to stressful situations. It is usually a result of prolonged and unaddressed stress. After the initial alarm reaction and the subsequent resistance stage, where the body attempts to adapt to stressors, the exhaustion stage occurs when the body’s physical, emotional, and mental resources are completely depleted and the body is tired to the point where it is no longer in a position to cope with any stress. It is a phase where the body and mind, stretched to their limits, struggle to cope with persistent stressors.

Some symptoms of exhaustion are:
  • Feeling tired very easily and the tiredness continues even after resting
  • Disturbance in sleep schedule, sleeping more or less than usual
  • Feeling emotionally overwhelmed and increased irritability
  • Difficulty in concentration and decision-making
  • Going through depression or anxiety
  • Feelings of inability to cope

Let’s understand the exhaustion stage with an example. Imagine you are a corporate employee working in a high-pressure environment. Initially, you handle stress well and with a strong sense of responsibility. However, as this continues for a long time, you feel persistently fatigued, struggle to concentrate, and find yourself emotionally drained. Your body seems to be feeling low on energy and resources. All these are signs that your body has reached the exhaustion stage of its stress response cycle. 

How To Recover From Exhaustion Stage?

Recovering from exhaustion is tough and often requires consistent effort. However, it is critical to take steps to deal with exhaustion so that the long-term side effects of stress can be avoided. A few ways to deal with exhaustion are:

  • Acknowledge

The first step to dealing with exhaustion is to realize and accept that you are feeling exhausted. Many times, people continue to work even at exhaustion, leading to long-term negative consequences.

  • Find a Balance

Start by looking at your current schedule to see if it is overloaded with work. Mindfully schedule some time in the day to take a rest, and also schedule time for activities that help you relax. Practice setting boundaries at work when necessary. Consider taking a break from work if required.

  • Self-Care

Embrace self-care practices that nurture overall well-being. Schedule time for daily exercise and start paying attention to your diet while adopting a healthy sleep schedule that makes you feel refreshed in the morning.

  • Professional Support

If you are unable to cope with stress, it might be helpful to consult a healthcare or mental health professional. Mental health professionals can help you identify the root cause of stress while also providing stress-management techniques


The exhaustion stage of stress is a critical phase that demands attention and proactive intervention. By recognizing the signs of physical and emotional fatigue, individuals can take steps to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. Ignoring the signs of exhaustion can lead to long-term physical and psychological consequences.

Feeling exhausted and want to know how you can recover from burnout? Click here to read our article on spotting and recovering from burnout 


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Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin