Emotional bandwidth is a newer concept referring to the energy people have or do not have to support the people around you. It helps to understand that there are limits to the capacity to care especially when you are feeling physically and emotionally depleted due to overexertion, overwork, and exhaustion. High achievers in all sectors are generally at risk of burn-out. They tend to work harder, longer, and faster then their peers with excellent results that are noticed in the workplace. Being rewarded for excellent outcomes and productivity usually reinforces people to continue to work as hard, long, and fast over time. The problem with this of course is the realities imposed by the human body, mind, and soul. People do break down due to overwork, overexertion, and exhaustion. People do suffer physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual breakdowns.

Elite athletes are great examples to understand limits of human capacity. They train hard, long, and fast often with excellent results. They also suffer many physical and mental injuries along the way. Some athletes suffer from adrenal fatigue after years of high impact training and sports. This condition is usually diagnosed and treated holistically by naturopathic doctors. Symptoms may include lethargy, extreme tiredness, and a general sense of malaise. It can take weeks or months to restore the body back to normative levels of energy and to heal the body’s natural autonomic circadian rhythms like sleeping and reproductive health in women required for overall health and wellness. There are limits to pushing the human body too far. Your body will begin to tell you when you are reaching your own capacity limits. If you are in-tune with your own physical wellness, you will begin to notice a change in what your body can tolerate and begin to slow down for rest and recovery reasons. If you are less in tune with your own body, you may try to push through periods of decreased physical tolerance to stress caused by overexertion that may result in greater injury or harm. The key is to begin to learn when, why, what, and how your body needs time to renew its capacity levels.

There are also problems with pushing your emotional limits too far as well. Feeling angry, frustrated, disappointed, or negatively with situations or people at home, work, and in the community build cumulatively in ways that may result in mental and emotional breakdowns. Similar to the physical body, people also have emotional and mental capacity limits as well. If you are in tune with your mental health and wellness, then you will know when to begin to retreat and withdraw from situations or people that for whatever reason result in emotional over-exertion on your part. You may also find it best to socialize more with those people in your life who fill you up and lighten your mood. If you are less aware of the people and situations in your life that stress your tolerance levels, you may try to push through emotionally during trying times, thereby risking your own mental health and wellness .

Working with a mental health specialist during emotionally difficult periods of time is the difference that can make the difference for people at risk of emotional burnout and mental breakdowns. Talking about events, people, and situations that are particularly trying will help to gain clarity on what you need to do to stay well. Some of the work may involve strengthening your personal boundaries and setting limits in light of your own capacity requirements. Everyone has the right to be healthy and well. Creating personal boundaries that ensure your store of wellness remains nurtured and healthy during trying times is necessary for your own mental health and wellness. “Toxic” relationships are real and you may need some professional help to navigate them, especially where the person is important to you.

Learning to self-nurture your emotional bandwidth in the face of chaos is an amazing journey of wellness. It excites and incentivizes mental health specialists when clients learn to set healthy boundaries and to live happier lives. Companies that support mental health and wellness in the workplace with healthy insurance benefit plans that cover social work, counselling, and psychotherapy are excellent responses to the growing demands and pressures of work in all fields. So, find yourself a therapist who understands the limits of your emotional bandwidth and the importance of building personal boundaries that protect your inner core and joy even through the most trying of times.

Enjoy these remaining days of summer!

Lisa Romano-Dwyer BSc, MSW, PhD, RSW Registered Social Worker, Psychotherapist (OCSWSSW).

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