I wanted to share what I read about emotional exhaustion in this post. But I realize I had to explain one important concept ie emotional labor before that. Labour requires putting in effort and from my readings, the performance of emotional labor can be executed mainly in the three following ways as proposed by Ashworth and Humphrey:

1) We fake the emotions that are required at the moment and we can do this by displaying behaviors that are correspondent with these emotions. Such behaviors include verbal and no verbal cues like regulation of our tonality and body language.

To appear happy
A: It’s a bright sunny day. (Broad smile, high pitch)

To appear sad
B: It’s a gloomy day. (Head hung low, soft voice)

We are displaying emotions outwardly that are vastly different from how we are feeling internally.

2) We produce the desired emotions in ourselves through various ways like remembering past experiences and repeating mantras, then feel them before displaying them outwardly (though the past experiences may be in any way related).
Over here, you deliberately choose to feel the desired emotions.

3) You naturally feel the emotions and you display them as they are. A genuine expression.

We used all the above three ways to show our emotions but we use them to various extent in the different context because there is no one best way to display our emotions. Emotional labor is just a process, it is not the outcome. We have to perform emotional labor in our day to day life when we fulfill our work duties when we want to show empathy and console someone, when we do not want to reveal our troubles to our loved ones and the list can just go on and on.

To make it clearer, emotional labor does not constitute emotional exhaustion. It is the inability to release or cope with the stress that stems from emotional labor that then results in one feeling emotionally exhausted.

Emotional labor, a process, can bring us the desired outcomes which might be able to offset the stress accumulated.

For instance, a waitress though has some family problems, still put on a smile and serves her customers warmly. At the end of the day, her customers praised her for her excellent service and even give her a generous tip. She might feel that the emotional labor is worth it.

In short, if performing the emotional labor fulfills our needs and/ or is consistent with our values and identities, it is less likely that emotional labor will lead to emotional exhaustion.