If you’ve ever felt an onslaught of intense emotions – be it a positive one, like a touch of happiness, or a negative one, like an outburst of anger – you’ve likely experienced the crash that comes when those emotions wear off. While we usually think of exhaustion in physical terms, it can also be psychological. If you come home exhausted after a long day at work, even though you have only sat at your desk all day, it is due to mental exhaustion.

As Emma Seppälä, lecturer at the Yale School of Management and author of The lucky trail, noted in a Harvard Business Review article, one of the contributors to mental exhaustion are highly intense emotions. Too many of these high intensity emotions, positive or negative, can lead to burnout.

Emotions can be classified according to intensity

One way that psychologists classify emotions is to differentiate them according to two dimensions, which include high and low intensity and positive and negative. High-intensity positive emotions include excitement and elation, while low-intensity positive emotions include calm, serenity, or contentment. When it comes to negative emotions, high-intensity emotions include anger, fear, and fear, while low-intensity emotions include sadness, boredom, and fatigue.

It’s easy to see how stressful high-intensity negative emotions like anger can be. What we don’t think about that much is the fact that high-intensity positive emotions are also exhausting, albeit in a completely different way.

Highly intense emotions cause you to crash afterwards

When you experience high levels of excitement or happiness, those feelings don’t last forever, and when they wear off there is this crash that comes after.

As Seppälä writes:

Excitement, even if it’s fun, involves what psychologists call “physiological arousal” – the activation of our sympathetic (fight-or-flight) system. High intensity positive emotions involve the same physiological arousal as high intensity negative emotions such as fear or anger. Our heart rate increases, our sweat glands are activated and we are easily frightened. Because it activates the body’s stress response, if excitement persists, it can deplete our system – chronic stress affects our immunity, memory, and attention span. In other words, high intensity – be it through negative states like fear or positive states like excitement – stresses the body.

Some people are predisposed to feel emotions more intensely

CA 15-20% of people are considered to be highly sensitivewhich, in part, means they experience emotions more intensely than others. These are the people who when they are happy are really happy, and when they are sad they are heartbroken. As they go through the ups and downs of life, the increased intensity makes them more prone to exhaustion than others.

Even for people who are not highly sensitive, there are certainly situations when it is easy to forego an intense emotion, be it an overwhelming excitement or a strong fear. For many of us, the past year has been a source of intense anxiety that includes people who are usually fairly balanced in normal times.

Emotional balance is the key

That is not to say that we should never experience intense emotions. Emotional diversity is an essential aspect of life that gives us the depth and richness that we need. What we have to look out for, however, is balance. There will be the exciting days, as well as the days when stress and anxiety drive you through the tough times, but there are other, less intense emotions that serve us well in many other situations without placing undue stress on your body.

The key to dealing with emotions without burning out is balance. To counteract the stress of high-intensity emotions, consciously take time to engage in quieter activities that lead to emotions such as contentment or serenity.