“It takes courage to say yes to play and rest in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” Brené Brown
One of the most common aspects I am hearing lately is how exhausted people feel. Exhausted with remote working, tired of a pandemic, overwhelmed with uncertainty and basically just over it all. While being exhausted can be a symptom of depression or burnout - it can also be simply stated: tired.
We all have stress sometimes more and sometimes less. We are all exhausted, sometimes more and sometimes less. But sometimes, the stress and exhaustion overlap and you begin to lose your sense of control. When that happens, your emergency response system triggers an increase in adrenaline, which is your body’s own stimulant. Now you are still dealing with the stresses in your life while also dealing with the side effects of adrenaline. Adrenaline is putting your brain and body on alert so you’ll be ready for the next unexpected crisis, but it also means your natural mood-stabilizing hormone serotonin is getting used up or running low. So, if an added unpredictable crisis pops up, like hmm...a pandemic, you’re already running on almost empty—just when you need a full tank of energy, clear thinking, and emotional strength.
Wonder why you are exhausted?
Your body can only manage so much adrenaline and cortisol before it starts to step back and say “Yep, not today. I am done. I need a nap”. Sound familiar? Physical exhaustion leads to emotional exhaustion which leads to more physical exhaustion and the cycle continues.
I am reading the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud after it was recommended to me by an amazing coach. As a non lover of reading these days (sleep seems to take over quickly) I was pleased to find it on Audible which led to a relaxing day floating in a pool. What I was not prepared for was the impact that the book had on how I viewed the concept of being “tired” and some of the reasons for that in my life, but also in the lives of most of my clients.
As someone who has never had a green thumb and has thanked many plants for “giving my joy” as I ripped them out, gardening is not my favorite hobby. However, the analogy of pruning that was presented in this book was something that even I could embrace and understand.
There are three reasons that any other gardener except me would prune a plant:
When The Bush Produces More Buds Than It Can Sustain
Sometimes bigger is not better. More is not thriving and can actually have the opposite impact on the plant’s ability to survive and become robust.
Our lives are very similar to this rose bush. They are often filled with so many good things; so many opportunities, commitments, endeavors, and relationships that we are overwhelmed. Our resources are stretched, and nothing, or no one, is getting our full attention. In most areas we are surviving, not thriving. We are exhausted so nothing gets all of our best self.
When The Bush Has Sick Branches That Are Not Going To Get Well
I remember a summer of Japanese beetles that attacked every rose bush that I had. No matter what I did, the leaves were looking pathetic and sick. It spread to the branches and until I removed the impacted area - nothing was going to thrive.
So, too, does this happen in our lives. We overextend ourselves, hang onto toxic habits, and linger in commitments that deplete us physically or emotionally. It feels as though all of our energy is being diverted to sustain parts of our life that are not meeting our hopes and expectations. Essentially, the season of possibility for these buds has passed. What would happen if we were to get out our shears, and extract the parts of our life that are no longer giving us the results they once did, or are never going to amount to anything no matter how much we try?
Dead Branches That Are Taking Up Space
As I have personally discovered, not every plant, bush flower or tree will survive an inept gardener. I have even been skilled enough to lay to rest a peace lily! There always comes a day that you need to step back, take a deep breath, figure out the teachable moment and embrace the ending.
As in our lives, we are often burdened with situations that have run their course and no longer contribute to our success. Finding and removing what drains our life will allow you to discover what you were created to do, how you can find your energy again and where that sweet spot is that thriving takes minimal effort with maximum joy.
Pruning in life sounds as painful as pruning in gardening is for me. However it is the only way to find out what is amazing, what is ok and what needs to go. According to Dr. Cloud, to create sufficient urgency for change, you've got to get real about present circumstances.
Endings seem hard because they require change.
Try this exercise. Stand in front of a mirror and be honest with yourself. What does your current situation feel like? Sense it: feel it, smell it, and imagine it playing out. Now, think about the future. Take those present sensations with you. Could you imagine still being surrounded by those same emotions and sensations in two to three years’ time?
If not, let’s chat. Because if you cannot embrace the same emotions in two to three years (or even six months!), your level of exhaustion that you feel now will not magically go away after some rest, after a fabulous vacation or even after a leave.
You do not have to embrace a culture that says “exhaustion” is the only way to function. Even in a pandemic. There is another way and you can make a radical change so you can thrive.
We are in this together and together we will empower each other to work through the level of exhaustion so you can discover your rockstar status.
All without taking an entire year off. Unless you recently won the lottery and want to. In that case I wholeheartedly support you!
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As I have stated previously, being known for who you uniquely are at the core is a freeing experience. One that will take bravery and vulnerability, but one that can be achieved.
Always remember to take care of you. You are worth it!