Updated: Sep 11
You know that feeling? Not just the tired, I need to get more sleep feeling. Not the I’m so overwhelmed I don’t know where to start feeling. And I’m not talking about the I’m so tired of dealing with this sh*t kind of tired. What I’m talking about is the feeling of complete and total depletion. You know the one that is deep in your bones, in the marrow, at every level of your being. When your whole body cannot move and no matter how hard you try you can’t open your eyes. When your body feels so heavy it’s almost not even there, it is part of the furniture. I’m not talking about depression (that could be, but not my focus here) rather, absolute exhaustion. Can you feel it? This is how I felt a few weeks ago and thus the inspiration for this (finally after so many months) post.
In all honesty this moment did occur on an evening after I hadn’t gotten much sleep for a few days. So just get some rest then, you might be thinking – problem solved, blog post done! Sure, but I don’t think it’s that simple, at least not for me. I have worked on projects into the wee hours of the morning, sleeping 4 hours and then waking up with vibrant energy ready to work some more. When I was creating my slide show from our trip to Europe which then bled right into the idea for my book, “XI,” I worked all night long and for several successive days and had nothing but energy, passion and joy coursing through my veins. It’s not unusual for me to write or work on a project all night long and then easily get up to start my day after only a few hours’ sleep (fyi, it’s 1am right now).
So what’s happening here and what was happening a few weeks ago? What is underlying the experience of energy vs. exhaustion?
While I was mulling over this topic for the last several weeks, I discovered that I’m not alone. In the past 2 days I’ve read at least 3 other posts on this (and related topics). This might just be proof of the validity of Elizabeth Gilbert’s notion that ideas are looking for an open vessel through which they can be expressed. So while my vessel was stuck (not writing) on this topic, the idea was welcomed in by others and they wrote their version of it: posts about COVID fatigue, overwhelm, self-care etc. But today my vessel is open and I sit down at the keyboard and with the wisdom of Master Coach Rick Tamlyn in my head, I’m writing my own take on this obviously rich and timely topic – because as Rick would say, no one has done it my way. So on with it.
Of course suggestions to “sleep 8 hours, exercise, eat better cleaner food, meditate, create self-care practices, get together with friends or community” are all great and necessary. And these are a regular part of my life (except, as those of you who know me well, know, the 8 hrs. thing still escapes me). But I believe there is something more at play when sheer exhaustion sets in. It’s something that requires greater depth of personal exploration and discovery.
So what is this, not just tired or overwhelmed but, viscerally exhausted on a cellular level feeling? For me it’s the absence of energy, vibrance, and joy. When the life force, not the desire for living, but the force that moves me energetically and excitedly forward in life has left the building. It’s the absence of engagement. It’s a physical manifestation of an emotional state. And I think it has something to do with being surrounded by what I can’t be with and the lack of nurturing what matters most.
This life force can be nurtured in the physical realm of course. The body is where we can look and inquire about diet, sleep and exercise all of which play very important roles in our energy levels and overall well-being. This is relatively easy to suss out, either you are or you aren’t taking care of your body level needs. Did you sleep 3 hours tossing and turning or 8 restful hours? Did you eat a burger and fries or a salad? Kombucha or Vodka? Yoga or Netflix? How much of this vs how much of that which supports physical and emotional well-being? Of course it’s way more complex than this and there’s lots of nuance here. I’ve been listening to the book Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, about the gut microbiome and brain health - this stuff gets complicated! But for the purposes of this post, my inspiration was directed elsewhere.
I believe that when the exhaustion at the level I’m talking about hits, the spiritual emotional level is a place to look. And one of the places to explore is your values. I have been guiding several clients through a process of mining their core values. When I asked one of them what they thought the value of looking at their values was, it occurred to me that perhaps looking at my own I might find a source of this e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.o.n.
Could it be that not paying attention to and not nurturing what is truly most important is the heart of the matter? What isn’t being honored, do you have values at war with each other, do you even know what’s important to you in the first place so that you have a place to look…
So I pulled out my values work that I did with my coach 5 years ago and here’s what I found… My values of RESPONSIBILITY and GENEROSITY have been over emphasized and CREATIVITY has gotten the short end of the stick lately. I have a value called HEALTH and while I am focused on my own, the caretaking of my mother who is in poor health is a challenge to this every day and my value called PEACE is challenged with each phone call from assisted living saying that my mother fell. Every time I see the caller ID from the assisted living facility my whole body goes into fight/flight mode. I have a value called CHALLENGE that is about adventure, new experiences and travel – yeah, well COVID! On the other side, and the reason I didn’t slide into and stay in e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d forever, are the values of WISDOM, MONEY and ORGANIZATION that are in check at the moment.
The coaching I received and the reflection I had gave me a framework to look at what was happening with my values and the jumpstart and accountability to set out to realign to them; to take action in the care and feeding of my values as a way to get at the heart of the matter in a truly meaningful way and shift the energy.
Here’s what I have done lately: A weekend getaway at a spa with my husband – CHALLENGE, PEACE & HEALTH; writing this post, preparing for a new creative project and participating in a 4 day writing challenge – CREATIVITY; engaging with my CTI Leadership Tribe on a weekly call and regular touch base times with coaching colleagues to practice Akashic records, share stories, wisdom and learning – WISDOM & GENEROSITY; starting the process to clear out the garage & cleaning the house – ORGANIZATION; daily meditation, gratitude, writing practice & yoga 3x per week – HEALTH & PEACE.
Now I’m not saying that a good 8 hrs rest, healthy food, meditation and exercise isn’t critical – of course it is. You can see that some of these things are integral to my living into my own values. But if you’re doing those things and you find yourself in a state of e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.o.n, check in with your values. You may very well find something that is most important to you is being compromised.
I propose when your values are being ignored, stepped on, and denied it’s no wonder you feel like you’re a part of the furniture. Nurture your values and it’ll be easier to get off the couch and go for a walk! And when you do, call me, I’d love to join you – HEALTH, GENEROSITY.
photo by Lynne Harris Bernstein
Ghost Ranch, New Mexico