Recovering From Emotional Exhaustion? Wholeheartedness, Not Rest, Will Heal You!
“Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.” ~ Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
We have all been through some pretty hard times, and the world isn’t getting any rosier. There are so many ways to describe how people are feeling today — burnout, emotional exhaustion, mental exhaustion, mentally drained, emotional burnout, nervous exhaustion, overworked, over-stressed, over-committed, over-stimulated, and now we even have Zoom fatigue! And some of the tried-and-true methods for recovering from emotional exhaustion aren’t working.
We hear that the antidote for mental and emotional exhaustion is to make more time for self-care, including better nutrition, exercise and restful sleep. Then you pick back up from where you left off and keep doing the same things you’ve been doing, which leads to…you guessed it…more mental and emotional exhaustion! Something’s not working with this approach.
Recovering from emotional exhaustion — “recovering” may not be what you need. Exhaustion is your body urgently trying to get your attention with an important message! And quite possibly it’s telling you that a major change is needed. Exhaustion is a body sensation that’s asking you to seriously think about what you need at this stage of your life.
Being quiet and listening may terrify you, if your life has been jam-packed with nonstop activities. It may take considerable effort to force yourself to be quiet and still. A pleasant and safe way to achieve this is by creating greater self-awareness through practicing mindfulness.
As we quiet our minds and body, we need to ask ourselves the questions that won’t go away, as the poem in the image reminds us.
According to the poet David Whyte, questions that have no right to go away are the ones that make us think about the person we are becoming.
What questions have no right to go away, for you? I invite you to formulate 8-10 questions you must absolutely come to terms with. David Whtye gives us his 10 questions, and they may inspire you. For me, one of his most meaningful questions, and, I think, the ultimate answer to exhaustion is, “What can I be wholehearted about?” David Whyte quotes one of his wisest friends who told him,
“You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest? … The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
How can wholeheartedness be better than rest for recovering from emotional exhaustion?
Overwhelm comes from being distracted and pulled in many directions. Your loyalties and devotion are divided. It creates a war within yourself, as you consciously and unconsciously fight yourself and what you know deep down. You become exhausted by keeping too many balls in the air, and it’s frustrating that you don’t do any of them well. It doesn’t take long before you know you’ll never catch up with your commitments and goals.
In the process of recovering from emotional exhaustion, it’s normal to say, “I don’t know if I have the courage to go on!” Once again your body wisdom is giving you the answer! Did you know that the word “courage” comes from the old French word coeur meaning “heart”? You are instinctively telling yourself you need to increase your heartfelt participation in your world!
When you work at being wholehearted in everything you do, you’ll naturally weed out activities that are keeping you from concentrating on the key activities that matter. You’ll say “no” more often and “yes” less often, as you select the things you focus on.
Then something amazing happens…giving your whole heart to the activity/project/relationship that’s in front of you at this moment feeds your energy and passion. You see real progress and it fuels you.
We are not frozen in time. Who you were, what you needed, what you could do yesterday is not who you are, what you need and what you can do today. You’ve grown. Has your view of self grown at the same pace as your growth? Or are you trying to function at a level that only served you in the past? It doesn’t help to be judgmental of yourself. Shut down anything that fosters comparisons to others, like social media, because nothing will make you lose heart faster than thinking someone has a better life than you do.
In the matter of being wholehearted, it’s good to periodically ask yourself: “Is this thing I’m doing not just a habit, not just pleasurable in the moment, but is actively adding lasting value to my life? Twenty years from today am I going to say, I’m so glad I spent my time doing (this thing)? Or am I going to be wishing I would have spent more time doing X, Y, or Z?”
When you’re recovering from emotional exhaustion, it may feel like the dark cloud will never leave. But it will. Each day you can mindfully peel back a layer to reveal the light beyond. Developing a deeper awareness of your mind/body connection is fundamental to restoring your balance.
After studying several modalities, I’ve created a somatic-based framework for feeling safe as you explore what you need at this time of your life. If you’d like to know more, please contact me and schedule a 30-minute complimentary consultation by phone or via Zoom, to see if we’re a good fit for each other.
Thanks to Jiroe for the photo!