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Let’s talk about exhaustion

How are you doing? I’m not going to lie, I have been exhausted lately. Not just tired, not just overworked, but exhausted. I think there are a couple of reasons why, and perhaps a deep underlying cause…

Life with COVID

The first reason, of course, is that we are still – one year later – living through a global pandemic. And with it, all the fear and anxiety and uncertainty that life without the usual parameters brings. This isn’t necessarily front of mind for many of us any more, because we feel like we should be used to it by now. But really? Used to having to wear masks and sanitise our hands and have our temperature checked every time we enter a building? Used to our kids wearing masks and social distancing at schools? Used to double-guessing every decision in case it’s not cautious enough and we could be putting ourselves at risk?

I had a COVID dream the other night (I’ve had them a couple of times) where I was in a shopping mall, and my mask wasn’t over my nose. As soon as I walked through the doors I thought, “This isn’t safe!” but it was so convenient having all the shops in one place that I quickly raced through, trying to get everything I needed. I mean, you don’t need a dream expert to analyse the underlying emotions under that one… Also, it made me realise that I haven’t been to a shopping mall in a year. A year!

Work work work

On top of life with COVID, there’s the new weird work environment. Yes, Zoom calls have made it easier to connect with people without having to drive to meetings. But driving was sometimes quite fun, wasn’t it? Having to dress up for a meeting, listening to a podcast on the way, having a cup of tea with a stranger while you connect, rather than staring at your face and theirs on the screen? There was some gold to be found amidst the effort.

The other problem, of course, is that work continues till the last moment – there’s no buffer between work and home, no space to decompress. I never had ‘water cooler’ chatter, because I work from home, but I had lunch dates and coffee dates and sneaky movie dates that made working from home so much more fun! Now, it’s me and my laptop, 24/7 baby, 365… (But not really, because I don’t work weekends. Ever.)

Exhaustion vs. depletion

When I think back to the early days of two kids, that was real exhaustion. Not enough sleep, being pulled in too many directions. I am not there, thank goodness! But something is not as it should be – and I think this article on fatigue vs. depletion captures it really well.

We are depleted because our usual channels of restoration are not readily available to us anymore. We are normally restored by human contact through the exchange of energy and discourse, even in the form of passing interactions with other travelers at airports, servers at restaurants, or attendants in stores. Virtual meetings keep us going, but they don’t restore our inner energy.

David Lapin

To be honest, I think I’ve been feeling both depleted and fatigued. I have been exceptionally busy at work – and exceptionally productive. Juggling many balls, knocking them back over the net with accuracy and precision. That’s exhausting!

But I’ve also had to remind myself that rest isn’t enough to recover from this kind of exhaustion – fun is also necessary. This weekend we went for a walk by the ocean, had special one-on-one time with Ella while Arty was at a sleepover, and spent the day strolling around Babylonstoren (my favourite place in Cape Town) before eating a delicious lunch. I feel (somewhat) restored.

Prioritizing sleep

I also slept 10 hours on Friday night and 10 hours again last night, and that helped enormously. I wake up naturally after 10 hours (I’ve always known this – I’m a sleeper) but rarely give myself the opportunity of such deep rest… Why?

A friend sent this to me on Saturday morning and it really resonated with me. Why is it that we think being exhausted is normal, or right? Why don’t we prioritize feeling rested and refreshed? It feels like a radical act to go to bed early rather than watching TV… But why?

I’m going to experiment with deep rest this week and see what happens. It feels like some kind of science experiment!

Published inInspiring

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