my space tracker

Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Exhausted? What Kind of Tired Are You?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Exhausted? What Kind of Tired Are You?

Sometimes people come in to my office and sit down on my couch and tell me how very tired they are. Exhausted, in fact. Most folks these days have busy lives, lots of things on the "To Do" list. Work, family, just the activities of daily living take up time and space and energy. Physical and mental.

But usually when folks tell me that they are exhausted -with a negative connotation - it's a cue to something deeper, something in the emotional or psychic realm. Of course, if you are having trouble sleeping, falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping well, exhaustion has yet another layer to it. But I have found that even when you are sleeping well enough, you can still feel exhausted.

So what gives?

Usually, when we unpack and study exhaustion we may find a few good possibilities:

~Exhaustion can be looked at as a defense - our unconscious mind's way of protecting us from something that we might not want to know - or feel, or might be afraid to know or feel.

~Exhaustion can be looked at as a messenger, nudging us to pay closer attention to our mental and physical health.

~Exhaustion can be a spiritual experience, alerting us to the idea that we may need to slow down and tune into our deeper selves or our spiritual life.

Often, exhaustion is a signal that we are angry, or feeling frustrated, hopeless or resigned about something, or someone. Sometimes it's a way of rebelling against a routine we don't like, but don't think we have a choice about. Sometimes, we may be exhausted because we are busy - on an unconscious level - fighting off a feeling, or trying not to feel it.

It may take some real reflection to discover what kind of tired we are when we feel exhausted.

Yes, maybe we are working long hours, or are busy with life, going through hormonal changes or seasonal allergies, but often, exhaustion has a deeper meaning. We may need to sit quietly, write freely, talk it out with a trusted other, to let the possibilities surface. When they do, we can find relief, renewed energy, and of course, hope.


Laura said...

guided relaxation podcasts are a huge stress reliever for me whenever I feel exhausted, I recommend "Guided Calming Exercises" which are free on iTunes

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

good idea, thanks Laura

spldbch said...

I'm glad you pointed this out - exhaustion is typically not just about physical exhaustion. If it was, all a person would need to do to feel better is to sleep it off. Instead, I hear day in and day out from people who wake up feeling tired; you're right, it is a symptom of something deeper.

I also work with a lot of anxious people. They frequently complain of exhaustion and also about trouble concentrating, trouble remembering things, and frequent "zoning out." To me, their symptoms make perfect sense. They don't realize just how much energy they are expending every moment trying to avoid feeling their anxiety (or perhaps to keep it from becoming more intense). That takes such an enormous amount of focus and energy that there is very little left over for anything else. That's why it isn't surprising that they can't remember things or that they can't sustain focus on anything for any significant amount of time.

Melissa Groman, LCSW said...

agreed! there is much to learn from studying anxiety, our reactions to anxiety and "zoning out!" Glad to have your thoughts!