You’ve hit the proverbial wall feeling that forward progress is impossible. Your mind and body are merely going through the motions. Every task feels like a herculean effort.
If you can relate then you’ve suffered a state of exhaustion. Your energy is sapped yet the demands will not cease. What is one to do? When eliminating the stressor is not possible ironically the best approach is acceptance.
Marguerite Yourcenar’s novel Memoirs of Hadrian has the aging Roman emperor write his future successor Marcus Aurelius. His fictional admonition reads,
“Whenever an object repelled me I made it a subject of study, ingeniously compelling myself to extract from it a motive for enjoyment. …I strove to welcome this hazard, to rejoice in whatever it brought me of the new and unexpected, and thus without shock the ambush or the tempest was incorporated into my plans or my thoughts. Even in the throes of my worst disaster, I have seen a moment when sheer exhaustion reduced some part of the horror of the experience, and when I made the defeat a thing of my own in being willing to accept it.”
While such a letter was never actually written for the future ruler of Rome it holds true. For it’s often at the point of exhaustion that we stop chaffing and reacting to an unpleasant circumstance and instead accept it. This resignation that follows allows us to think more rationally and in realistic terms. It’s not defeat. It’s surrendering to the reality of the situation- not the final outcome.
This approach however is no walk in the park as many obstacles appear as immovable unflinching monoliths. However, only after repeatedly pushing and tugging do we come to the realization that perhaps the best route is to go through or over the obstruction. The obstacle may actually be the way!
Hopefully, this missive finds you not in a state of exhaustion. But those times when you do find your ambition and drive running dry, it could be exhaustion itself that provides a clear perspective.
What obstacles are wearing you down? Write them down and commit to flinging yourself into the most daunting obstacles.
In the meantime, you may also want to adopt these practical strategies.
- Reduce digital and auditory input. Find a quiet place to be still. Nonstop stimulation is not healthy, in fact it drains your body’s dopamine response.
- Find the gaps in your schedule and use them to relax for a moment
- Set realistic boundaries of how much you can get done in a day
- Make it a priority. Our schedules are typically all about doing. Schedule times for simply ‘being’.