Pushing Through the Exhaustion

Updated: Jan 30

Last night my husband and I decided to be a little irresponsible and go to a very late movie. Mind, very late for 30-somethings begins around 9:30 and ends around 12:30. But we needed to feel a little irresponsible. We often feel we are carrying the weight of the world on our backs. And we are- because our world consists of two full-time jobs, three beautiful, albeit challenging, toddlers, and writing (which hopefully will one day replace one or both of our full-time jobs). Driving home, we were both so tired. It was late. It was dark. We just wanted to be in bed. But we were lucky because we could at least see the road ahead and knew how to get home, even though the pure exhaustion had seeped into every pore of our bodies.

Sometimes it's because we chose to do something slightly irresponsible the night before. Sometimes it's just that we are swamped with all of our responsibilities. Sometimes we are trying to push through the fog of anxiety and depression. Sometimes we are ill. Sometimes there is no reason at all. But all of us experience the distinct feeling of driving down a highway at night, and very often, that road is not lit.

We all have moments (I'm not sure if mine could be labeled as only 'moments') where sleep or mental rest sound more important than working toward one's goals. And the thing is, sometimes that is true. Sometimes that is what you need. But most of the time, what you need is to find a way to break through the wall of fog and push forward. I often feel this is a Sisyphean task, but there is nothing quite like the feeling you get when you think that you will not be able to accomplish anything that day but instead you kill it. You get through it with a slow start but end with a strong finish.

I have experienced the whole kit and caboodle. Sometimes Netflix or naps do win me over in the end. Sometimes they don't and I start off feeling so tired that I am almost seeing double, but then I move into a rhythm that works well for me. Lately I am happy to say it has, more often, been the latter. And I find that, the more I do, the easier it becomes.

Hard work, especially when dealing with extenuating circumstances, requires mental muscles. Sometimes the muscles feel like soup. But the more we use them, the harder it is to see the words "Campbell's Chicken Noodle" printed on them (I'm not getting paid by Campbell's. It's just a good example of a very limp noodle). Sometimes hard work isn't fun, at least, not at first. But it becomes more fun each time we accomplish something. Each little accomplishment, be it simply getting out of bed and sitting down to write or just getting out of bed at all with the intent to eventually accomplish something, is a stepping stone to seeing yourself as a 'finisher.'

When I write, I like to do something called 'sprints', which is when I set a timer for 20-30 minutes and I write without interruption during that time and then take a small break where I can eat a snack, talk to someone, play a game on my phone, etc. Each time I finish sprinting I have accomplished something. Each time I accomplish something I want that dopamine high again so I push forward into the next sprint, often without taking much of a break at all.

Of course, this works well for me but may not work for you, and that's ok! You can find what helps you get from a to b, then b to c, in a way that will get you to your end goal, z. Sometimes it takes trial and a whole lot of error. But once you find what helps you unlock the inner strength to continue, you will have a whole new motivation to accomplish something. You will find it easier to push through the fog of exhaustion. You will be able to see enough road to know where you are going, even if everything else feels dark.

Push through the exhaustion. Don't let the exhaustion define who you are. As someone who has allowed that to happen for many years now, find a way that works for you so you can accomplish so much more than I have by the time you are a tired 30-something. Because it doesn't get easier with age, at least, not in my experience. Because life gets infinitely more complicated as you reach those big milestones; spouse, kids, jobs. Get yourself to a place where you are trained to withstand the things that make goals hard. Work that noodle. Don't let it it soak in broth until it is squishy (no hate on chicken noodle, still a big fan).

All that being said, don't forget to give yourself a little grace. Sometimes you need to allow yourself to step back and rest. Don't let that be your baseline, but do it when the time comes that it is necessary. Don't forget to feed your mental heath. A balanced meal for mental health has a variety of things- rest, hard work, relaxation, etc. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it.

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