November 4, 2014

The Next Time You’re Feeling Exhausted, Stop & Ask Yourself this One Question.

“I’m just really tired,” my boyfriend mumbled to me on a lazy Wednesday evening last week.

I heard him clearly, over the sound of too-loud canned laughter on the sitcom we were only partly watching.

But, deep in my gut, I felt so sure that something else was wrong.

I swear I could see a black cloud and several little gremlins hovering above him.

I pestered him lovingly, asking “What’s wrong?” and “Are you okay?” far too many times before I finally just let it be.


Fast-forward to a week later.

“I’m just really tired,” I mutter breathily to my boyfriend as he peppers me with a steady and sweet stream of “Are you sure you’re okay?” and “I’m worried about you.”

You know what?

Neither of us were really “just really tired” after all.

We were both feeling exhausted, yes this is true.

But, we both had a wealth of crap going on underneath that surface layer of exhaustion.

I, for instance, was having intense feelings of worthlessness and frustration.

I was feeling angry with myself for not being “more” in my life, for feeling like I haven’t achieved “enough.”

I was feeling down-and-out and generally not good enough.

I was feeling sad and scared about this new life I’m trying to create for myself.

And to be quite honest, at the time, I just felt too lazy (and terrified) to unravel what was truly going on.

Blaming exhaustion was the perfect escape route from looking any deeper.

Somehow, though, my sweet man and I were able to shine some light on each other’s darkness by (finally) asking this one question:

What are you really feeling, besides the physical exhaustion?

Oh the power behind that seemingly simple question.

For me, it felt like my tiredness was validated, while at the same time being seen straight through (like oh sh*t, I can’t hide under it anymore.)

Essentially, I felt both comforted and slapped awake.

It was exactly perfect.

Once my man and I had successfully posed this query to one another, we began to dive headfirst into our emotions, and our energy (wait for it…)

Returned to normal!

The tiredness evaporated.

I beg you:

Ask yourself what you’re really feeling, besides exhaustion.

Ask a loved one.

Ask it sincerely.

Ask it fiercely.

Ask it gently.

But most of all: answer it as precisely and honestly as possible.

Take your time.

You might be surprised what reveals itself.

When we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience our emotions, concerns, fears, or pain, it’s like a huge hand going inside us and suffocating our life force.

Our light gets snuffed out.

Our energy burns up more quickly than usual because we’re desperately trying to stuff the things we don’t want to see in a dark closet somewhere far, far away.

We keep the door shut. And lock it tight. And guard it incessantly.

F*ck! That takes a ton of effort.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live as vivaciously as possible. I’d rather be real with myself and face the sh*t that’s going on, no matter how scary or overwhelming it seems.

It often takes less energy to unravel our true feelings than it does to keep suppressing them.

So, if you’re feeling extra tired, exhausted or burnt-out please gently ask yourself how you are, besides just tired.

Really ask.

Let’s start to take a real interest in our feelings.

They are not just pesky inconveniences.

And, no, they cannot be simply swept away without consequences.

Our emotions are trying to communicate deeper truths to us, so let’s try to be more open to what they have to say.

We deserve that.

We need that—more than we even know.

So, let’s close our eyes and dive in right now.



Note: Sometimes, of course, we really are just tired, under the weather, exhausted and pure rest is all that’s needed. Additionally, sometimes emotional upset also calls for extra rest. Listen closely and carefully to yourself and feel out what you need.



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Bonus read:

10 Ways to Take Care of Ourselves when we’re Suffering from Burn Out.


Bonus: 10 Basic Salves for Burn-Out & Everyday Depression.

Author: Sarah Harvey

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Wikimedia Commons



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Ben Jan 8, 2016 6:59am

I have gone through this so many times. Its is nice to hear someone else’s take on dealing with mental exhaustion. Great article!

Alexa Oct 14, 2015 2:19am

Ive actually noticed the opposite. If I don’t sleep enough and feel exhausted, I often start feeling sad, doubtful about myself etc. I notice that when I then really give myself the time to sleep and recover, my mood goes up dramatically again!

Jeanne B Jul 18, 2015 2:25pm

I wasn't expecting much when copied and pasted the sentence "What are you really feeling, besides the physical exhaustion?" into a Word doc and let roll. That I'm still unloading into it 1,089 words later, and that the first word that came to mind ("disappointed") brought tears to my eyes, well, it's a surprise, but I'm glad for it.

Thank you for this (from a 52-year-old single woman who supports herself and her six cats on a modest income in a mundane job and has no financially flush partner to speak of, but who intends to take steps to change her life so that "disappointed" is not the first word that comes tearily to mind).

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Sarah Harvey

Sarah Harvey resides in the mysterious mountains of western North Carolina. Through the journey of healing her own trauma and pain, she has found power in poetic expression, art, and dance. She loves supporting people to step into their power, find their voices, and flourish. She believes in resilience. She believes that sometimes, our darkest days lead to the most unexpected, breathless joy. She currently offers life coaching sessions and is pursuing her Masters in Counseling. She feels most passionate about supporting those healing from trauma with a creative, heartfelt, and gentle approach.  Follow Sarah on Facebook and her website!