How many of you are just plain tired?
The grind of everyday life can just plain wear you out at times.
Anyone deeply tired? I mean taken tired to a whole new level.
And how many more of you can take that a few steps further and would say you’re exhausted?
There’s physical exhaustion, when your body is just wasted, ka-put.
Then there’s being mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Have you been there before?
Are you there now?
Most people live at a pace that is simply unsustainable over a long period of time.
And oh how we try!
But here’s the challenge: you simply don’t realize it when you’re in the middle of it.
A friend of mine, Dennis Mcintee, always says, “You can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle.”
Others can. They see it and even feel it. Sometimes avoid it.
The Exhaustion Cycle is a real thing.
I lived it and it took my crash for me to get out of this vicious cycle.
And the problem is once you escape The Exhaustion Cycle it’s not a once and for all, one and done and never going back cycle.
It will lure and suck you back in before you know it.
Kinda like that bad bad girlfriend I found myself going back to in high school.
Thanks for the encouragement, man.
The difference is once you realize it, you can get out of it earlier or avoid it altogether much quicker the next time.
Here are the three phases of The Exhaustion Cycle:
Phase One = Busy – Can’t Stop Now
It’s the new greeting or hello.
“How are you?” “Busy. How are you?”
Then we feel obligated to prove just how busy we are and if you’re sick like me, you try to outdo the other person and one up them.
“Let me tell you about MY week, I would trade you in a second!”
It’s sad but being busy is the new status symbol.
I have to be busy if I’m going to be important.
We don’t know any other way. We remove any possible margin and downtime.
We start our week this way and in full swing before lunch.
Now, I want to state up front, busy could be a very good thing if it means things are happening. Forward motion.
It becomes an issue when it becomes a consistent pace and the only way we do life.
There are busy seasons but all too often we live busy lives.
And oh there’s a RUSH to being busy. Making things happen.
I love this quote by James Gleick in the book, Faster :
“Our ability to work fast and play fast gives us power. It thrills us. If we have learned the name of just one hormone, it’s adrenaline. No wonder we call a sudden exhilaration a “rush”.
But here’s the takeaway: it’s not a sustainable pace.
The problem is Being Busy is never noticed and corrected but just the way things are for us, our way of life.
For me, I’m distracted, rushed, not patient, more prone to make errors, and I usually don’t enjoy what I’m doing as much.
You also don’t feel like you can bother a busy person because, well, they’re busy.
I feel rushed with them, like I don’t have their full attention.
Sadly, I’m that guy too often.
Busy = having little to no margin.
Margin = space to breathe.
BUSY = I’m hurried.
I know when I’m hurried…
And busy doesn’t always mean productive.
When I’m overly busy, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything very well.
I have to move on to the next thing.
And I have a love / hate relationship with being busy.
I hate being hurried and hassled by an overcrowded schedule.
But I also love being in demand and the adrenaline rush of a fast-paced life.
I heard someone once say, “I’ve been thinking about starting a support group for compulsive hurriers. The upside is our meetings wouldn’t last long.”
Even Thomas Kelly said back in 1941:
We feel honestly the pull of many obligations and try to fulfill them all. And we are unhappy, uneasy, strained, pressed and fearful we shall be shallow… We have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power.
Wow, over 75 years ago this was quoted and look how much busier and hurried we are now.
It’s not easy to slow down in our lives. Despite the complaining, we like the exhilaration and rush.
Even if we take a moment to think how to get off the proverbial treadmill, we’re not sure where to even begin.
Busy is a slippery slope, a downward spiral that rarely is an end but only the beginning.
We don’t feel like we can pull back because we “can’t stop now.”
My ENERGY is DISPERSED
It’s ALL over the place.
And it’s the opposite of focused.
It’s going absolutely everywhere because I’m busy and “got people to see and things to do.”
Don’t you know I’m busy people!
You can be busy for a long time before phase 2 but it will come unless something dramatically changes in the way you do life.
Busy, if not kept in check can very easily lead to the next phase, which is:
Phase Two= Beatdown – Can’t Take This
Busy, “can’t stop now” builds in pressure.
Rarely does it stop with Busy.
You don’t immediately end up in beatdown from busy but IF you keep up the busy pace of always being hurried and little to no margin, it will inevitably lead to feeling beatdown.
This is inward. No one usually knows when you move from Busy to Beatdown.
Remember, Beatdown is a feeling and you start thinking: I Can’t Take This!
Whatever feelings of fun or a rush you were getting from “being busy” have officially left the building.
A thing of the past.
If this is the case, you’re officially entered Beatdown.
But it’s subtle so you must look for the signs.
I feel more frustrated, more easily irritated. I become passive aggressive. I feel tension. I even feel cynical sometimes I’m embarrassed to say.
I also become more defensive like everyone is after me.
My self-talk increases. It starts with: “I don’t want to do this” then “I can’t take this.”
And when it gets really bad, it turns into audible unintelligent man sounds: UGH! ARGH!
I also get snarky, more sarcastic and more cutting with my words.
Never ends well and an area of growth for me.
Remember, Busy = I’m hurried but..
Beatdown = I’m stressed.
Busy is beginning to pile on and it’s no longer as fun. The “rush” is wearing off. Not cool, man.
You’re officially feeling its stress.
And people handle stress in different ways.
Some are healthy such as exercise, downtime, or even taking much needed time off of work.
But most people’s stress outlets are often unhealthy especially when you’re too busy and beatdown.
We think we don’t have the time or can’t take the time to do the very things that relieve this stress.
This is never good Energy Fans.
For me, it starts with my muscles get tight my neck and shoulders with no back rub in sight anytime soon.
Then I move on to lazy or poor eating choices. I want something I can control and makes me feel better. I want little preparation and quick reward. Snacks.
I also get lazy on my eating and drinking to “feel better”. A little more sauce (aka: vino) and a lot more Oreos.
Hide the bag from the women and children. Those Oreos are going to get hurt and it won’t be pretty.
My energy goes from Dispersed in the BUSY phase to….
My ENERGY is DECREASED
Did you catch that? My energy NOT my stress is decreased.
Your Stress INCREASES and Energy DECREASES.
When we’re in the Beatdown Phase and let’s say you use the weekend to regroup, you’ll fly through the Busy Phase and into the Beatdown Phase before the end of the day Monday.
Somebody stop me.
And once you’re in the Beatdown Phase, you almost always end up in some form of burnout.
Phase Three = Burnout – Can’t Keep Going
Sadly, we’ve all been there.
We just don’t care anymore.
We just want everything to stop.
Welcome to FunkyTown. (feel free to sing along)
And what happens when we can’t keep going?
Things start dropping.
Busy = Hurried.
Beatdown = I’m Stressed.
But Burnout = I’m Done.
I simply don’t have the bandwidth needed to get what needs to be done because I’m done.
This is a bad place.
And it doesn’t end quickly.
No more quick fixes.
Everything good that was working for you is usually gone – sleeping well / eating healthy / fitness to even more movement.
I recently read a commencement speech delivered by Brian Dyson, the former COO of Coca-Cola a number of years ago:
“Imagine life as a game in which you’re juggling some five balls in the air.
You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air.
You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.
But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass.
If you drop one of these, they’ll be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered.
They will never be the same.”
Here’s the moral of the story:
We cannot afford to drop the highest priorities…
And when you get to Beatdown, the likelihood is incredibly high one or more of the glass balls will be dropped.
Some very important glass balls may be scuffed, nicked and damaged.
And for many, their health is the very first thing that goes.
We know we need to change things but we’re SO far from where we used to be, it just seems insurmountable.
And what happens to my energy in the Beatdown Phase?
It went from dispersed to decreased but now…
My ENERGY is DEPLETED
Symptoms could be:
- Aggressive (passive in passive aggressive now sold separately)
This is the Jekyl and Hyde side of you – the complete opposite of who you were and possibly the ugly side.
It is for me.
Burnout is L-O-N-G and often painful for you and those around you.
Burnout is also scary. It can lead to any or all of the following:
- Reaction – anywhere but here mindset
- Regret – do something stupid (usually big) to feel better or feel anything at all
This is where glass balls in the juggling example crack or even shatter.
Often the first one to drop is your HEALTH.
The Burnout Phase should “scare the exhaustion out of you!”
There is hope.
There IS a way OUT of the Exhaustion Cycle…
Here’s a remake of Psalm 23 for those who live in The Exhaustion Cycle:
Psalm 23 revisited
The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest.
It makes me lie down only when exhausted.
It leads me into deep depression, it hounds my soul.
It leads me in circles of frenzy for busyness sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done, for me “ideal” is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.
They demand performance from me, beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines, my inbox overflows.
Surely busy, beatdown, and burnout shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in the bonds of the exhaustion cycle forever.
-Living on Purpose by Tom and Christine Sine and altered in key places by Bryan Paul Buckley
- Determine which PHASE you’re currently in the most right now – chances are one phase is more prominent to you than the other two.
- Determine how effective your work and your life are when you live in The Exhaustion Cycle – you may be getting things done, but as effective as they could be? And what is it doing to you in the long run? And are you dropping any of the glass important balls you’re juggling right now?