Positive Exhaustion

Do you ever sit at night simply exhausted?

You might not even remember when you woke up or everything you did because it was such a full day.  As someone with a son, wife, two dogs, a full-time job, a side job, and in an MBA program, I can testify to exhaustion like many of you.  Exhaustion is an interesting stressor on our body as it can be positive or negative.  I have never thought of exhaustion as positive until I did missions work in Haiti and a good friend would talk about how great it was to feel exhausted at night knowing he had a fulfilling day.

He is exactly right, those days where I am productive and really did something substantial feel exhilarating, even if that means it is difficult to move from the couch to the bed.  Those are the nights I sleep sound and wake up refreshed for a new challenge.

Yet there is a downside to exhaustion, just being productive is not enough.  Many of us have experienced nights where we were exhausted because of family stress, mistakes at work, trying to meet deadlines, or simply questioning our purpose in life.  Those are the nights I do not sleep well or go to bed fulfilled; instead I stay awake for hours wondering how I will get everything done and if I am really doing what I should with my life.

The dichotomy between positive and negative exhaustion is fascinating as both make our body, mind, and spirit tired, yet only one leads to a restful night and energy for a new day.  

Here are some tips to work towards continual nights of positive exhaustion:

  • Find your purpose: I cannot overstate how important your purpose is to yourself and others.  When you are purposeful, it shows in your work, relationships, and to anyone who meets you.  Not only that, but you will make money when you are purposeful.  As cliché as it sounds, the world craves authenticity which is readily apparent when someone is doing what they were meant to do.  When people see authenticity, they will believe in your product, service, or simply want to hire you to bring that level of purpose to their company.
  • Help others: humans are unique in that helping others generally makes us feel more fulfilled.  Think about it, when you are stressed, you are probably focused on yourself and your situation.  I will be the first to admit I am guilty of this, especially when I think of work, school, my commute, etc.  When I think of those stressors I become self-absorbed and block out others, yet when I help others I experience fulfillment.  This is what I learned from my friend while in Haiti, every day was about serving others, and every night I went to bed with a smile as I was exhausted knowing I had helped others.
  • Be yourself: another cliché that sounds trite but is true.  At some point, most of us realize that people are so worried about how they will be perceived that they do not really pay much attention to other people’s minor eccentricities or mistakes.  Instead of stressing about minor details, simply be yourself and show everyone who you are, again the idea of authenticity comes into play.

Positive exhaustion is possible and a wonderful experience but elusive to most.  I would be lying if I said every night I went to sleep positively exhausted, yet my goal is to have more nights of positive exhaustion than negative exhaustion.

For those who feel negative exhaustion is pushing them to burn-out, take some time to write out your 1) purpose, 2) how you can help others, and 3) aspects of yourself that are not being shown because of fearing what others think.  When you see them written out:

  • Strive for your purpose
  • Seek ways to help others, and
  • Release your real personality

Thank you for reading, and as always feel free to message me!