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Understanding the Meaning of Our Exhaustion

Updated: Mar 30

There are times in our lives when we may reach a level of extreme exhaustion, without really understanding what the cause may be.

Setting aside medical reasons, family responsibilities or work commitments that may be a contributing factor, there is also another form of exhaustion that occurs when the way that we are living our life is not in alignment with our values or our true nature.

One of my favourite writers is the author and poet, David Whyte, who describes this concept perfectly. In Midlife and the Great Unknown, he shares a conversation that he had with Brother David Steindl-Rast about his understanding of exhaustion. Brother David said to him:

"The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest. The antidote to exhaustion is whole heartedness.

The reason you are so exhausted is that much of what you are doing, you have no affection for.

You are doing it because you have an abstract idea that this is what you should be doing in order to be liked."

How many of us have stayed too long in a work environment that was unhealthy for us, for fear of leaving and the uncertainty of our future? Or we remain in a relationship that has long since dwindled because we don’t know how to acknowledge the truth, to ourselves or to the other person.

The question we may be facing is whether or not our work situation can be improved if our concerns are addressed. Or can a relationship be salvaged if both parties are committed to sorting out their differences? Is the relationship reciprocal or is one person continually investing more energy into the relationship in order to hold on to the connection?

These are difficult questions to address. And sometimes they take months or even years to resolve. Yet having the courage to ask ourselves these questions, may be the starting point we need to begin the process.

And the answers may not come from our analytical mind. They may come from an intuitive sense of knowing, what we know in our hearts to be true.

As 2021 is coming to an end, now is the perfect time to reflect on the year ahead and how we picture our future. Who are the people in our lives that we feel excited to be in the presence of? Who are the people who challenge us, energize us and inspire us to be the best version of ourselves?

Let that be our goal for 2022. Wishing you peace and understanding for the year ahead.

Author’s note: The above quotation from the CD, Midlife and the Great Unknown has been printed with the permission from David Whyte and Many Rivers. To learn more about David Whyte’s work, please visit

Photograph by Photoholgic on Unsplash

————— Ruth has worked in the field of employment counselling for a period of 25 years and has loved the opportunity to help individuals reach their career goals. She is passionate about the need for improving the mental health of individuals and the need to ensure that all people have access to a safe and supportive work environment.

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