The Real Reason You’re Exhausted

Do you ever have those days when you come home and you are just completely mentally and physically exhausted?

Sometimes it comes at the end of a killer workday but sometimes it’s after a relatively blah day. Like this exhaustion is just there hovering around you like a dark fog and despite getting enough sleep and not being overly stressed, you can’t seem to shake it?!

The cause behind that exhaustion may surprise you.

But first, a science lesson from our friend Albert Einstein. According to the Law of Conservation of Energy, which is the basic law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Second, an observation. For better or worse, during our legal careers, we will have abundant opportunities to lose our shit. Every day, we encounter humans and circumstances that will test our resolve, our patience, and our ability to keep it all together. Anger. Frustration. Fear. Self-Doubt. Guilt. They are all a natural part of our daily lives, along with all their ugly relatives and friends.

All of those emotions are energy. The Latin derivative for the word emotion, ‘emotere’, literally means energy in motion.

But how many times a day do we feel that rise of white-hot rage energy in our chests and stifle it? How many times a week do we get so frustrated we could burst into tears BUT WE DON’T?

Every time we do that we are holding that energy inside our bodies. In all of those instances, we are bottling up the energy that is trying to move through us. It’s like continually adding boiling water (high energy emotions) to an already screaming tea kettle (our body). We just keep adding more and more energy (emotions) to the tea kettle (our body) and fighting to keep them all contained, despite the kettle screaming to be loosed.

When we block the energy from moving through our body, we end up storing emotions in our cells and the power of those emotions is held there, boiling below the surface. Remember that energy can’t be destroyed per Mr. Einstein so now we just captured it and we’re fighting to contain it.

In other words, when we ignore those emotions that present themselves during the day, that energy remains in our bodies, fighting to get out. So we, in turn, express more energy to keep that energy hidden; to keep those emotions from leaking out.

We end up living our lives with an energetic timebomb just waiting to detonate and fighting to keep it under wraps.

Understanding that emotions are energy implies that they are fluid, moving resources meant to be felt and released vs. suppressed and ignored. The latter is the true culprit of burnout and exhaustion.

If you feel physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of every day and you aren’t sure why, it is likely that you are carrying around a lot of pend up energy that needs to be released.

How do we do this? A few ideas:

  • Journal about it. Engage in a free write and let it all out. Let the tears come out as you write if that feels natural. Just engage with those feelings and write down all the thoughts that come with them. It’s like a mental and emotional exorcism — just get it out!
  • Connect with the emotion. Where do you feel it in your body? What color is it? Does it have a name? What does it feel like when you touch it? What does it feel like when you let it move through you?
  • Meditate. Meditate and connect with the emotion like in the prior example as a means to recognize and honor its presence before releasing it. Consider having a dialogue with the emotion. Can you name it? Where did it come from? What does it want? What is it trying to teach you?
  • Get support. Talk to someone about it who won’t judge you or try to fix it. A verbal exorcism if you will – again, just get it out! It doesn’t have to make any sense. The goal is to release it not to fix it. (Ahem, I’m always available for that sort of thing!)

As you work through these options and release the pent up energy, your body will move from contraction (keeping the energy pushed down) to expansion (letting the energy pass through) and you will typically feel lighter, calmer and relieved. When you allow yourself to ride the emotional wave of these sensations you will regain homeostasis which allows your body to finally rest and heal itself.

Through these practices, you allow your body to feel the emotions it didn’t have the opportunity to release at the time of the triggering event. An added benefit of this work is that you can learn to understand these emotions and the thoughts that trigger them. When we understand our emotions on a deeper level, we no longer need to fear them and can instead learn to better manage them. We don’t need to rage at work or burst into tears when the emotion strikes us but we can, instead, commit to honoring those emotions and expressing them at an appropriate time.

They are part of our human experience and holding them in simply does more harm than good. So go on, pour yourself some wine and have a good ol’ cry about it!


Photo by Daniel Pratt

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