10 Sources of Exhaustion You Cannot Afford to Ignore

That conditioned me to see my worth in what I do and what I have to offer rather than seeing my worth as who I am.

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Toward the end of such a crazy year, we’re all forgiven for feeling anything from a little tired to absolutely exhausted, especially if we’re in roles in which we give of ourselves.

Anyone who is a parent or a teacher, a pastor, chaplain, nurse, manager, etc., together with being a child of an elderly parent, or juggling studies or paying off debt, and who possibly has multiple helping and serving roles, will relate. In simpler terms, most of us can relate.

Here are ten sources of exhaustion, which is an adaptation of the work of Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God :

1. Being too plugged in

It’s the curse of modern social media and email age. Most of us spend far too much of our lives connected to devices. Without tempering this excessiveness of electronic stimuli, we risk burnout simply because we have a fear of missing out (a.k.a. FOMO).


2. Trying so hard and juggling so much

Few of us genuinely want to disappoint people, because, let’s face it, even if we’re selfish, keeping people happy makes life easier. We’re often prepared to do more to keep the peace. And just because we do this doesn’t mean we’re “people pleasers.” It’s often strategically wise to keep people happy. But the more we say yes, the more exhausted we become.


3. Functioning out of an inordinate sense of ought and should

This is about listening to our language, or even what we’re saying to ourselves about making needs out of wants. We place a lot of pressure on ourselves. We should do this, or we ought to do that. If you’re exhausted, you know how it goes.


4. Finding it difficult or even humiliating to receive help from others

It is far easier for us to do things for others than to “owe” people. But if we can’t receive others’ help, we will find life exhausting.


5. Living more as a performer than the person God created you to be

We are human beings, not human doings, but all the same; we act as if all that matters is our performance. I know how hard this can be having had employers that I found impossible to please regarding performance—yep, didn’t know how. I know that conditioned me to see my worth in what I do and what I have to offer rather than seeing my worth as who I am. God is far more interested in who we are than what we do.


6. Few or no boundaries on my service and availability to others

Priding ourselves on saying yes to everything is the sure road to burnout. Let me just leave that there!


7. Always feeling you should be doing more because there is always more to do

There will ALWAYS be more to do, and the more we do, the more we SEE the things that need to be done. We don’t need to be the ones to do what needs doing.


8. Carrying the burden of unhealed wounds – sadness, unresolved tension or conflict, toxicity in relationships

This one’s loaded. Grief, unforgiveness, and untenable relationships will do us in if we let them. We will have grief. We will. We must take our sadness to God. And we must find ways of resolving tension (which takes intuitiveness and courage) and putting in place boundaries in toxic relationships—or ending them.


9. Information overload

Just about every adult alive at this time knows a world where information bursts toward us like out of a firehose. We need to protect ourselves against the relentless deluge.


10. Just being plain willful (as opposed to being willing)

This speaks to our narcissism. Yep, it’s in us all. Only the ones who can see it are those who are probably low on the narcissism scale. Most of us know what we want and, if we’re honest deeper down, we insist upon having it.


The opposites of these are easy to note down:

1. Establish a routine that is a foil to being plugged in all the time. This is the demand for structure and honesty. If we can’t abide by sensible limits, are we being honest about where the real problems lie?

2. Stop trying so hard and stop juggling so much. Say no more often and be equipped to say no by preparing answers beforehand.

3. Function more out of an ordinate sense of could and might rather than ought and should.

4. Receive love from others. After all, those who want to help us are probably doing so because they want to love and serve us. Let’s give them that chance, and then it provides us with the opportunity to be thankful toward them.

5. Repeat after me, “God is far more interested in who I am than what I do.”

6. Boundaries to our service and limiting our availability to others is wisdom.

7. There may be more to do, but unless we’re directly responsible, it doesn’t mean we must do it.

8. We must enter (surrender to) processes for healing our wounds – or at least be honest about these enduring weaknesses and the limits we’re encumbered with.

9. Limit the flow of quality information and be disciplined to jettison dubious information.

10. Having a willing attitude in reconciling and accepting our individual reality.



Featured Image by Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

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About the Author

Steve Wickham is a Kingdom Winds Contributor. He holds several roles, including husband, father, peacemaker championing peacemaking for children and adults, conflict coach and mediator, church pastor, counselor, funeral celebrant, chaplain, mentor, and Board Secretary. He holds degrees in Science, Divinity (2), and Counselling. Steve is also a Christian minister serving CyberSpace i.e. here.