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Exhaustion: How to help yourself if all else fails

April 20, 2021

Hi everyone,

I do hope this blog finds you doing okay. If not, please click on the button here to book in for a free discovery session with me, or if you are in crisis, don’t hesitate to reach out to services like Lifeline (Ph: 13 1114).

I’m witnessing clients, clinicians, coaching colleagues, and most people I help be observably in a place of exhaustion, and/or burnout, or compassion fatigue, or just plain tired. It’s okay to be tired – this past 15-18 months for most people has been utterly exhausting. Let’s just all admit that. It’s okay to say you need a break and take it.

We all need to continue to be there for friends and family, clients or colleagues and we cannot be martyrs, or we aren’t good to anyone and we’ll just be a puddle on the floor. Being stoic and just soldiering on works for a while, though that can also be a recipe for burnout if you aren’t in a job that you love, or feel is part of your purpose.

So, how can you maintain better practice around your self-care? (Or have deeper self-compassion?)

The first question is then; how can you help yourself? Could you have extra sleep? Do you need to attend to yourself by attending your appointments with medical professionals, a therapist, or other mentoring support? If not, would you consider alternative practitioners, if that isn’t working?

The following Life Wheel helps me when I lose my way. I look at what’s out of balance in my life wheel and try to course correct what isn’t working for me. This helps me with my own self-supervision tasks, reflection and self-mentoring processes.

(Sourced from:

What would you like to do more of? What are you not doing in your life that brings you joy? Even with any restrictions that we have – what else could you do?

Coaching regularly works with a question of – what else? What else is possible? What else floats your boat? What else is happening to you?

Lately, I’ve been getting back into my singing bowls, I purchased a Djembe drum recently and every day I set my intentions and meditate. I’ve been going on walks and to the gym, though even that has slipped. So, what has helped me to keep going – across all of this time? ….

For me, it’s about ….

1) Not forgetting about my why – my purpose and deeper meaning of why I do the work that I do – Someone like Frankl with his book Man’s Search For Meaning gives us an idea of how we can survive no matter what the odds and still find hope.

2) Knowing that I cannot make everyone happy – that it’s important to take care of myself before others (I’d encourage you to do the same).

3) Stopping to smell the roses – that even when I have witnessed, sat with people’s grief and loss around COVID, or losing loved ones, that nature itself often has the answer. That nature itself has seasons – we need to keep remembering the seasons and that there’s a season for everything.

As an example; I have regularly been feeding the rainbow lorikeets at my home, and there was a poor little baby rainbow lorikeet that did die recently, though the other rainbow lorikeets know that they need to keep going, despite the great loss that the parents experienced in the passing of their little baby.
I kept feeding the birds as they continued to nest and have more babies.

4) Having variety in life – Life cannot just be about work. It needs to involve light and shade – things that may be difficult and things that are easy. It’s best not to take the easy route all of the time, though we cannot be just workers. As the Life Wheel suggests, we need time with people in our social life – whether that be in person, over the phone, on Zoom, or something similar.

5) Pondering, reflecting and having reflective practice – It’s super important to reflect on what works and what doesn’t in life, so that we can have a ‘do over’, or as Brene Brown would suggest ‘a circle back conversation’. My colleague, Neville Starick has a great framework for reflective practice here:

6) Working out where you find hope – Where do you find hope for the future? Something to look forward to? How can you do more of that? In this video, from the Vision 4 2020 conference that I ran, I speak of COVID and Hope:

7) Acknowledging our own and other humans’ needs – We ALL have needs. In the existential psychotherapy tradition, we discuss needs from a point of view of ‘human givens’.

Yalom discussed in his writing – the four existential human givens, and they are; i) Freedom & responsibility ii) Isolation & connection iii) Meaningfulness & Meaninglessness and iv) Life & Death – and the anxiety of both.

Yalom discusses in his work, that these human needs of our existence (and how we exist in the world and live our lives) have to be realised, or existential anxiety happens.

Therefore, we need to be working towards our freedom, whilst acknowledging and working with responsibility.

Though, if there’s too much responsibility, we crack under pressure and can experience crippling anxiety (I’ve noticed this is a big moral injury and point of burnout for many people in the workplace at the moment).

It’s also essential that we’re connected, whilst not having too much isolation (lockdowns everywhere have shown that).

Having meaningful work, or meaningful things that we do – whether that be for the community, or to assist others – assists you with your happiness. COVID has certainly stopped many people from doing the things that they love in the community – even volunteers haven’t been able to support the community.

Most existential writers talk of death and life anxiety as like a pendulum (Yalom, for example), as if we discuss death too much and have so much focus on that, we stop living our lives, yet if we focus on our lives too much and never discuss death, then there’s the idea of death denial. We cannot live in death denial, though we cannot also live discussing death, death tolls, or statistics on a 24-7 basis, as otherwise, again, the existentialists would mention that this can become crippling anxiety.

Basically, our life is what we focus on – and we have to acknowledge and realise our focus wisely and make choices accordingly.

8) Stay out of any judgement (for yourself and the other person) and find your compassionate heart – Did you know that whenever you say to someone they ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do something, or ‘don’t’ do something… there’s usually a judgement from you in that and you’ll probably get a reaction from ‘the other’ person in the conversation, interaction, or social media interaction?

I’m wondering if you could find it in yourself, if you work with people, to consider, like Brene Brown suggests, in her ‘trust’ BRAVING acronym model, that it is essential to have a ‘generous’ assumption that people are doing their best with the information they have and that we all have a different perspective… and that we all make decisions that may appear ‘wrong’ to someone else, often we need to make decisions anyway. For more about Brene Brown’s ‘trust’ BRAVING model, see the clip here:

Finally, I hope you’ve found this information above helpful. I’m happy to work with any of the models or information above – and I often cite these examples and work in the work that I do with people; whether that be in coaching, counselling, psychotherapy or supervision.

I wish you the best day that you can possibly have.


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