November 11, 2015

Running on Empty: 7 Tools to Heal Emotional Exhaustion.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”  ~ Pema Chödrön


“I’m so tired! I just want to close my eyes. I could sleep forever.”

The statement above is a common thread among those who are emotionally spent.

And the number of people who suffer from this is escalating at an alarming rate.

This kind of tired is what happens when emotional trauma gets the upper hand.

Emotional trauma is so disempowering that it causes physical symptoms. And no amount of stimulants will help. In fact, “solutions” like coffee, tea (even green), alcohol or cannabis only deplete the body—specifically the adrenal glands—creating a vicious cycle of ups and downs. Besides, all those things only mask the problem. In the case of cannabis, which is used to alleviate stress in controlled doses, the sufferer can find escape but not resolution. I’m not against cannabis for the purposes of gaining relief from stress (for some it is a true life-saver); but in excess, it can deprive us of our motivation and compromise our self-awareness.

From my own experience and from conversations with others who have at one time or still suffer silently, I have seen how important it is to address this issue.

A few years back, I was having a heart to heart with my partner about emotional exhaustion and gave him a visual: I likened myself to a container that every year was being filled with layers of trauma. This came right after the death of my adoptive mother.

Moving, death, and divorce are supposedly the biggest causes of stress. My layers (too many to list them all here) contained all three beginning with the death of my parents at age six and then being adopted to a family in Canada where I suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse for 10 years and at least 40 moves in my life. My layers culminated the day my adoptive mother passed away, we received news that an infant we wished to adopt was going to another family, and we had to put our beloved dog down. Talk about having a lot to process!

My only reason for listing these events is as an example for others to relate to. Sometimes we go through things without realizing that they are indeed trauma until someone else speaks of it.

Between all those times were also many, many moments of incredible beauty that I am truly grateful for. If I were to list those we’d run out of paper. I don’t consider my life a disaster in any way.

And yet, around the time of my mother’s death, I felt a shutting down of reserves. I was incapable of any more bullsh*t. It was quite sudden, actually. One day I woke up and realized that one more thing and I would crack. I wanted to sleep. All day. Every day. All thoughts of any future challenges seemed insurmountable.

I literally had no more room inside me. The container was full and overflowing.

Tests with a homeopath revealed what I already knew as a trained holistic nutritionist: my adrenal glands, responsible for fight or flight, were completely depleted. I was at a physical low and had a rapidly dwindling supply of self-confidence.

Normally I am the eternal optimist. But in those days, the smallest suggestion of a problem was enough to reduce me to tears and fill me with an overwhelming desire to run. I had no fight left at all.

For a feisty, resourceful, determined Scorpio, this was shocking. I had always been in control, always smiling, could always be counted on. Now, I wanted to draw the curtains and fade away into nothingness.

I had the good fortune to run away to Kauai for a month-long respite with my eldest daughter. I cried every day of my stay in paradise. My youngest joined us for a spell. I considered divorce. I considered how I could stay in Kauai. I thought that when I got home I would need to live on my own for a while to pull myself together. I was blessed to have the presence of mind to know that changes needed to be made. As always, my Scorpio nature tended toward finding my own solutions. I drew inward.

Part of what I was facing was the natural urge of a menopausal woman to hermit. These are the wisdom years when we crave time alone. I spent time seriously thinking about how my beloved partner and I could separate so I could heal. He agreed to the plan as long as we could maintain our love at a distance. That kind of support was incredibly helpful. I know that he was hurting, but he put me first.

Fifty years of climbing proverbial mountains and I was too tired to make any sense. No matter how I turned things over in my head, the future seemed bleak. I wondered if I would ever feel whole again. To the outside world, I was doing okay. I’m always in forward movement mode. But my inner landscape screamed for the storm to end.

Fortunately, I had enough tools at my disposal to dig my way out. Perhaps they will be helpful to you as well. There is no one recipe for healing from any one situation, but we can learn from each other’s journeys nonetheless.

These tools were not unfamiliar to me; I had used them frequently to survive and grow emotionally. Now I turned to them like old friends, ready to engage in their healing magic.

A miracle happened that offered me a spark of hope. My partner found healing from his debilitating concussion symptoms through alternative medicine. There were serendipitous events that led to this, and they followed a meditation and prayer time at the foot of Bali Hai, a mountain sacred to the Hawaiians. The spirits had promised that if I did my part, the Universe would conspire with me.

I had to do my part.

Here’s what I did to find peace and healing:

1. The Decision

I believe that a decision is the first step on any journey. I decided that I wanted to be whole and to shed the layers of crap that were holding me down. I envisioned a phoenix. I cast a spell for release from emotional pain.

This may sound very simplistic but, without the decision, when difficult days came, I would have had nothing to go back to for supporting my effort. If you’re thinking you can skip this step, don’t. Decide that you’re worth it. Decide that you are ready. Decide what you want the rest of your life to be.


I purged. First my belongings. Then toxic relationships and any drama. And always I purged emotions into a journal which I later offered up to the fire.

My body responded with weight loss. My soul responded with room in that container! Lots of room.

The tears were still pouring. It was good.

The Power of Now

I re-read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. This moment was all that mattered. Everything I had gone through was a story that I no longer needed to recite or identify with. I went on to the other books on my shelf:

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
You Are a Spiritual Being Having a Human Experience, Bob Frissell
The Laws of Spirit, Dan Millman
Everyday Miracles, David Spangler
Courage, Osho
Peace is the Way, Deepak Chopra…and many more.

I fed my mind and my spirit soared.

Exercise/Yoga/Healthy Food

I walked my ass off. Walking meditation is incredibly healing. My daughter eased me into the world of yoga, and my body and psyche responded with healing endorphins.

There is no substitute for treating oneself with care. It’s an outward expression of how we feel on the inside.

This vehicle that houses my spirit is deserving of my respect and attention.


This step was especially crucial for me. I need to create every day in order to stay alive. I dove into writing my first novel. Not, as one would assume, a cathartic biography. That had gone into that journal I burned.

No, this was a novel of erotica and mysticism. All that was healed and powerful spilled into a book I could share with the world. Of course, it is about me, but I let out what was beautiful (not perfect).

Please honor every creative urge you have while healing; it will take you leaps and bounds past the biggest hurdles.


Meditation is something I would literally be dead without. Sinking into the great abyss is essential to heal mind chatter, to find a transcendental peace.

I found wisdom in silence. All the answers you will ever need are there. Bolstered by the Divine presence in silence, I found courage.

I met myself once more, the child, the young mother, the life partner, the incarnation I was meant to be.

Meditation is a discipline that opens doors to the mysterious and heals on a cellular level.


I practice gratitude every day. No. Every second. Without gratitude, I would be lost to my wounds. I would be not only scarred but the wound would continue to bleed.

Gratitude offers perspective. It allows for grace under pressure. No matter how bad it seems, a few moments counting up the blessing side of the ledger is always healing.


“Is there a difference between happiness and inner peace? Yes. Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive; inner peace does not.” ~ Eckhart Tolle



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