How we become Exhausted

Thanks for joining me for the second in our series of blog posts about Rest.

If you haven’t caught the first one, you can find it here:  

How Rest is the antidote to becoming exhausted.

In today’s blog, we are going to look at a helpful idea called “The Exhaustion Funnel”. 

This is based on the work of John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zinden Segal.  They are mindfulness experts who specialise in how mindfulness can help with low mood and depression.  

While their work is focused on helping people with depression, their insights are really useful for the general population as well.  Even if we don’t suffer from depression, it’s really useful to be aware of the signs of moving towards exhaustion and that’s what the exhaustion funnel helps us to understand.

We all experience these signs, such as having low energy or feeling guilty from time to time.  That’s not really a problem.  It’s when this becomes a sustained way of being that things need to be adjusted.

We can identify three steps as we move towards exhaustion.

1.  When we feel under pressure, we work harder to try to “get things done”.

2.  We give up the things that we enjoy.  What are these activities for you?  Have you noticed that you stop making time for the good things in life when you are under pressure?  We also tend to stop allowing ourselves time to rest.

3. Doing more and more stressful things, while stopping nurturing things leads us to become depleted.  Eventually, this will lead to burnout or exhaustion.

It’s worth noticing the signs that we are becoming exhausted, (like a lack of sleep) but it’s just as important to notice the things we stop doing (the fun, nourishing things).

The big question is can we spot this happening? That’s where this framework is so helpful.  If negative signs are continuing for a while then it tells us that a change is needed.  Rest is needed.  Nourishing activities are needed.

For me when I’m becoming depleted, things look more grey….  my focus becomes too narrow and too task orientated.  But adjusting is possible.  Things can become more colorful and vibrant again.

Having a mindfulness practice does help because we become more self-aware and notice the signs that we are becoming exhausted earlier.  

Mindfulness also helps us to become skilled at moving from what’s called “Doing Mode” into a more “Being Mode”.  And that’s the topic for the next blog.

Until then, take care,


Photo by Hernan Sanchez on Unsplash

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Keith Horan

Keith Horan

Keith has been teaching Mindfulness for over 20 years in the West of Ireland where he lives with his wife and three children.
He is trained both in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and in the practices of Modern Secular Mindfulness. He has an MSc in Mindfulness-based Approaches from Bangor University in North Wales.
Keith teaches in a gentle and encouraging way and helps people to find balance and more self-acceptance in their lives.

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