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When you hear the word “exhaustion,” what comes to your mind?
This word is typically associated with a strenuous and demanding day that, once finished, drains one’s mental and physical energy to the point of borderline incoherence.
An entrepreneur’s demanding schedule is filled with task after task after task, all of which require their full presence and creative thinking. Plus, the ongoing intention to maintain a healthy work-life balance by fulfilling duties at home with their families and sustaining strong connections is already challenging enough.
Meeting this challenge successfully requires setting clear and solid boundaries while also operating with the optimal energy to uphold them with passion and presence. Maintaining optimal energy levels is one of the most important requirements for daily peak performance and achieving long-term success.
The fine line between passion and exhaustion that entrepreneurs tip-toe almost daily can be pretty difficult to identify. Because the signs of passion and exhaustion are so similar, I want to bring awareness to the critical “Exhaustion Line” that should not be crossed by clearly defining the four hidden signs of living in a state of exhaustion, and how you, as an entrepreneur, can transmute it back into passion.
1. You work longer and harder than necessary.
Exhaustion is defined as extreme physical or mental fatigue. So, how is it you can work more when you are living in a state of exhaustion?
This is a complex connection to make, but it starts with understanding the driver behind your work ethic, which will begin to make the Exhaustion Line more clear for you. If you are currently working out of fear of failure, this is the driver of exhaustion. Fear of failure tricks you into believing that working more often, and with greater intensity, will lead you to success. The reason you are working this way is because fear stimulates stress and anxiety, making finding answers and solutions more difficult. It also causes impatience and feelings of unworthiness that result in you giving up too easily and too early on new and exciting solutions that would work if you operated them from clarity and unshakable belief.
You will find yourself saying, “I have to go to work,” instead of, “I want to go to work,” and there, in your own words, is a clear understanding that the Exhaustion Line has been crossed.
On the other hand, when passion is your driver, enthusiasm is present and felt, which is severely lacking in a state of exhaustion.
Related: 9 Ways High-Performing Entrepreneurs Handle Stress
2. Your willpower will turn into force at the cost of your health and relationships.
When you force yourself to do something, it means you would rather be doing something else. You have literally become enslaved by your workload, and you are not the only one who is trapped as your physical health and your loved ones also become a victim of your force.
Your body is the vehicle you use to create the influence and impact you are working for. Without fuel from proper nutrition, along with the countless benefits of daily physical activity including stress and anxiety relief, you will have very little energy to draw upon for your demanding schedule.
Your relationships will also be negatively affected as your time, presence and connection with them diminishes, leaving them to question whether you truly love and value them. Because no matter what words you say, your actions speak louder.
As your loved ones begin to question your commitment to them, you may find yourself doing the same. Despite the fact that love and connection is essential to your happiness and fulfillment, once you cross the Exhaustion Line, you will emotionally isolate yourself from their care and support, which is dangerous for your mental wellbeing.
Passion for work is only a small part of what living with passion truly means. You can’t expect limitless passion for your work without also having passion for your physical health and relationships.
Related: Small Actions You Can Take to Decrease Stress at Home and Work
3. You will become reactive in nature, operating from stress and anxiety.
When you feel anxious and stressed out, you activate the HPA Access in your brain.
The ‘H’ stands for Hypothalamus, which is responsible for interpreting whether you are experiencing safety or danger. The ‘P’ stands for the Pituitary Gland, which is responsible for delivering the information interpreted by the Hypothalamus to your body, and the ‘A’ stands for the Adrenal Gland, which responds to danger by sending stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline throughout your body.
When this happens, your body shuts down all other functions that are not needed to save you from the danger. Blood is withdrawn from your gut and preferentially sent to your arms and legs for the potential of a fast physical escape. Your blood vessels also restrict in the forebrain, where contemplation and complex thinking occurs, to be preferentially sent to the hindbrain to heighten your reflexes.
With the goal of maintaining daily peak performance with your work, relationships and life in general, this stress induced state is less than ideal.
4. Relaxing is not relaxing at all.
When you can’t sit down on your couch without feeling guilty, you have crossed the Exhaustion Line.
Your guilt isn’t just present with you on the couch either. It shows up in your thoughts about taking a 20 minute break to disconnect from work, leaving for a much needed and well deserved vacation, and in bed at night while you struggle to fall asleep.
You always feel as if you are behind and that you should be doing more. But you’re doing more of the same things which keeps you stuck in the same place. There is so much more to life than your to-do list, and your inability to relax is robbing you from the experiences that truly fulfill your soul.
Your priorities are out of alignment with your intentions, and when this occurs, you are living in a state of exhaustion.
Making the Exhaustion Line clear
Many entrepreneurs struggle with becoming overly attached to their vision while unintentionally losing their authenticity in the process. This is why setting clear and solid boundaries around your work hours, prioritizing your physical health, communicating with transparency to those you love and being radically honest with yourself are the foundations for achieving a successful work-life balance.
As you have now discovered, the fine line between living and operating with passion or exhaustion is difficult to discern, but clarity begins with defining the Exhaustion Line and having the self-awareness to uphold your boundaries.
You will surely cross the Exhaustion Line along your journey, but knowing your boundaries gives you the awareness to course correct faster back into alignment while causing minimal effect to those around you and your own mental wellbeing.
Related: The 4-Step Process to Conquering Stress for the Rest of Your Life