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Why Feeling Exhausted Can Actually Be a Sign of Healing: Understanding Chronic Fatigue and Survival Mode

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re running on empty, completely exhausted, but can’t seem to find the energy to keep going? I remember a time when I was working two jobs, studying for exams, and taking care of my family all at once. I was in survival mode, and my body was constantly running on adrenaline. I didn’t even realize how tired I was until I finally had a chance to rest. That’s when it hit me – when our body finally gets to experience safety after years of living in survival mode… all we want to do is rest.

Living in chronic dysregulation takes a lot of energy and resources to maintain. Our body is constantly working in overdrive to keep us alive and safe. But what happens when we finally come out of self-protection and into true safety? We may find ourselves feeling completely exhausted. You know the type of tiredness where even five cups of coffee can’t seem to help. This exhaustion may be a result of our body finally adapting to the fact that it doesn’t need to be in survival mode anymore. It’s a strange feeling because while we’re experiencing more ease, presence, and safety in our nervous system, we also feel extremely tired.

Think back to a time when you had an acute but intense stressor in your life. Maybe it was a car accident or a big fight with your partner. Even after things calmed down, you probably felt completely wiped. That’s because activation is draining, and survival mode is exhausting. Our body doesn’t get much of a chance to rest when we’re constantly living in active self-protection mode. Thankfully, safety grants our body the opportunity to rest. We can finally sleep soundly and be truly tired after a long day. However, after years of being in survival mode, our body may have accumulated a lack of rest that we may feel once we finally stop running.

It’s important to recognize the difference between chronic fatigue within survival mode and exhaustion after overwhelm and limited capacity. Feeling burnt out is different from feeling raw. But when we do feel safe enough that our body craves slowness and rest, we should lean into it. It may feel strange at first to rest when our body is so used to constantly being in survival mode. But this feeling of freedom is what will help us improve our overall well being and change our thinking around self-care. Remember, rest is necessary for our mental and physical health. So, the next time you feel exhausted after a long day, embrace it. Your body is doing what it needs to do to keep you safe.

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