Are you feeling beyond burnt out? Welcome to 'The Great Exhaustion'.

I’m tired. 

That’s not true. I’m exhausted. 

It’s the singular thought that bobbles around in my head as I chug down my fresh fruit smoothie – spiked with a powder that promises luminous skin, and açai that apparently improves brain function, and spinach, because, well, it’s green and bonus points if you put something green in a smoothie, right?

But I also know that no matter how many super-boosted smoothies I drink – or the coffees that preceded them – I’m still gonna feel… absolutely stuffed. 

How to spot and combat burnout. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

You see, it’s February and we’re meant to be recharged and motivated for the year ahead, because #goals. And I do have moments of inspiration; fleeting moments, that shine and allure… and then they…. evaporate. A mirage of ambition. And that’s fine, I guess, because maybe I’ll just take a nap instead?

But let me just say, this is not me in “normal” times. I’m the girl that gets heart flutters when entering Officeworks, because the opportunities for productivity and organisation are Quite. Literally. Endless. 

I’m also the girl with a large black coffee and spreadsheets and to-do lists, eager to cross off. 

And I’m the girl who would wear make-up daily – not weekly – and wear coordinated outfits and squish gym, events and socialising into already crammed workdays. 

But mental capacity has been achieved and this chica is on hiatus. Instead, intentions, objectives and resolutions have given place to just – getting through the day.

I guess that’s what two years of living in a pandemic does to you. To us. 

(Pause. It goes without saying that our health care workers take the cake for ultimate exhaustion. They have and continue to sacrifice so much of themselves, and for this, we stand in awe and are oh-so-grateful to them.)

It's been two years of perpetual worry. Of daily tallies and press conferences and lockdowns - so many lockdowns - and how far is five kilometres from my house? It’s been years of health panic; vaccination panic, shortage-of-toilet-paper panic (really, WTF was up with that one?!); shortage-of-hand-sanitiser panic, shortage-of-RAT-test panic.


Then of course, there’s, I’m-trying-not-to-get-pinged panic, sore-throat-panic, awaiting-test-results panic, isolation-panic, and, f***-‘rona-got-me-panic.

P A N I C .

(And to think I had never even worn a mask once before 2020. Cute!)

Image: Getty. 

So, here we are. “Tired” doesn’t do it justice. We are depleted, fatigued, apathetic vessels in autopilot, just moving from one day into the next. No zest. No passion. Stale.

Because it’s hard to muster enthusiasm when we’ve all been swimming in wild seas for so long. When the familiar shore is long behind us, and we’re just trying to keep our heads above the water deep to get to the other side. We’ve been teased by glimpses of land ahead and sometimes it seemed close, but other times, pretty damn far. 

And we’re not meant to stay still for this long, in limbo. We’re programmed to plan and move and do and achieve, sentiments exploited by our relentless hustle culture. And here comes the guilt of stagnation. Oh, and hello procrastination too!

This is 'The Great Exhaustion'.

“I just need a holiday to rest. Really rest,” my good friend said to me over recent affogatos (yes, more coffee). 

“Something to look forward to, to feel hopeful about.”

She’s in her early 30s with two children. The youngest, Miss 7, is now working through anxiety issues because she hasn’t had one consistent semester in her first two years of schooling. My friend is desperately tired – from homeschooling, from her full-time job, from launching her lady startup. 

“And when I do book a holiday, I don’t want to have to stress about whether or not we’ll actually make it there, or worry about cancelled flights or losing a deposit,” she said.


And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Normally when overworked and burned out, the answer is to take a holiday. 

Rest and read. Adventure and explore. Hit pause on the mundane reality of everyday life. 

And it’s the experiences we have on our way – the people we meet, food we eat, places that inspire, cultures we encounter – that open our minds and remind us that we’re alive. They gift us with a much needed dose of perspective, and gosh, I miss it, and the epiphanies those travels bring.

I was 24, when my feet walked upon the cool, wet marble of The Golden Temple in northern India, where I was slapped by the contrast of its gilded grandeur set against the immense poverty that lay just beyond its gates. The world is grossly unfair.

I was 26, when I stood alone on the deck of a ship drifting the South Pacific. Admiring the stars that punctuated the black vastness above, I understood that the world is much bigger than the one I had created: I deserved so much better in my next relationship, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less. 

And I was 28 when I walked and talked with my mum through the streets of Tel Aviv and was struck by the realisation: Writing is my true passion, and when I get home, I’m going to actually back myself and pursue it as a career. 

Instead we’re all pretty grounded, and a bit…stuck. 


For many of us, our end of year vacation plans were dashed or wrapped in so much worry, was it even that enjoyable? Christmas was all but cancelled. And so many of us were restricted to our homes - isolated, or the double-whammy, isolated and sick. Not exactly the joyous and relaxing end to the year we’ve been counting down towards since November. 

Our relationships and friendships have suffered too, and that emotional turmoil is taxing. Some became strained under the physical closeness, while others withered from a distance or vast differences in opinions over vaccinations, or restrictions. 

And balance and boundaries? Ha! That one went out the window a long time ago – for me, probably around the time my bedroom doubled as an office, now that I think about it…

It all adds up.

The past two years have felt long, but at the same time, have gone fast, blurring into one giant void, missing from all of our lives. 

And now, it seems the shore might be coming into view, and just maybe, we can doggie-paddle a little further to reach it. I might not have the energy for excitement, yet I am hopeful for the rest of 2022. 

But first, I’m gonna need that nap.

Keen to read more from Rebecca Davis? You can find her articles here, or follow her on Instagram,    @rebeccadavis___

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.

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