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5 Reasons You Feel Depleted

Nov/14/2022 / by Sweta Vikram

Among other things, you need the energy, the detachment, and the willingness to leave things be


After five years of the universe and I not seeing eye to eye, and my yoga retreat plans being rescheduled/canceled (between work, falling critically ill, book tour, hurricanes, pandemic, and so on), I finally made it to the Catskills Mountains in upstate New York in the fall of 2022.

The bus from Port Authority bus terminal one I took one Friday evening dropped me off at the retreat at around 8 p.m. I can’t even describe what a mammoth place it was. It had a hiking space, a forest, waterfalls for meditating, guided nature walks, swimming pool, jacuzzi, fitness center, wellness center, café, dining room serving gourmet meals, wellness lounge, labyrinth, waterfall, landscaped gardens (Yes, plural), and much more. All of it was all inside this center.

I felt quite wiped out by the time I checked into the retreat. For most of us, before we travel, the list of to-do things goes up to a million: day work, school deadlines, stocking up food for the family, and emailing my clients and editors that I won’t be accessible for the next three days. The retreat organizers had saved me some delicious Italian dinner, which was refreshing because I’m the one who typically thinks about other’s needs.

Saturday morning, I woke up to a heaviness in my heart. I wasn’t sad, just mellow, which isn’t my inherent state of being. I couldn’t figure out why I felt a knot in my chest or why I wanted to stay quiet. At breakfast, the workshop organizers introduced themselves.

“How are you today, Sweta,” one asked.

I didn’t have a response. For a writer and a speaker, I was speechless. How was I? Depleted. Exhausted.

In class, the teacher did a balance test on me and said, “Your outer balance is 100%, Sweta.” Outer balance meaning what I do for others and how I express care or affection. He continued, “Your inner balance is off. You don’t take as good a care of yourself as you do of others.” Meaning, it was pretty evident that my selfcare needed an upgrade. Turns out, I was completely depleted, and there was poor circulation because of the imbalanced energy. If energy flow is stagnant, how can you feel invigorated?

Sure, I eat Ayurvedically, exercise six days a week, go to bed before 10 p.m., meditate twice a day, do yoga asanas, plan downtime, take pauses and breaks, and am very conscious of the company I keep. But it’s not enough because what I “spend” on others and what I “invest” in myself is imbalanced. Healers, wellness practitioners, and empaths tend to be more depleted than others, given the sheer nature of their work. No one tells us about their yacht vacations or fun shopping sprees; people share their pain, trauma, and heartaches with us. I could be in the middle of a new town in a different continent and a stranger will walk up to me to share their heartache.

On Saturday, we did a hike, outdoor meditation, deep conversations in a forest, sat on a swing, listened to the waterfall, and practiced Tai-Chi. For someone who is nicknamed the Energizer Bunny, I was ready to retire before dinner. But the food was delicious, and the company was lovely, so I decided to show up. 90 minutes after dinner. There was an energy yoga class on schedule.

I kid you not. Ten minutes into breathwork and energy movement in a warm yoga studio, and I felt profoundly rested. My exhaustion was gone, and I stopped yawning. My body aches were less. The tightness in my chest and heavy emotions that I had felt earlier in the day just disappeared. The old-me (chirpy, happy, friendly) reappeared. On Sunday morning, we did another round of Qi Gong and meditation. When I shared my picture on socials that afternoon, people asked if I had done something different.

Here is why I was feeling dead and maybe you are, too:

1. Energy deficit: The workshop lead explained that many people, like me, need extra time to replenish because of how much we invest in others. But instead of amassing stock of our energy, we spend it prematurely. For instance, I might take a day off to relax but then spend the next day doing double the amount of work and taking care of others.

2. Cracks in boundaries: I am very good at separating my professional life from my personal life. My friends and family won’t even know what I’d dealt with before walking into a room or giving them a hug. But my own boundaries with others have cracks in them. I take on other people’s pains and problems through emotional osmosis. I need to build a stronger shell, so I can listen, care, and help but separate myself.

3. Practice detachment: When I see people make reckless choices, I get upset and feel helpless. A family friend’s daughter who is morbidly obese, on multiple medications, and shares an unhealthy relationship with food visited us a few years ago. I spent so much time talking about healthy eating and Ayurveda to her. In the middle of our conversation, at 11 p.m., she grabbed her fourth kathi roll. I didn’t say anything, but I was furious at her nonchalant attitude. Her stress was at bay but mine escalated. Practice detachment for your own mental health.

4. Honor Journeys: Everyone is on their own journey. You can lead a horse to water but not force it to drink it. If a friend or a family member doesn’t exercise or drinks excessively, all I can do is share the nuggets of wisdom about living a balanced lifestyle. They know where to find me if they need help. But it’s important to remember that each person has their own priorities, and they are ready (or not) in their own time.

5. Find sustenance: I am the caretaker in my family and even among our friends. I’m the person constantly staying in touch, planning get-togethers, and checking in on people. I am intuitive, so I know when something is off. This circle is big, and I didn’t realize it until I reached the retreat. How I came into playing this role is a whole other conversation. But I am worn-out from being the caretaker and need more space where others take care of me or hold space for my trials and triumphs.

Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.” ~ Denis Waitley