UNITED STATES—I seriously cannot tell you the last time I have been exhausted to the point where I physically and mentally could not sleep for a week plus. In a continuation of my columns addressing my extended stint at the hospital caring for a loved one, I want to chat about burn out. In particular, having your body mentally fried to the point that you cannot think clearly.

For starters, you never know how tired you truly are until your body forces you to realize it. The first day my loved one was in the hospital it was a literal 13-14 hour day at the hospital. I was worried sick and the waiting, the waiting, it just takes a massive beating on the body. It is not so much the boredom (that does kick in), but it is the NOT knowing that makes the situation so bad.

When I finally got home, I was supposed to do some work, but my brain was not having any of it. I think I sat on the couch for a minute and before I know it, I was dead asleep. That had to be the first time in maybe a year I slept on a couch and not a bed. Within the next few hours of waking up, I managed to get work that I needed to complete, but I don’t even recall when I did it. That is scary when your brain is functioning, but you’re not able to connect the dots on when things have unfolded.

After that first day, it became a pattern, get up super early head to the hospital, provide encouragement, sit, watch and wait for doctors to provide updates and answers to what is transpiring. I wasn’t getting home until way after visiting hours ended. The nurses and doctors made it clear we could stay longer, even overnight as long as we were quiet and didn’t disturb the other patients on the floor it was no issue. Each day I got home, I took a seat or sat in the bed and I was out.

There was not messing around on my cellphone or tablet, my brain was just to fried; I wanted rest and I truly don’t know if I actually got it or if I was just in a weird state of mind. I was there, but I was not fully there. I mean one of the days I got to the hospital and went to visit my loved one; there was an immediate panic because I thought something bad happened to my loved one. Guess what? I got off on the wrong floor on the elevator. Don’t even ask me how it happened, I couldn’t place it into words for you, I just had no clue what my brain was thinking or telling me to do.

At that moment it clicked, “Dude you are mentally exhausted.” Your body and brain are fighting with one another and you’re not thinking clearly. You need sleep, you need rest, you need to try to relax. I think on the final day at the hospital I was just dosing off, not even knowing I was doing it. Nothing mattered to me for that extended week, I just wanted to ensure my loved one was going to survive and bounce back. Hell, I was literally having micro-naps while at home. I would be wide awake and within five minutes I was out of it.

I didn’t know I was napping, but the nap was so great it felt like I slept for 10 hours. You want to know the surprise; it was only for five – ten minutes. It is indeed crazy, but what I’ve learned is that when you push your body beyond what your body can take, it can have brutal effects on you. You may think you can operate on empty, but the reality is the body will NOT allow that.

You have to rest; your mind has to regenerate and you have to sleep and rest. If you don’t you will indeed crash and burn, even if you think you’re someone who can operate on little to nothing at all, the body cannot. Do yourself and your body a favor; if rest is what the body wants you better give that to your body because if you don’t the side effects are not great.