If you've ever played Dungeons and Dragons, or most other RPG games, you've probably encountered the condition of exhaustion. Maybe you've decided to ride through the night to catch up to a bad guy, maybe you've been climbing through icy cold mountains, or maybe it was the effect of a spell. However it happens your GM suddenly looks up at you and says “You have 1 level of exhaustion,” and you know this is going to suck.
As you know we often suffer exhaustion and stress in our real lives. Unfortunately for many of us it's so commonplace we just considered it part of life. I think however it affects us in real life almost the same as it does in games. Today I am going to us the Players Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons to deconstruct some of our everyday exhaustion and look at what effects it's having and how you might deal with them. So let's jump into it shall we?
Let's look at the levels of exhaustion we suffer in real life and how that translates in the Player’s Handbook.
You have a major project at work. You're teamed up with a passive aggressive coworker who you don't like. You’re stressed that the works not going to get done, or not done right. You suffer 1 level of exhaustion. You have disadvantage on all ability checks. This means when you walk into the break room and see a box of donuts, you don't have the ability to think critically about it. You're at disadvantage to check if they fit with your calories, macro goals or if you even actually WANT a donut right now. Instead you mindlessly stuff two in your face without even tasting them.
The stress of this work project is getting to you. You get home late and the dishes are piled up, there's a bill on the counter you forgot to pay, your head is spinning with stuff to do. You manage to sleep for maybe 4hrs. Most of the night you just stare at the clock and stress about the fact that you can’t sleep. You have 2 levels of exhaustion. Your speed is halved. You were suppose to go to the gym after work but you just don't have the energy. You're moving slow today and it would just be a lazy workout anyways. You'll go when your feeling up to it. There's no point in going today.
You have another bad night's sleep but it's ok because it's finally Saturday. You plan to take a long walk, read a book, maybe beat that level of the video game you never have time to play. However you barely have time to make breakfast before your mom calls. She needs you to come over and help her, and why are you still in pajamas? Your your sibling is already over there so hurry up. You have 3 levels of exhaustion. You have disadvantage on all attacks and saving throws. You spend the day with family members picking at your life choices and not understanding your hobbies. You try and speak up a few times but can't seem to find the words to save yourself. When your mom suggests you spend your entire Sunday helping her out at church you try and explain that you really want to just be home and beat this video game but you quickly realize this is a fight you can't win.
It's Monday again. You barely had time to grab some groceries and kinda clean the house over the weekend. You didn't get a real chance to meal prep or prepare for the week. You definitely didn't get a chance to do anything fun or even just have a nap. Now you're staring back at that work project as you listen to your passive aggressive coworker tell you about the educational activities they did with their kids over the weekend. You get the feeling they are silently judging you and your lame weekend. You have 4 levels of exhaustion. Your hit point maximum is halved. Everything is harder, you barely have the energy to focus on your emails. When it comes to counting your calories at lunch or going to the gym forget it. It's just not physically possible right now. You'll do it next week, once you feel up to it.
Last night you managed 7hrs of sleep but woke up several times during the night. Your big project is due tomorrow and it's heavily stressing you out. Your boss is putting pressure on you. You feel the time closing in on you. You had such high hopes for this project but now you're not even sure if you are going to get it done at all. You now have 5 levels of exhaustion. Your speed is reduced to zero. You were going to take a walk at lunch but instead end up eating at your desk. A friend invites you out after work and it sounds really fun but you just don't have the energy.
You finally have your presentation for your big project. It goes ok. I mean it was fine really. The information wasn't as organized as you would have liked. You kind of stammered your way through it, not a ton of confidence. But it was still good. You sit at your desk, stress and overanalyze everything. Everything you said, everything your boss said, everything you didn't say, everything your boss didn't say. You can't change it now but you can't stop thinking about it. You have 6 levels of exhaustion. Death. You see in your calender you have a class at the gym listed for tonight, you just roll your eyes at yourself. What made you think you could do that. You are just not capable of making that kind of change. You get a text from a friend about playing games over the weekend. You make a vague excuse. I mean come on, you don't have time or the energy for games. This is your life now. Just work, stress, and exhaustion. Nothing excites you anymore and you feel dead inside.
Depressing right? So how do we fix it? How do we get rid of the levels of exhaustion? Well let's take a look at what the Players Handbook has to say. Finishing a long rest reduces a creatures exhaustion level by 1. Provided that the creature has also ingested some food and drink.
So having a healthy meal and getting 8hrs of sleep takes away ONE level of exhaustion. However we can build up several levels in a single day. Hardly seems fair. Well first off we are going to need to reduce the things that are causing the exhalation. I mean if there is a bad guy flinging spells at your face you're not going to stand there and just hope he goes away right? Now the hard part is that this often involves confrontation. It means saying “no" which can be very difficult. It may mean you have to stop avoiding some tough choices. It may even mean seeking out professional help whether that be a financial advisor, personal trainer, or therapist. Don't be afraid to look for help. If you can't lower the things that cause the exhaustion in the first place you will always be playing catch up and never really have it under control.
Now you need a healthy meal and sleep. “healthy” is going to vary a lot person to person and depending on what your goals are. A good rule of thumb here is that you should feel good when you are done eating. If you feel stuffed, bloated, or sick then you are probably eating too much and/or not the right thing. Finally you have to sleep. Going to bed at the same time every night, keeping your room dark and cold, and turning of electronics can all help. Also moving around during the day. Even if you have an exhausting day mentally your body can still have pent up energy. Take a walk, move around, stretch out.
I would also like to point out that getting rid of exhaustion is hard. It takes effort. While the idea of bubble baths and treating yourself to a candy bar after a rough day are nice, and you can do that if you want to, they don't actually fix the problem. So be wary of “self care" quick fixes. It may be a potion that back fires on you down the road.
So there you have it. The levels of exhaustion. Be careful, they can sneak up on you, they can be difficult to deal with, and they can be deadly. Good luck Heroes.