Running on Empty

There’s something about the sprint to the holidays that leaves me feeling exhausted before they’ve even begun. In addition to personal tasks like present hunting and spreading general holiday cheer, work always notches into super-speed as clients are trying to meet end of year deadlines.  Let’s be honest, in the grand scheme of things I’ve got it pretty easy. I have lots of house projects to finish, but I don’t do Christmas cards, don’t have children to see in concerts or the pressure of giving them ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. Half my family lives on the other side of the world, so trips in between houses are limited. But in spite of this, I’m still counting down the days with both excitement and fear knowing that I’ll never quite get everything done in time. Which makes me feel a bit like this:

Image from
Image from

So my topic today, on the week of Thanksgiving, is around what to do when you’re running on empty. I don’t have many answers, but I do have a few (five to be exact), and am always looking for new ones.

1. Eat good food: This is one of those things that takes extra time, but also seems to earn me extra energy and additional brain waves. When I get really stressed I always find myself reaching for whatever is nearby, but if I force myself to find a good three meals I’m always happier, calmer and more productive than when I just run on coffee and sugar.

2. Step away from the computer: A lot of my job involves writing presentations, which translates into lots of hours at the computer screen. But instead of marathon typing sessions, I’ve found that forcing myself to take time and draw out the presentation on a post-it or some paper cuts my actual writing time in half. Brainstorming with other people, or even taking a quick ten minute walk around the block is enough to hit the reset button. So mix it up – analogue and digital – and give your eyes a break while doing so. It always helps me feel less tired.

3. Find time for fun: My down-time in December will be dominated by holiday parties and weddings, but I’m embracing those whole-heartedly. Work hard, play hard is definitely what will get me through.

4. Bathtime: I am sure it all depends on the person, but for me, twenty minutes in a quiet, calming bathtub can be the best thing for stress. I can think, breathe, slow down and come out feeling much better than I did going in.

5. Make time for the important stuff, and say no if you need to: Priorities and perspective are not two talents of mine. When I’m running from one thing to the next, I get very caught up in the moment, and also beat myself up about what’s not finished. Work often wins over family, and I always end up pushing things to the last minute that I really didn’t want to push. So I try to remind myself what the bits are that I will be really upset about if I don’t finish them. And then I do my best to do those. It doesn’t always work, but it helps to know that I’m trying.

So that’s it for today. Any suggestions you have for staying on top of things or organising your time and your life better, especially in the run up to the holidays? Send them my way.


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