Building healthy habits when you are truly exhausted

How do you create new habits when you are exhausted? The key is to start small, take a kind and comprehensive approach to long-term change. First, start by establishing a regular sleep habit, from going to bed at the same time to waking up at the same time. So, work on your nutrition. Look for more water and identify eating habits that make you feel more energetic and less drained. So, get some exercise, whether it’s regular cardio or adding a few stretches and steps into your work day. Once you have established these healthy habits, you can expand into others. Work on one new habit at a time and pick it up slowly and steadily.

Picking up a new habit at the best of times can be difficult, not to mention trying to make changes when you’ve already run out. The past two years have stretched almost everyone. And you may find yourself exhausted and doubting that you can really turn your situation around or just plain confused about where to start.

So what do you do when you are trapped in the vicious cycle of needing to improve your habits so that you can feel refreshed but struggle to muster the willpower and motivation to try?

As a time management coach, many of the people who come to me are already tired, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. They want change but don’t know how to get started. So we need to find a recovery path that honors their current state but doesn’t leave them there.

The key to helping them move forward is not to blame them – they are hard enough on themselves. Instead, what’s most effective in the long run is to take a gentle, whole person-based approach – remembering the basics of taking care of yourself through sleep, nutrition, and exercise sets the stage for advancing into other areas. of time management.

If you find yourself completely exhausted but want a change, here is the path to building new habits in a sustainable way.

Start with sleep

If you’re super tired, the key to more productivity isn’t pushing harder, but pushing less. Once you start getting enough sleep, your body will support you in achieving your daily goals instead of dragging you down.

There is a very specific order in which I recommend working on sleep when you are at the point of exhaustion. Start with the goal of going to sleep earlier based on how many hours of sleep you need to get rested. If it’s eight hours a night and you need to get up at 7am, that means the lights go out at 11pm Set a recurring alarm on your phone for about 30 or 45 minutes before that time to remind you to start relaxing and getting ready for shutdown -eye.

Once you start getting comfortable with going to bed earlier, start working on your bedtime routine so that once you’re in bed, you can actually fall asleep. Experiment with different strategies, such as turning off the electronics an hour before bed, not watching anything too stimulating late at night, or just dimming the lights.

So the next step in improving sleep quality is to focus on getting up at a constant time. Most people put this goal as a first step, but it actually comes later in the process. I recommend this order because when you go to bed on time and fall asleep quickly, getting up is much easier. And as an added bonus, always getting up early will make things a lot easier on days when you need to go to the office.

Think about nutrition

Once you have enough time to rest, you will begin to have the ability to work on other areas. I’ve found that the next most effective habits for rebuilding energy involve simple nutritional strategies.

An effective habit is to start drinking more water. Higher water intake improves energy, aids focus, and reduces fatigue and anxiety. Make it a habit to always have a full glass of water or a bottle of water with you. I fill a glass of water for breakfast, keep it on my desk while I work, and then keep filling it all day. If it is more difficult for you to refill, get a really large water bottle so that you only have to refill the water container once a day.

So think about whether you are getting enough nutrition. Some of my coaching clients are so engrossed in their jobs or have so many consecutive meetings that they don’t feel like they have time to eat, or they just forget to eat! If you find yourself in that situation, buy some very basic nutritional options like protein bars or shakes that you always keep at your desk. Make it a goal to eat at least one or two during the day. As you develop the habit, you may need to set a reminder on your calendar or phone or place a healthy snack on your desk as a visual cue. My clients who have made the memory of eating a priority find they have more energy during the day and end up feeling much less drained after work.


Once you have the building blocks of sleep and nutrition, you need to start thinking about integrating into physical activity. Counterintuitively, exercise ultimately gives you more energy throughout the day rather than deplete it. It also has the additional benefits of improving mood, sleep quality and concentration. Some of my ADHD coaching clients find exercise to be one of the key ingredients in being able to focus throughout the day.

If you do at least 25 minutes of vigorous cardio exercise at least three times a week, you can improve your overall well-being. I recommend that you specifically dictate where and when you will do this exercise, for example “I will train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:00 to 7:30 in the gym.” And if you find yourself struggling with motivation, find support by training with friends, going to class or hiring a coach. You can borrow the energy and motivation of others when you feel exhausted.

If that level of physical activity seems excessive to start with, starting with light stretching or walking is a step in the right direction. Make movement a ritual linked to a daily event such as “When I get up, then I stretch for five minutes”, to help you integrate the habit perfectly into your lifestyle.

Choose a new habit

Once you have integrated into healthy habits that will greatly reduce your fatigue, you can choose other new habits to incorporate into your life. Paying attention to the basics of sleep, nutrition and exercise will have improved your energy and focus throughout the day so that you have the ability to take in more.

To reduce the possibility of overwhelm, I recommend choosing only one to work on at a time. For example, you might decide to focus on being on time, planning your week, breaking down projects, keeping up with email, or some other habit you’d like to master. So focus on incremental change. For example, by being on time, you might choose a type of meeting where you really focus on arriving a couple of minutes early and then gradually expand the scope to other activities in your professional and personal life.

The key to changing habits, especially when you’re really exhausted, is to take it slowly and steadily: keep going but don’t put too much pressure on yourself at any one time. You won’t be able to change all your habits in one day. But over time, you can develop new habits that will help you regain energy, stave off fatigue, and create momentum for continued growth and development.

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