What to Do When You’re Feeling Drained

By Leo Babauta

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of people are feeling drained by life – the challenges they’re facing, their workloads, the anxiety of the world around them, and more.

Someday soon I’ll write a longer guide to how to get yourself to a place of renewed resilience … but for today, I’d like to share how I practice when I just don’t feel much of a capacity to do anything.

1. First, I notice that I just don’t have it today. I’d like to crush life and get a ton of crap done, but today isn’t the day. I’m drained, depleted.

2. Then I ask: “What do I need to do to take care of myself?” That might mean taking a nap, taking a day off, doing a lighter workload, skipping my workout for today, meditating, going for a walk, taking a bath, drinking a cup of tea, talking to a friend, listening to music, watching some trashy television, eating a little dark chocolate, giving myself love.

3. I like to empower the time off. That means, instead of feeling bad about it – I see it as a way to love myself and get myself back where I’d like to be.

I savor the rest time. Create the space, and experience it as delicious. Bask in the spaciousness, in the love.

4. Next, I ask: “Is there anything I’d like to do with my limited capacity?” If I’m drained, I might still have it in me to do a little. If I really want to exercise, I can go for a short walk, or an easy swim. If I have work that needs doing, maybe I can just do a little.

I can do a little, and do it slowly and easily. I don’t have to push myself hard. I can breathe, and bring a sense of relaxation and ease to everything I do. Lower my expectations of myself, let go of whatever I think I should be doing, let go of any pressure. And just do things on Easy Mode.

5. Finally I ask: “What do I need to do to get myself to where I’d like to be?” Maybe it will take a day, a week, a month, or more, depending on what you’re facing in life. For me, it usually only takes a day or two, but I know people facing huge health challenges, and how long it’ll take them is completely unknown, except that we know they’re in for the long haul.

However long it takes, the question might still be worth asking – what do I need to do to get myself to where I’d like to be? Maybe I need to start sleeping better, start exercising more, start putting more whole foods high in fiber into my body. Maybe meditate, go for reflective walks, journal, get therapy or a coach, join a treatment program, go to a doctor.

Then I take the smallest step in that direction. With low energy, I can’t get it all done … but I can start. Whatever my capacity is to take a step in that direction is perfect – I don’t need to have a huge capacity to move towards self-care, self-love, and nourishment. I use whatever capacity is available to me.

Sometimes we just don’t have much. This might just be the perfect place to be today. That doesn’t mean we’ll be there tomorrow. But in this place of drained energy, can we still find beauty?