Why are holidays so exhausting?

I dropped my son off at school on Monday morning and promptly took myself back to bed. The summer holidays were over, and I was exhausted!

Speaking to many other friends it seems I’m not alone. That illusive summer break we had all been craving seemed just as exhausting as the other 50 odd weeks of the year! Where is the revitalised me who, sitting round the campfire in the New Forest, recommitted herself to me? I asserted that come the new school year I would storm it at work, do a little homework each day with my son, watch less iPad, read more, eat better, exercise more …. It’s Wednesday and no homework has been done, we were both on our iPads last night and I had a takeaway! To be fair, I did go for a run this morning, but that seems like a small win against my commitment list.

I feel cross with myself because I let myself fall into the trap of thinking that simply going on holiday would be enough to restore my energy and give me the boost to storm into the Autumn revitalised.

So, what did I get wrong this summer?

One of the most frequent things I work on with my coachees and team journey participants is how we manage our energy. So many of us feel exhausted most of the time.

The conversation usually starts around time management. “I haven’t got enough time to do everything I need to do. I have so much on my plate I just can’t get through it all.” Or “I try and leave Fridays clear to do all my thinking stuff and then when I get to Friday I just can’t seem to get anything done and end up organising my email or doing my washing,” usually followed by: “ I survived the week but I’m so exhausted by the weekend all I want to do is slouch on the sofa and my partner is fed up with me and my children get really frustrated with me and then I feel really bad and then it’s Monday again”. Sound familiar?

So many of us (myself included) are fixated on how we manage our time and how can we maximise every hour of our day. The real challenge is not how we manage our time but how we manage our energy. More than that, it’s how we manage our energy on an ongoing basis and not see it as something we restore at the weekend or when we’re on holiday.

The solution? A simple tool we use called the E-Bank. Let me explain how it works …

Reflect on the week you have just had. What gave you energy and what took energy away? List out the energy deposits and then the energy withdrawals. What do you notice? What is your energy balance looking like? Are you in energy debt or credit? Are there themes around what is giving you energy or indeed taking it away? Can you take an action to change or maximise that? Do you need to address the balance?

Once you start to notice what give and drains your energy, you can start to proactively manage your energy throughout the week, month and even year. Look ahead at your week and where you see something that you know will be a drain, plan what you can do to boost your energy afterwards or before. Do this every day to begin with while you learn about yourself. Then you can move to using it weekly or just when you notice your energy dropping again. Extra trick is when you write down the energy boosters re-live them. Really live the moment again in all its true glory. Then notice how you feel. Re-living it will give you the same boost again as the first time so it’s like compound energy interest!

Which leads me to the next part of the solution. Having time off is something that can be an energy boost, but we need to think about how well we are recuperating during that time off. Be honest with yourself, do you recuperate or vegetate? How we feel when we rest has a huge impact on whether we really recover or not.

Negative feelings generate cortisol in our system and subsequently have a catabolic impact that breaks the body down and takes energy away. Feeling positive releases DHEA which helps build the body up creating an anabolic state aiding recovery and building energy.

So if you sit feeling guilty watching TV in the evening, worrying about everything you need to do, at the end of the program you will still feel exhausted and likely take yourself of to bed, cross with yourself that you achieved nothing you set out to that night and promising you will do it tomorrow. If however you watch TV and feel content and relaxed as you do this, at the end of the programme you will find yourself suddenly energised and able to get on with the jobs you meant to do. That’s the difference and impact of recuperation versus vegetation. So if you give yourself a break, GIVE yourself a break, otherwise there is literally no point.

So why were the holidays so exhausting? Well if you ever meet my son that will give you a good idea! But in all seriousness, I put too much stock on the holidays re-energising me, I turned up too exhausted and then I used my holidays to do too much that doesn’t really energise me (all those jobs you save up for your “time off” and then didn’t have enough energy to get up and do what I truly love.

When I did do what energises me I didn’t maximise how it made me feel. I didn’t savour the sunset in Cornwall with my best friends, I was too busy worrying about what was for tea. I didn’t embrace my run in the New Forest because I was too busy worrying if I was running fast enough or if I’d been too long away for those who had offered to look after my son. Stupid small things that all add up to stealing away the impact.

So here is my challenge to us all. Let’s get to the weekend with energy to do what we really want to do and when we do let’s really savour that moment. Notice and embrace the moment you stop to let the sunshine touch your face, wallow in the curiosity or contentment you feel when you actually take time to read the Sunday paper. Laugh heartily at the fool you make of yourself playing a silly game with your child. Bring it on and embrace it all…Then notice suddenly how much more time you seem to have!

Extra note: And yes those observant ones amongst you who read my first blog – “seeking peace with not being good enough.” I let the impact of the expert and achiever stage of development rear its ugly head again, it’s my running energy draining pattern and I am back refocussing on it! Good spot!

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