Are you running on empty?

Whether you’re leading the charge or following in others’ footsteps, responding to events that require change takes it out of us. Transformation at any scale or speed demands resources – mental, physical and emotional – from ourselves, our community and the world around us.

We can give it all we’ve got for short periods of time. But if this level of exertion lasts, as it has for many of us in recent weeks, then we’ll find it harder and harder to regroup, restore and bounce back.

The challenge is adapting to change, and seeking to achieve it, in a sustainable way – that means finding and maintaining a healthy energy balance.

We can be sure that upheaval in the world is only just getting going as the changes we are experiencing are connected (and I hope you can find some comfort in this).

Now more than ever, we need to really take care of ourselves to be able to show up and do what is necessary, in our home, work and community. When we really look after ourselves, the rest follows.

If you know you are running on empty, or have a feeling you’re getting close, then the time is now to take a break. The exercise below is a 15 minute pit stop, designed to support you to: work out what your energy levels are; reflect on what gives and takes energy from you; and consider what you want to do in the weeks ahead to restore the balance. 

before you get started…

  • This exercise is not a test of anything or anyone – there are no right or wrong answers. It may benefit or be shared with others in future, but for now it is just for you
  • Please proceed with the greatest kindness and compassion you can muster
  • Grab a pen and some paper and find a quiet place to sit
  • Make yourself comfortable
  • Make yourself even more comfortable
  • Write down your responses to the questions below, following it through to the end if you feel up to it


  • Take a few moments to slowly scan your body from bottom to top, noticing any feelings that stand out for you as you go
  • Can you pick a colour that sums up how you’re feeling today? What led you to choose this colour?
  • On a scale of 1 (totally out of gas) to 10 (full tank) how much energy do you have left? How long have you felt like this – hours, days, weeks or months?
  • What situations or activities close to home (large or small) are using your energy up? Write a list of these
  • What things, further afield – in your community, country or globally – are using up your energy right now? Add these things to your list
  • Next to each item on your list note next to it whether it’s using a small, medium or large amount of your energy

What works for you?

  • Close your eyes and imagine yourself feeling rested and relaxed, where are you and what are you doing?
  • What things in your life, now or previously, bring you energy? (Don’t worry about catching everything, just what springs to mind)
  • When and with whom (if anyone) do you feel most at ease and relaxed?
  • What are your favourite things to do to care for yourself?

restoring balance in the days ahead

  • Reflecting on the things that bring you energy or support you to feel rested, which of these things could you do more of in the coming days?
  • Is there anything you need to do less of to restore your energy and bring things into balance?
  • Of the reserves you have, what do you need (as in absolute musts) to spend them on in the days ahead? What would you prefer to do instead?
  • Thinking of the days ahead what two things are you going to 100% commit to doing (or not doing) to help restore your energy balance? 

and finally…

  • Close your eyes (if you feel comfortable doing so) and take three deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • How do you feel now? Sum it up in three words if you can
  • Would you say this exercise has taken away or restored your energy? What about it has had this affect on you?
  • And you’re done. Good job. Pop your piece of paper somewhere safe, recycle it or burn it up. Whatever feels right for you
  • If you can, take a bit of time out now to let what you’ve been reflecting on settle