What I Learned the Hard Way About Being Exhausted


Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other. – Walter Elliot

Leadership is uphill when you're exhausted

Leadership under pressure can be draining. If you’re feeling tired and burned out, it’s not all “in your head.” You can't fix it by just making the decision that you’re going to have a better attitude (although that's an important part of it). You have to take care of your body as well. I have to admit, I haven’t always done a great job at that, and lately, I’ve discovered what I’ve been missing.

They lied to me in medical school and residency

In retrospect, they beat the daylights out of us in our training. We wore it like a badge of honor. I was proud of the fact that I worked three days straight without sleep and started hallucinating while making rounds on patients. True story. We were trained just to suck it up and learn how to deal with it. That was bad advice. And, it was dangerous.

My mom told me the truth

It turns out that my mother knew what she was talking about. She told me that I needed to be sure and eat right, sleep enough, and get regular exercise if I wanted to feel great. Go figure. Could it be that simple?

Eat right: “Food is mood”

I recently went through a long spell of feeling utterly exhausted, so I did the right thing and went to see my physician. After a throughout workup, he suggested that I start on a Keto (low carb, high fat) diet. I was a bit skeptical, but I must say that I feel better than I have in years. Cut out carbs (less than 30-40/day), eat real food, and stay away from processed foods. Could it be that simple?

Sleep: give your brain and your body a break

How much sleep should you get? 7-8 hours. For a good night of sleep, avoid screen-time for 2 hours before bed. Shining bright lights in your eyes makes it difficult to go to sleep. Avoid caffeine in after about 3 pm. It has a 6-hour half-life. In other words, only half of your caffeine will be gone a full 6 hours after you drink it.

Exercise: you don’t have to kill yourself

I shoot for 30 minutes of exercise every day. At the very minimum, I will just head out for a walk. I find it much easier to do it every single day rather than three times per week. It is too easy for me to skip a day and the next thing I know, It been a month. Since I’ve started exercising daily, I’ve gone more than a year without missing a single day. Feeling better? Absolutely. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you only have to exercise on the days that you want to feel good. Could it be that simple?

Stay hydrated

Although I don’t remember my mom stressing this one, I’m convinced that it makes a difference. I shoot for about 2-3 liters daily. I would suggest that you avoid liquid calories like pop and juice like the plague. Could it be that simple?


Yep. Try it for a month and let me know what you think. Of course, I’m still practicing mindfulness meditation, keeping a gratitude journal, and working on my internal dialogue but I’m convinced that my mom’s simple advice is truly life changing:

  1. Eat low carb, high fat, real food. (www.dietdoctor.com is a good place to start.)
  2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night
  3. Get 30 minutes of exercise every single day
  4. Hydrate but don’t drink liquid calories.

I'd love to hear about your experience