Exhausted? Me too. 3 Things I Do To Feel Better (with downloadable art for you)

Refresh & Renew Artwork

Refresh & Renew: Acrylic, collage, ink, and graphite on paper, 8.5 x 11 inches – by Lisa Sonora

Today I made this painting because I wanted a visual reminder of what to do when I’m exhausted. So exhausted that even rest itself eludes me.

Do you get that too? Being unable to sleep when you’re tired?

I’ve written previously about my struggles with low energy and fatigue. I’m not out of the woods, but in my so-called Low Energy Experiments, I’ve come up some things that really help me manage my energy.

I also made this painting because (spoiler alert) creating is one of the things I recommend most to combat exhaustion.

This whole week, I’ve been using these methods with a vengeance, if you will. Waking up from not sleeping well and feeling like utter crap. And then purposefully doing these three things, just to make extra sure they really work when I’m convinced they won’t.

There’s a wee backstory to this post, and a hi-res version of the artwork you can download, at the end.

First, I’ll share three of my foundational energy-boosting practices. They’re so simple and quick, and can be done freely.

No big investment of time, money (or energy you don’t have) necessary. Even better, the results are immediate. Try for yourself and see…


Did you know that tiredness is one of the signs of dehydration?

The effects of dehydration are so detrimental, that how to avoid dehydration and recognize the signs are a serious subject in wilderness training. This is where I learned to love hydration.

Are you drinking enough water? If you’re peeing a lot and there is no color—yes. In wilderness training shorthand: clear and copious.

Drink extra water, more than you think you need, especially when you’re under stress or feeling burnt out.


Are you too tired to create?

This is counterintuitive, but sitting down and doing something creative will give you more energy than it takes away.

The key is to create for pleasure, to engage in the process, and let go of the product. Trying to make something beautiful or significant or sellable will shut you down and make you more tired.

Also: it’s good to keep your creative endeavor private. You don’t want someone echoing the thoughts of your tired, critical mind that says things like: How do you have time to do that? Shouldn’t you be resting? Don’t you have to sweep and mop all of the floors first? And cook someone’s dinner?

All you need is fifteen minutes. A half-hour or an hour is more ideal. Try to do something creative almost everyday.

Some ideas: writing, painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking. Adult coloring books and zentangle are all the rage. Get some crayons or markers or glitter pens and keep them by your bed, one of my favorite places to create.

Creativity is restorative, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

If the idea of creating rings any bells for you, please do check out Dreaming on Paper: The Creative Sketchbook. I’ll show you how to create for pure pleasure, free of judgment and fear, with loads of techniques that incorporate painting, writing, collage and photography.


This is about focusing your mind on what you want to think about, instead of letting it run wild in those familiar grooves of worry.

You don’t need to sit down or bend into a lotus position. You don’t need candles or incense or patience.

You can meditate wherever you are. Sitting in traffic. Standing in your kitchen in front of the open refrigerator door. Waiting in line anywhere. When you’re in the bathroom… you get the idea.

Here’s what I mean by meditate:

Focus on what you love and appreciate.

Find one thing around you right now (good Internet) and appreciate it. Then find another (gorgeous sunrise). And another (ample hot water in the shower). And so on.

Remember how good things really are for you in so many ways.

That’s it. It just takes a moment, and you can do it early and often throughout your day. Just like hydrating.

Consider a formal gratitude practice if you’d like to build this mental muscle of focus on the positive instead of the negative.

Learning to focus your mind on what you appreciate is energizing.

Thinking about how tired you are only makes you feel more exhausted. You can’t think two thoughts at once. So when you’re focusing on what you appreciate, your energy and mood gradually lift, on their own.

You don’t have to do any type of formal meditation practice. You don’t have to be a Buddhist. You can substitute the word pray, or contemplate, or something else, if you the word meditate stresses you out.


I made this post and artwork today, because this is what I needed to remember to do to recharge my batteries. I need to remember that this really works. Even if I think it won’t.

The thing is, I’m totally pooped out after blogging every single day in January.

Additionally, I played a big role behind the scenes in the grand opening events of a new gallery and workshop space in Oaxaca.

We had our first gallery show (I am one of the artists, along with 2 others), and gallery opening party, and a Sunday Jazz Brunch. Both events were standing room only, the brunch sold out, and we had people spilling out into the patio and sidewalk waiting to get in.

And besides all that, there’s the usual work that goes into putting on my workshops — a full time job in itself.

Not to mention: getting in my own studio time: painting and writing and creating. This all takes time and not a little amount of simply staring into space.

If you’d like this visual reminder too, you can download printable, a hi-resolution image here:

Recharge & Renew by Lisa Sonora

These are a few things that really work for me when I feel I cannot go on due to low energy. I’ll be sharing some more, if you like this.

How about you? Share in the comments what you’re experiencing with low energy, and how you deal. What support you? Any resonance in this post? Like the art? I’d be so grateful if you shared it around. Thanks!

14 Responses to Exhausted? Me too. 3 Things I Do To Feel Better (with downloadable art for you)

  1. Teresa February 9, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

    Thank you! I’m using it on my desktop. Now if I can get it to pop up after I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of the internet. . .I’ve got a little problem there.

  2. Donna Levreault February 8, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

    When I’m feeling exhausted, i like to take a leisurely walk in the woods. Somehow I feel all the trees are giving me energy. And I focus on what’s around me–the sounds and smells especially.

  3. Carol February 6, 2016 at 2:21 am #

    Thank you ….resonating with your post…. I love how you’ve described the simpleness of a meditative practice .Those peaceful, mind quietening moments colored with gratitude and mindfulness are part of my daily survival kit its amazing how the fatigue I often get can lift when practicing this sort of self care…. and creating a simple mandala or just playing with color on paper are my go to ‘s creatively x

  4. Susann February 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    Naps. Naps are essential. A 20 minute power nap changes my entire day — I go from being tired, worn out, short-tempered, impatient & frustrated back to that productive, creative, optimistic, patient, *nice* person I (& everyone around me!) prefer to be! For those who say “I can’t nap”, it’s a matter of teaching yourself. I used a timer & meditation to help me & it took about 6 weeks for me to be able to fall asleep pretty much instantly & wake up 20 minutes later, refreshed & ready to go. If I’m really tired, I’ll set a timer because if I over-sleep, I lose the benefits, awaken groggy & stupid & then can’t sleep at bed time. I also hydrate well (plain water) & meditate for another 20 minutes every morning. I’m still not perfect at this self-care thing — we have such a long-standing cultural bias of equating self-care with self-indulgence & selfishness, to which I say bullshit — but see such a positive difference in every corner of my life when I do it.

    • Lisa Sonora February 5, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

      Susann – thanks for sharing this info about naps. I’m one of those who can’t nap – but now I’m encouraged to try your method. And yes – about self-care bias. It’s so helpful to look at what is called normal in our culture and challenge it. Being to busy, for example is a really American thing, much less so here in Mexico. People take lots of time to just be with family. Although… too many devices are creeping into togetherness, and this stresses me out.

  5. m February 5, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    I’m in a bad place right now. To list all that’s going on seems like asking for more difficulties….So I will just say “Thanks, I needed that.” Your blogs are always so helpful to me and I am grateful for you Lisa and all the goodness you share.

    • Lisa Sonora February 5, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

      Oh, m – I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m so glad you stopped by and shared your kind words with me today. So very generous of you.

  6. Val February 5, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    Thanks for the blog post, Lisa. I’d just spent two days in bed with fatigue and pain, not even caring if I went into my lovely studio to do the things I most enjoy. After reading your post, I was inspired to at least sit up in bed and doodle in my sketchbook. It felt SO GOOD! Sometimes, I need a reminder and you gave me a big boost yesterday with your comments. Many thanks.

    • Lisa Sonora February 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

      Val – so sorry to hear about your fatigue and pain. This is a familiar place for me, too. Although I’m grateful that it’s less severe lately than it was.

      Glad to hear you inspired to work in bed — I’m going to add a link to a little video that I meant to add in the post. You reminded me!

      Check it out: Doing Creative Practice (In Bed)

  7. Susan February 4, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

    Thank you for the reminder about hydrating. I loved the post. I also loved FIRE which I did with you in January. I took it in a whole different direction. I did journal and did some mixed media but what really interested me was exploring the people you quoted every day. I researched the ones that interested me and printed out more of their quotes or some of their artwork. I bought “the Essential Rumi.” and “Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. One of my favorite quotes from his book is “Validation is for Parking. Last year I listened to Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech on you tube.Thank you for expanding my knowledge and interest in other artists and writers. Curiosity is something that helps me when I’m tired.

  8. Michelle Casserley February 4, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    Yes! Agree with all these three and my major breakthrough came when I realised that self love, kindness and letting go of things not important for that day was very helpful 🙂

    • Lisa Sonora February 4, 2016 at 6:04 pm #

      Michelle – love this: “self love, kindness and letting go of things not important for that day was very helpful”

  9. Vivian February 4, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    Love the artwork! I’ve been meaning to do something like this for myself for a while. Thanks for the reminder. Love how hydrate looks like a milkshake or something else yummy instead of a water bottle!

    • Lisa Sonora February 4, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

      Vivian – thanks! About hydrate: yes, it’s meant to look like the glasses we use here in Mexico for juice. They’re remind me of old-fashioned fountain glasses. Big, and you need a straw. I just used these for our Jazz Brunch bloody mary’s, too.

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