Andrea Mara

Official website

More Guilt – and Some Practical Tips for Dealing With Exhaustion at Work

It’s lunchtime and I’m under my desk having a snooze. Well not really, but that’s where I’d love to be right now, as I scribble these notes and drink my third cappuccino. My baby was up all night, and I’m beyond exhausted.
OK he’s not technically a baby anymore, and it wasn’t quite all night, just 1am till I-don’t-even-know o’clock, but it was starting to get bright when I finally got him to sleep.

My brain is fuzzy, my eyes are hot and itchy, my head is pounding and I feel like I was out till the wee hours drinking Mojitos. All I want to do is crawl under that desk. And all I feel is guilt. More guilt.

how I look today 
It’s not my employer’s fault that I am exhausted and less capable today. I feel guilty that the meetings I’m going to are less productive than they should be, that it’s taking me twice as long as usual to look at a spreadsheet or type an e-mail, that overall, this is a less than perfect gold-star-employee day. Far less.
But it’s not my fault either, so I need to find a way to stop letting guilt eat away at me. There is enough of it there all day every day; the permanent domain of many working mothers, who feel anxious about going out to work and leaving their children in childcare. Adding to it by feeling guilty about work too can’t be healthy.
I try to keep two important points in mind to reduce the work-guilt:
  •  All the extra hours I’ve worked over the years;  evening work, weekend work and business travel add up to a lot more in value  than the slightly less productive day I’m having today
  • I’m effectively sick, but I’m here – I turned up.
And I know there are working parents everywhere today who are just as sleepy as I am – hordes of zombies quietly getting the job done as best they can in offices and schools and hospitals all over the country.
So here are some tips for getting through a day like this:

1.       Wear something you love – you will feel better all day. Not your favourite pyjamas though, tempting as that may be.

2.       Wear makeup if it helps, or if you already do, wear more. Especially under-eye concealer. And a splash of blusher will make you look less ghostly.

just a dab of concealer, and you’re Jennifer Aniston – right?

3.       Drink coffee – I know, I know, this isn’t strictly the healthiest suggestion, but today is not the day for being a paragon of virtue. Be good to yourself, and if that means three cappuccinos, go for it.

4.       Eat food – healthy food will give you more energy and make you feel better in the long run, but if you need a Danish today, don’t beat yourself up about it. You can be good again tomorrow when you have the energy for it.

5.       Berocca, magnesium, vitamin B, juices, smoothies – these are all energy boosters that were recommended to me by kind sympathisers today; other working mums who have been there, dissolved the Berocca.

6.       Do work that is really interesting, and will perhaps suck you in enough to forget about the tiredness. Or if you’re completely beyond concentrating on anything, get all that admin out of the way – the stuff that you’ve been putting on your To-Do list since 2010. And tidy your desk – you’ll never have a chance like this again (until the next bad night)

7.       Take breaks during the day – go for walks if you can, get fresh air, have tea, chat to colleagues.

8.      Plan an early night, think about your early night all day and how good it’s going to feel. Then really do it – don’t be on Facebook at 11pm tonight!

9.       Fake it till you make it: decide to put on an Oscar-winning performance as the person you would have been today if you’d had a full night’s sleep. Putting energy into pretending to be bubbly and bright might just help you forget how you really feel.

And remember, somebody somewhere is lying in bed right now because they had too many Mojitos last night and just didn’t bother going into work this morning; in comparison you’re already a gold-star employee.





Click the button below to sign up to my Penguin newsletter.