Happily Exhausted

Suzanne DaileyBlog, Self Care Better, Teach Happier


  • There are different kinds of exhaustion.
  • One can experience “happily exhausted” moments when they feel fulfilled and energized despite being tired.
  • Identifying activities that make us feel happily exhausted, such as spending time with loved ones, pursuing passions, or engaging in meaningful tasks, can help us prioritize our energy and well-being.
  • As we prepare for busy seasons, like the start of the school year, practicing “pre-care” by incorporating energizing activities can help us maintain a balanced and content mindset.

Happily Exhausted

Ever end the day and you are just so tired? If you are a fully-formed grown-up, you are nodding your head because that is most of us just about every night. Sometimes our heads hit the pillow and we think about our day and ask, “What just happened?!” 

In this Teach Happier space, we have learned that there are various forms of rest, but I’m beginning to think there are also different kinds of exhaustion.  Perhaps when we think of the word exhaustion, we most likely think of the days when we’re just kind of limping along and trying to get through the next thing again and again. But one summer conversation with beloved girlfriends opened my eyes to the idea that we can look at exhaustion in a way that’s a bit more optimistic and energizing. 

Here’s the summary of this summer convo: A few weeks ago, my 3 girlfriends and I had one of our nook nights (IYKYK). It was the first nook night of the summer, and we were delighted by comfy clothes, delicious food, pretty drinks, and absurd amounts of laughter.  

My girlfriend Kristin’s oldest child just graduated. She was walking us through the days leading up to the big day, the actual graduation ceremony, and the celebrations afterward. She was so thrilled and proud and grateful, and she was so tired. “I’m exhausted,” Kristin shared. Our friend Leanne had an immediate reaction to this response and it’s just so wise. Leanne said, “Makes perfect sense. You are happily exhausted.” 

Happily exhausted. 

Happily Exhausted

Those two words aren’t often combined, but when Leanne said together it caused me to pause and think. 

Do you ever find yourself happily exhausted? Like, when your head hits the pillow, you are tired and you’re so glad the day unfolded the way that it did? You feel fulfilled and energized at the same time you feel tired? I know I have. Whenever I find myself happily exhausted, it’s simply when my day is filled with things that I love to do bumping up against the things I have to do. Things that energize my head or heart. Things that bring feelings of meaning or connection. 

We all have different definitions of what it would take to feel happily exhausted. For me, it’s connecting with friends, family, colleagues, or students; accomplishing great things together personally or professionally. It’s reading a book that challenges my thinking or imagination. It’s a burst of creative energy. It’s moving my body and feeling strong. It’s belly laughing where I can’t control the cackles. It’s planning and performing intentional acts of kindness. It’s a socially diverse day where I interact with different people from different parts of my life. It’s moving through the day harnessing opportunities to connect me to my people or my work. These things take a lot of energy, but it’s worthwhile because it leaves me feeling happily exhausted.    

Fact: Once school starts up, we will be exhausted for a million different reasons. We might as well think of the things that truly make us feel “happily exhausted” and prioritize our energy from there.   

[scroll down to keep reading]

Prioritize Your Energy

If you want to discern what makes you feel happily exhausted, pay attention to how you feel at the end of the day and consider the reasons behind your energy level. This can help us intentionally incorporate some of these things into our lives once summer days transition back into school days. 

As we close and mentally prepare for the 23-24 school year, let’s link this small shift in action with another from season 2, Nedra Tawaab’s brilliant idea of pre-care. That’s when we recognize we are headed into the next busy season (read: the start of this school year!) and we need to prioritize protecting our time and energy before that season so we can show up as content, aligned, and balanced as possible.  

We can practice pre-care by thinking about what energizes us enough to leave us happily exhausted.  

Let’s make that list of things that energize us and allow us to rest with satisfaction. Let’s be thoughtful and intentional with what we include in the waking hours of the day so when our head hits the pillow at night we have a better chance of moving away from, “What just happened?!” to “I’m thankful today happened.”  

Let’s take care of our heads and hearts as we head into the next school year. Let’s incorporate the things that will allow us to rest when we’re happily exhausted. 

Small Shifts, BIG Gifts!

Try making your list! What leaves you feeling happily exhausted? Jot down your ideas and leave your list somewhere your September/October self can find them! This may help you incorporate these summer ideas into school-year actions!


About Suzanne Dailey

Suzanne Dailey is a proud member of the Teach Better Family! She is an instructional coach in the Central Bucks School District where she has the honor and joy of working with elementary teachers and students in 15 buildings. Suzanne is Nationally Board Certified, a Fellow of the National Writing Project, and has a master’s degree in Reading. She is dedicated to nurturing and developing the whole child and teacher. Suzanne lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Check out the Teach Happier Podcast here!