Prevention versus correction.
For a few decades now, or perhaps more than a few, stress management has been the term of phrase often used as we find a culture, and more specifically, ourselves nearing or reaching burn-out whether in our jobs or life in general, and while bringing healing and remedy to something in our lives that needs our attention for improvement is certainly valuable and a necessary skill to learn should we find ourselves in this state of fatigue and chronic stress, preventing such a state from ever being reached is a far more beneficial approach, and gives us much more enjoyment and yep, contentment for a far longer time throughout our life journey.
Similarly to stress management is time management, a term of phrase again that is used often but actually brings our attention to the wrong place. Living simply luxuriously is a drilling down and investing in quality over quantity, and this includes how we go about our days. Time management shares directives on how to squeeze more into the day, but energy management teaches us how to thrive throughout our entire day, something the former doesn’t prioritize although it does keep it in the equation.
And here’s the important detail to keep in mind, energy management is going to be unique to each of us because we are each unique individuals traveling during different periods of our life journey, experiencing different chapters of our life, so to focus on time management is to focus on a logical, concrete approach, but we are not stoic, robotic individuals. We have ups and downs in our moods, our physical abilities, our mental strength for focus, will-power, etc., and that is why shifting to energy management will actually solve the issues that stress management and time management are trying to address, but also ensure you are honored for the individual that you are.
Let’s take a look at six habits to consider when managing your energy well through the day in order for you to thrive, enjoying each day even attending to tasks that are have-tos.
1.Give yourself at least 30 minutes in the morning before you really start the day
In Change Your Brain Every Day: Simple Daily Practices to Strengthen your Mind, Memory, Moods, Focus, Energy, Habits and Relationships by Dr. Daniel G. Amen, he shares how the brain is still in a lethargic-limbo-land sort of mode of thought when we first wake up, whether we are waking up from a long, lovely eight hours of deep sleep or not, so knowing this can go a long way to designing a morning ritual, and what time to set your alarm.
And that is part of it as well, create a morning ritual, no matter how early you have to or get to wake up that begins the day well. A couple of years ago, I shared 7 key components of my own morning routine, and I genuinely enjoy waking up in the morning primarily because of my morning routine. It is something I thoroughly savor, and it really is quite simple, but the most important part is to give myself enough time so that I can be properly nourished, both mentally and nutritionally.
2. Know thyself — what energizes you, what drains you
As I have progressed in my mindfulness practice, one significant improvement is my awareness of the world around me but also how and why I feel and respond the way I do to various situations and people. This knowledge is both priceless and invaluable in making better decisions to design a life that nourishes me and for my well-being.
If you are reading this and you are acknowledging that you would like more energy in your days, start by making a list of the past week’s events and people you were in contact with, no matter how small. Write down the purpose, the conversation, time of day, what you were doing prior to meeting them or partaking. At this point, you are just transcribing. Once you have taken these detailed notes, go back and examine your energy levels on each of the days.
At this point, if this is your first time assessing your energy, catalog this information for now and don’t make any drastic changes, but keep it in your mind. Most likely, you will begin to become more quickly aware of how you feel around certain people, certain topics of discussion, certain environments, and as much as you are trying to figure out your drains of energy, you are also trying to figure out what gives you energy.
Once you begin to see patterns, begin making different and more beneficial decisions that welcome more regular opportunities for energy to grow and fewer that drain your energy.
3. Set boundaries
Once you have the knowledge of yourself and what energizes you versus what drains you, this is where setting boundaries needs to come into play. Boundaries protect your energy, but also give you space to do what you love which is energizing! Sometimes the boundary setting involves changing a relationship we have with someone, but sometimes it is about helping ourselves focus our attention and give us unstructured time to just be. Boundaries can also apply to what and where we allow our minds to go. In other words, mind management. This is where meditating and strengthening our ability to be aware of our thoughts and not let them wander down an unhelpful route of worry, anger or negativity.
Below are two posts that speak about two skills that play a key role in living with awareness.
4. Take Complete Breaks – Understand your natural physiological rhythms.
Psychologist Anders Ericsson studies extraordinary performers, and one of the findings he discovered was that these extraordinary performers have in common is that they are “really good at taking breaks”. Typically, and this is for artists and athletes alike, they begin their days around 9am and then take a complete break (some even taking naps, but in other words, a full stepping away from their craft) in the afternoon before resuming practice for a few more hours in the evening.
While we may not all be able to take a nap, or want to take a nap in the middle of our days, fully stepping away from our work in the afternoon before the day’s end, so right after lunch, is actually an energy booster.
5. Bring the work day to a fulfilling close
Daniel H. Pink writes in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing that rather than bolting from the office or our place of work wherever that may be when we are able to leave, close our computer, etc. at the workday’s end, we actually nurture ourselves and our perspective of our work when we reserve the final five minutes of our work day to reflect. He suggests, “taking two or three minutes to write down what you accomplished since the morning”, and this need not be all work related, but something and perhaps most of what you write down in this occasion is helpful if it is work-related as it brings a focus to what went well, what was achieved and thus a feeling of accomplishment and appreciation for your work.
What we focus on is strengthened, but if we forget all that has gone well, and the progress we have made, it can be easy to feel as though we are always putting out fires, and this drains our energy.
6. Let yourself be a child again
In multiple books, Wired to Create and Rest, just to name a few, the freedom of play, time to do whatever our curiosity leads us to explore, is a regular habit to welcome into our adult years as well as our childhood.
When we ‘play’, whatever our play is, which will be unique to each of us, our mind is free, present and content, so it relaxes and thus the body relaxes.
Prioritizing time to play, whether it is outside or inside, tinkering with a new creation in your hobby room, or a new recipe in the kitchen, or digging in the dirt in your garden, you have permission, in fact, I urge you, to play.
As well, almost as if by magic, solutions and ideas will arise that you would have not been able to reach had you forced them to come to the surface. So think of ‘play’ as a powerfully nourishing practice, as preventative medicine not to easily remove from your schedule.
An Everyday Necessity: Deliberate Rest, episode #139
Admittedly, it can feel as though it is easier to manage our energy when we are not responsible for children, clients, running a company, running a household, but I would argue, it is even more important to understand as well as practice effective energy management. As well, when we practice the above habits, we are modeling to others to respect themselves as well, and encouraging more self-awareness which has the powerful benefit of helping us all make more constructive decisions for our overall quality of life.
Sometimes it can feel, as we shift how we move through each day, that by either setting boundaries or reducing our schedule so that it isn’t fully booked (on paper or in our planner) that we have gaps, and seeing this ‘white space’ will feel foreign, maybe even make us uncomfortable, but here’s something to remember, having time to ourselves, whether surrounded by no one or surrounded by many people, yet doing what we need to do on our own to unwind, relax, etc., we are also exercising a truth shared in Wired to Create by Dr. D.W. Winnicott calls the capacity to be alone “one of the most important signs of maturity in emotional development”.
It is in moments of solitude when we realize how meaningful such time can be, that our joy and fulfillment are fueled, and thus, it is a source of being energized.