Our energy is everything.
It influences how we spend our days. How much we get done. What we get done. How we feel about what we get done.
Clearly, it’s critical.
But no one really walks us through how to look after it. How to be energised. How to feel good. And how to stay in that space once we’re there.
It’s one of those things that incites a comment of it should be taught in schools.
Your energy is physical and emotional. It is possible to proactively cultivate habits and tactics that support feeling good, both getting there and staying there.
Our energy’s important. So let’s look after it.
Protect Your Physical Energy
The most tangible form of protecting your energy is looking after your physical self. I know, we’ve heard it all before. But there’s a reason for that. It’s because it’s true.
Only you can figure out what works for you, what habits increase your energy and which ones drain it. But I won’t leave you completely high and dry. Here are some snippets that have helped me figure it out, so will hopefully do the same for you:
- Sleep: Nick Littlehales’ book is the true gamechanger. Simple principles, myth-dispelling, if you only implement three points of his advice your sleep will be transformed.
- Exercise: This gem “the best exercise is the exercise you’ll actually do”. Try a bunch of stuff until you find things you enjoy. This goes beyond different types of exercise, to mixing up your routine, figuring out if you do better with an event to work towards, or with an exercise buddy. Experiment. And finding something that works doesn’t mean you’ll never need to change it up again to keep it interesting. So go for it.
- Food: Use The Four Tendencies quiz to figure out how you respond to expectations then make a plan from there. I’m a Rebel so I need freedom and choice. Trying to follow an eating plan or cut something out just gives me something to rebel against, doesn’t work. Upholders need a plan to, well, uphold. Obligers need a support system for accountability. Questioners need to research. (Yes, I am obsessed with this framework).
Protect Your Emotional Energy
That’s the tangible, physical side but protecting your energy goes further than that. It’s also emotional. There are two sides to this, proactively feeling good and proactively eliminating feeling bad, as known as energy vampires.
It makes sense that being in a good mood makes it easier to be motivated. There’s nothing quite like your boss or colleagues bringing you done to make work the last thing you feel like doing. It pays to have a few tricks in your toolbox to help shift in your energy when needed.
The main thing to remember is you can’t think your way out of feeling bad, your tools need to be physical. Realising this was a major breakthrough. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to logic my way out of negative thoughts. Tried to reverse the thought spiral by attempting to rationalise then getting annoyed that it didn’t work. Yet something physical can make a big shift in a very short amount of time.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Write a gratitude list. Focusing on all the good in your life, from having enough to eat to laughter with friends to blossoms on the tree, can move your mood so fast your head will spin.
- Meditate. Spend five minutes letting your thoughts come and go instead of following them. Tune into your breath. Send rays of light into the world. It all quietens the chatter in your brain and calms you down.
- Laugh. Watch a comedy video. Call your funniest friend. Laughter both releases endorphins (Elle Woods anyone?) and reduces stress hormones such as cortisol. Double win.
- Hug someone! It releases oxytocin and lowers your heart rate. Again, down with the stress response.
- Move your body. Dance, sing, take a walk, yoga, run, rock climb. Whatever floats your boat and is accessible at the time.
So we’re feeling good. Or are we? Sometimes the above isn’t as impactful or flat out doesn’t work because we’re not just in our own heads. There’s actually something draining going on that needs addressing.
Tackle the Energy Vampires
If you’re mentally preoccupied with something and just can’t shake it, tackle it head-on. You need to lift the weight. Find the answers.
Otherwise, you drive yourself crazy wondering and getting nowhere. And hoping it will just all go away means two things. One, you stay in the negative place for longer waiting for it to leave of its own accord. Two, it comes back bigger and badder.
So look out for yourself, be brave and take action. Have the difficult conversation. Write out an angry email, getting everything out. Delete it and then have the difficult conversation.
I’m going to be straight here and say almost all energy consuming situations will require you to put yourself out there and express how you feel. You have to tell your boss that the lack of feedback makes you feel undervalued and you have no idea if you’re doing a good job or not. You need to tell your boyfriend that his long hours at work leave you feeling neglected. You need to tell your flatmate that you don’t understand why she’s giving you the cold shoulder but you’d like to address it so the house can be a pleasant place to live.
The one exception that comes to mind is if you have negative friends, that constantly gossip and moan, it is possible to move on without directly telling them. Focus on spending more time with people that it feels good to spend time. Essentially crowd out the bad. Let them fall by the wayside. Likely they’re talking about what a terrible friend you are behind your back but I doubt they’ll call you out on it. And if they do, just say how you feel. Let them live their life and you live yours.
Your Energy is Your Responsibility
In the end, it’s up to you to find the habits and tools that work. Other people impact our energy endlessly. But it’s up to us to manage and minimise their effects. Or amplify them.
Every day we make decisions that either increases our energy or drain it. Those are our choices. No one else’s.
There’s no getting away with only addressing one side, physical or emotional. The body and the brain are too closely interconnected and influential on each other to only focus on one. You need to do both.
Protect your energy so you can live your life.