I read an article recently about energy and the fact that we aren't always taught how to best manage our energy. I got to thinking about this and about the question of what gives us energy and what depletes us of energy.
I thought about the idea of energy in terms of both mental energy and physical energy and realized the two aren't as different as we might think. They're actually dependent on each other, so there is no real value in making a distinction between the two. Mental energy feeds physical energy and vice versa.
I brainstormed and wrote about this question in my journal, and I came up with the following lists (I do love lists):
Habits/Activities/Actions That Deplete My Energy
- Getting to bed late. Even if I get my 8 hours, if I go to bed past 10:30, I'm gonna struggle.
- Negative People. Nothing drains me like sitting at a Starbucks for an hour listening to someone complain. Well, the only thing that drains me more is being the person sitting at Starbucks complaining.
- Eating Poorly. Sugar, carbs and processed food does a real number on my stomach and energy levels. A stomach ache is a real energy suck. Low blood sugar can derail a workout like nobody's business. The list goes on.
- Procrastination. Looking at my dishes piled up in the sink, a client's work waiting to be written or my weights and exercise ball taunting me in the corner is a huge energy suck. HUGE. When I don't get my stuff done, it runs in the back of my mind. This requires significant mental effort and takes up space I could be using to work on creative projects.
- Technology. Whether it's perusing tumblr or checking my iPhone obsessively, misusing technology is a huge distraction, which is a major energy-waste.
- Worry/Ruminating. When I go through my day worried, I have little energy for solving problems or engaging in deep thinking. Worry is a futile activity that only limits energy and, thereby, productivity.
- Alcohol. No matter how much I love a glass of wine, it does me no favors. I don't even drink much. But when I do, I am tired and my energy is depleted. This makes it harder for me to get through the evening chores, get the kids to bed on time and enjoy my own nighttime routine.
Habits/Activities/Actions That Give/Restore Energy
- Exercise. Hands-down, exercise gives me the biggest jolt of energy. I don't go crazy and do three cross-fit routines each morning. But when I go to a dance class or practice ballet or do yoga, I always feel energized, calm and ready to tackle what's next. Always.
- Juice. More than coffee, juice gives me a shot of energy. I usually drink celery juice straight or make a combo of apple/ginger/cucumber. I feel refreshed and more hydrated than if I drink water alone. Why I don't do this more often is beyond me.
- Baths. Every evening, I take a hot bath. I feel relaxed and calmed by this habit, much more than if I drink a glass of wine. After a bath, I feel my energy is restored rather than depleted.
- Movement. If I sit down during the day, I'm done; energy seeps out of me. If I keep moving, even slowly, I have much more stable energy and don't find myself needing to rally quite so much.
- Writing. This is huge for me. When I write, I feel on fire. It can be a journal entry, a to-do list, a speech for a client or a chapter in a novel. Writing never fails to give me energy. When I write a list, I have clarity and focus about what I need to do next, which means I am much less likely to procrastinate, which means I'm not wasting energy on background noise. When I write in my journal, especially about difficult experiences or issues I need to address, the weight of those issues is greatly diminished. Writing is my go-to for processing feelings and ideas of all kind.
- Quiet time. I have met extroverts, people who get energy and thrive from time spent with other people and in social situations. As an introvert, I recognize I get my energy from time alone. This doesn't mean I don't love socializing. It just means I need to balance that out with alone-time. Knowing this and honoring it has made a huge difference in my overall happiness.
I could go on, obviously. There are tiny little habits and actions that make differences in all of our lives. There are the big guns (sleep, eating well, connecting with others) and then there are the finer points (baths, watching the news, having a piece of chocolate) that are equally important but often overlooked.
I don't know that I ever really sat down and thought about my energy levels and how that affects my mood, but seeing those lists in black and white is an eye opener for me in terms of shifting some of my daily habits. I don't need a glass of wine with dinner each night. I need more juice and less coffee. I need to really honor that bath time each night for that calming alone time I see is so valuable for me. When I look at these lists, I can see adjustments that need to be made to increase my energy levels.
And then....of course....is the question: why?
Why do I need to increase my energy? Why does it matter? What is the end-goal?
That's the big question, right?
For me, when I have higher and more stable energy, I am in a better, more stable mood. That means I'm a better mother, partner and friend. But it also means I can focus on the stuff that matters. All of the things I want to do in life (connect with loved ones, write novels, create a home life, engage with my kids, participate in my community) requires energy - a lot of energy. When I deplete that energy, I reduce my ability to engage in all of those things that matter so much to me. When I have lackluster energy, I get lackluster results - in everything.
Have you ever thought about your own energy? Do you see which habits or actions increase/balance your energy? Do you see which habits deplete it?
If only I could thrive on little sleep, coffee and chocolate cake....I'd conquer the world.