A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO OVERCOME COMMON ENERGY SLUMPS!
“I am so tired.” If this thought doesn’t pop into your head at least 10 times a day. Congratulations – you’ve found a way around the average woman’s biggest complaint: lack of energy. At any given time, 80 per cent of us feel fatigued. Often you can pinpoint the reason – the baby ha a cold and kept you up three nights in a row, or your job has been so hectic that you’ve been on your feet most of the time or living off junk food.
But how do you explain energy slumps on days when you’ve had eight hours of sleep and eaten right? Chances are it’s your brain and not your body that’s wearing you out. “Psychological factors can dampen vitality,” says Richard M. Ryan, Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester in New York. They can be even more draining than the obvious causes of low energy, because we usually overlook the connection between our mental state and how we feel physically. In fact, boredom, denying yourself of pleasures, depression, procrastination and holding grudges are common energy zappers. Here’s how to spot and conquer them.
Find Ways to Stay Challenged
Feeling overwhelmed, causes stress and leads to exhaustion. But most of us don’t realize that not having enough going on is equally draining. Being engaged in something energizes you. Ideally, you want to be in place where you’re neither anxious nor bored. “For at least part of your day at work or while participating in a hobby, you should be so caught up in what you’re doing that you’re not aware of the passing of time,” writes the author of Understanding the Psychological Roots of Optimism (Harcourt, 2001) Psychologists call this state ‘the flow’.
You can’t will this flow to happen, but you can train yourself to be more open to it. Start by making a few changes in your daily routine. Anything that adds novelty to your life will help stimulate your senses and prevent boredom. Instead of ordering the same meal at your favourite restaurant, try a different dish. Take up a new sport. Shake up your surroundings – pick one room in your home to update. If you’re having trouble figuring out what psyches you up, think back to things you used to love to do. If you like to cook, teach yourself to bake bread or make Thai cuisine. If music is your passion, learn to play an instrument or take voice lessons. Don’t pressurize yourself to perform perfectly; it will distract you and make the flow harder to achieve.
For the majority of people, finding flow at work offers the biggest energy payoff. If you’ve been doing your job with your eyes half closed, ask your boss for additional responsibilities or a challenging assignment. Use mental tricks to make your day more interesting. For example, view a dull task (such as balancing the budget) as a puzzle rather than a chore.
Make Pleasure a Priority
All work and no play makes one a dull and tired girl. Too often, our days are filled with must-do tasks, and little time is left for pleasurable pursuits. When you do things you love, your creative thinking and problem-solving skills improve in all areas of your life. And that transforms into bursts of energy.
Putting off unpleasant or difficult chores, such as paying bills or writing a report for work, creates an undercurrent of anxiety that’s taxing to the body. When you think about the task – and how you’re avoiding it – your muscles tense up, your heart beat increases, and your breathing becomes shallow. Procrastination is a vicious cycle: delaying the inevitable wipes you out, and the more tired you are, the less you’re likely to act.
The standard advice to procrastinators is to make a to-do list, and then systematically plow through it, one item at a time. But this is actually the wrong approach. According to The Six Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them (Penguin, 1997), “A big list tends to be self-defeating – you get exhausted just looking at it.” Instead, think small. “Break things down into manageable chunks; groups of five seem to work well. If there are 50 things in your stack and you deal with five, twice a day, your pile will disappear in a week.”
It’s important to monitor your thoughts while you’re performing the job. Procrastinators tend to say very negative things to themselves, such as ‘This is too hard’ or ‘Why do I have to do this?’ Try to be more positive. When you catch yourself saying ‘I can’t deal with all of this now’, don’t stop there. Finish the sentence with ‘but I can take care of part of it.’
Monitor Your Mood
“Having little energy is one of the top signs of depression,” says Professor Ryan. If these things don’t raise your energy level, see your doctor. You may need medication, therapy, or both.
Let go of past hurts
Most often, people deal with resentment in one of two ways: by repressing it or by reliving the hurtful event. Either strategy can exhaust you emotionally. “The brain is wired to remember painful experiences, so trying to repress how you feel about an argument, betrayal or other upsetting episodes, takes a great deal of conscious and unconscious effort.”
One reason why you may be wary of forgiveness is that you don’t think the person who hurt you deserves it or you believe forgiving means excusing the behaviour. But it’s really about letting yourself off the hook. Once you realize how much energy you consume by holding on to your pain, you begin to see the benefits of forgiveness.
Think about how resentment has affected your stamina. Imagine that you have 10 units of energy to spend on everything you deal with daily, good and bad. Determine how many you’ve used up dwelling on the situation. Then examine the impact the event has had on other parts of your life. These toxic emotions often cause us to take out our pain on people who had nothing to do with the situation. When that happens, you’re allowing the person to hurt you all over again.
Then, look at the event from a different perspective. This technique, called reframing, helps you develop compassion for the person who wronged you. When you see her as a vulnerable human being, you make room for empathy to replace your anger. You don’t have to be completely forgiving to reap the benefits. Even a slight shift in your perception of the other person can improve your emotional state.