Optimize Your Energy!
Updated: May 10, 2020
How Do You Feel at the End of Each Day?
Your answer may be the result of what you did, who you engaged with, what you ate and drank…. Ultimately how you feel is determined by how you manage your energy.
Think of energy as a scale, loaded with activities, thoughts, and emotions that either fill your energy tank….or drain it. Read on to learn how to be intentional about loading your scale to optimize your energy.
The Impact of Your Environment
Every component of our surroundings has an impact. Take a minute and write down a list of inputs you experience throughout a typical day. And go beyond the obvious, like food, TV, and e-mail.
Use all five senses: What do you see? What are all the sounds you hear, both intentional and vicariously? How varied are the tastes you enjoy, and the surfaces you touch? Are you conscious of aromas you smell?
Now take a look at your list and circle those that you enjoy and evoke positive feelings and thoughts. Then underline those that you dislike, are a source of negative stress. You have now taken the first step towards creating awareness of the weights on your energy scale.
The Impact of People
Someone once said “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with,” and I believe this to be true. Make a list of your top 5 based on who you see / talk to / think about. This includes everyone! Family you live with, coworkers, friends, coaches (my Personal Trainer is my #2!)
As you did before, think about each of these 5 people and how these relationships impact you. Circle those that are positive; people you look forward to talking to, that help you grow and fulfill your potential. Underline those that are overly critical, that constantly point out your flaws, who always see the glass as half empty even when it is nearly overflowing (the Eeyores.) At their worst, they can be toxic.
While spending time with the negative people may be unavoidable, you can take steps to minimize their impact to your health and well being. They are entitled to their own point of view - and so are you. Ignore their criticism; if their intent is not to be helpful, why would you give their opinion any credibility? Change the subject, redirect by asking them a question on a different topic. And as best you can limit the time you interact with them.
The Impact of Nutrition
Solid nutrition plays a critical role in all aspects of wellness and energy management. The topic of nutrition is enough for a lifetime of blogs! So I’ll stick to one specific lever you have available to make an IMMEDIATE impact on your physical and mental health……SUGAR. And even more specifically, added sugar, found in sweetened drinks, candy, baked goods, and many low-fat foods.
Excess sugar in your diet (target 35-50 grams per day) sets off a cascade of processes in your body. Once the initial sugar high wears off, your energy level crashes. Your hormones fluctuate, and can leave you feeling depressed and anxious. And excess sugar interferes with sleep.
Ok, one more thought on nutrition….as many as 60% of all Americans are chronically dehydrated! And virtually all of your body systems require water to function. So replace those sugary beverages with H2O!
The Biggest Weight on Your Scale
The single-most powerful source energy should come as no surprise. Exercise in any form provides benefits in all areas of your life. There are the obvious health benefits of maintaining an appropriate body weight and lean muscle mass. Exercise also improves our immune system, more important now than ever.
Often overlooked is the benefit of exercise for mental health. Exercise releases oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone. A quick 15 minute walk is enough to do the trick! The next time you have a craving for something sweet try taking a short walk and see if the craving passes - I bet it does!
The opportunity to focus on the task at hand by default gives your mind a rest from all of the other thoughts running around. And the sense of accomplishment you get from completing your workout and achieving goals contributes to your sense of self worth.
Having a Sense of Purpose
Many of us struggle to clearly identify our “purpose.” Here’s an exercise I use with all of my coaching clients to help discover their purpose - what fills them up and gives them energy.
Think of 3-5 people who know you well, and whose opinions you value. (Some of these folks may be on the list you made earlier - but not the toxic people!) You are going to ask each of them the same 2 questions:
When I’m really energized, and I have had a great day, what am I talking about?
When I’m completely drained, when my day was so bad that I don’t want to talk about it or relive it, what has happened that left me this way?
Resist the temptation to provide any guidance; if the person you are talking to asks for clarification simply repeat the question. It’s ok if they want to think about it, but not for too long. Their first reactions are likely on point.
The back story on this exercise: I had changed jobs, and was about 2 months into my new position. I had come from an individual contributor role (lots of responsibility, but small number of direct reports) and was now leading a team of close to 200. My husband casually observed one evening “I can see how much happier you are now that you have people to manage again.” I had not recognized this about myself; but by listening and noticing the high level of energy I had at the end of the day my husband had been able to identify my purpose.
Listen for the common themes in the feedback you get from your focus group; your purpose likely lies within their insights!
Creating a Positive Energy Balance
You now have identified those things that provide energy for you, and those that drain your energy away. Note that these are unique to you - an activity that you particularly enjoy might seem tedious to someone else. And that’s ok!
You will always have to accommodate situations that are draining. You are now equipped to identify them, and then be intentional about counteracting them with actions that fill you back up. Simply recognizing that you are being drained can be powerful, and using your new awareness to restore your energy is a life skill we all need.