Tired. Exhausted. Drained. Wiped. Toast. So many different ways that all say the same thing: that we’re low on energy.
As humans we all have a natural rhythm of higher and lower energy times of day. While we’d like to be high energy all the time, it’s not realistic. However, many of us are struggling through day after day, just trying to stay awake.
In our 24/7 uber connected society it has become the expectation that we’ll always be there when someone needs us – even if we should be resting. This culture has led many of us to sacrifice sleep in order to travel more, work more, do more.
We have become a society of over caffeinated zombies just trying to get through the day. We’re exhausted all day, wired late into the night – and if we’re being honest – not getting as much done as we could if we set it all right.
This dysfunction has led us to be tired all the time. We wake up, drag ourselves out of bed, grind our way through work, and then stay up too late just trying to decompress – only to go out and do it all over again tomorrow.
What if there was another way? What if we managed our energy and our expectations so that we weren’t exhausted all the time? What if we prioritized our health and the way we feel over our desire to get more things done?
And what if this all actually led to us to be MORE productive?
I don’t know about you, but I get a hell of a lot more done when I get a good nights sleep and feel awake, then when I need to force myself awake with a large latte with a double shot of espresso.
I have learned through personal experience (and have to constantly remind myself) that trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of every waking moment not only makes Jack a dull boy, it also sets you up for burnout.
I have recently been through a stressful month, followed by a death in the family, and now I’m down with a nasty cold. My body is screaming at me to slow down and yet the old mantra of “do more, do more, do more” constantly reverberates in my head.
I see this in my clients as well. And in the articles I read on energy. By most accounts at least 3/4 of us have consistent low energy days.
It’s time to take back your energy from all the places that do not deserve it. Whether it’s emotional energy being siphoned off you from an energy vampire or it’s physical energy from running around doing work that really doesn’t need to be done (or at least not by you).
Below are ways to create more energy and ways to be more careful with spending what you have. Remember to use ideas from both sections. Increasing your energy will only get you so far, especially if you’re busy burning it off on things that aren’t important to you.
BUT FIRST SOME WARNING SIGNS
Having gone through burnout and adrenal fatigue I feel it wise to include some warning signs for you. If you feel like there might be a medical reason behind your fatigue I suggest you check in with your doctor. There are some serious medical issues that can cause fatigue – especially if the fatigue has come on rather suddenly.
Waking up exhausted even after a good nights sleep
No motivation to start the day
Can’t do activities that you enjoy
Sudden bouts of exhaustion that seem to come and go
Shortness of breath
“The only resources that last are the ones we renew.”
BUILD YOUR ENERGY
Drink enough water
This comes up in the research over and over again. As strange as it sounds one of the first warning signs of dehydration is tiredness. My favorite way to figure out what you should be drinking is to calculate half your body weight and put that in ounces. If you weigh 200 lbs, then shoot for 100 oz of water a day.
Eat a good breakfast and don’t skip meals
I’m not here to tell you what foods to eat or meal plans to follow. I believe everyone needs to work that out on their own. But I do know that you gotta eat sometime and that keeping those times consistent is key to managing your energy. If you normally skip breakfast, maybe try adding it in and see how you feel. Shoot for something with lots of fiber, some protein, and good fats. Avoid foods with lots of sugar or starch, especially if there’s no fiber (donuts, for example). High sugar foods will cause you to crash and wreak havoc on your energy levels.
It’s been shown that even as little as 20 minutes 3x a week is enough to boost the energy of someone that has been sedentary.
Be careful with caffeine
This is one that I struggled with for a long time. I know how hard it is if you’re addicted. But caffeine can stay in your system for 8-12 hours, so having it late in the day can mess with your sleep. This creates a downward spiral of just needing more caffeine and getting even less sleep.
Get 7-9 hours a sleep
I know this sounds impossible (and even ridiculous to some), but you will be amazed at how much more productive your waking hours can be if you just get enough sleep. If you need help in this department (or you want more reasons why you need sleep) check out this post.
Invest in a power nap
Even on a full nights rest you might have energy dips during the day. Power naps can be incredibly restorative if done properly. Allow yourself about 20-30 minutes to sleep. Don’t sleep more than 40 because this can backfire and cause you to be more groggy. I generally set a 30 minute timer as soon as I lay down and get up when it goes off. Try different environments (bed, chair, sofa) and settings (lights on or off, white noise, etc) to see what works for you. It may not be that great the first few times you try it. I found it to be a skill that took some time to learn, but it has served me well ever since.
Take a 5-15 minute walk
So many of us have sedentary jobs, hunched over a computer, without so much as a window to look out. These conditions can deplete our energy and focus. If you’re dragging, get up and go for a walk – outside if possible. Walks increase blood flow and can help you generate ideas that will help you be even more productive.
Phone a friend
If you’re working a job you hate or spending time around people that drain you, it’s going to be a struggle to keep your energy up. Taking a moment to call and chat with someone that energizes you will help bring you back to life. Even better if you can meet up with that friend and go for a walk.
Cut back on alcohol
Occasional use of alcohol is probably not a problem, but if you’re using it every night so that you can calm down and sleep. that’s might be making things worse. Alcohol is a sedative, but the sleep that you get from it tends to not be restorative. If you find you can’t fall asleep with out a drink, look into how much caffeine you’re drinking and when. That could be the culprit.
Get a hobby
Taking your mind off the things that drain you is very restorative. Many hobbies can help you get into a flow state which is very energizing. Getting your mind off your work will actually help your brain be able to mull over things in the background and help you come up with ideas to help you.
Do something luxurious for yourself
Luxury doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. Unless that’s your thing. I know that when I had my first child even a shower without having to worry about the baby felt like luxury. Take time out to do something for yourself that feels indulgent and enjoy the heck out of it.
SPEND YOUR ENERGY WISELY
Manage your stress
Think about how exhausting a stressful day is. You may not do anything but sit all day, but if those hours are stressful, it’s going to take a toll on you. Learning some techniques about how to manage your stress will help you bring your energy levels back up. Stress relief doesn’t need to take a lot of time out of your day. Check out this post for ideas in as little as 5 seconds.
Get your to do list under control
Let’s be real – you’re never going to get it all done. Our to do lists are miles long and we just keep adding more every day. Just looking at it can be exhausting. Examine what you have on your list and mark the top 1-3 things for the day and work on those first. Anything that doesn’t fall into this category can be considered for delegation or skipping all together. If you need help figuring out priorities check out this post (and the free printable at the bottom).
I mean this both in terms of how you schedule your day and how you schedule your year. If every day is a sprint from beginning to end – and you don’t thrive on that – then you need to plan better. Plot out your best work times and schedule them for what’s important to you. Make sure that you put breaks in on the calendar and don’t work through them.
In terms of a year make sure that when you go through a particularly grueling time (like tax season as an accountant) that you’re scheduling time off afterwards to recharge. If you’ve got month after month of go go go and don’t plan time to recover, you’re not going to be operating at your peak after awhile.
Manage your gas tank
When you think about your normal days what things fill up your energy tank and what things deplete it. We’re all going to have activities that drain us (hello dishes!) but if everything in your day to day is sucking the life out of you – it’s time to make some changes. For more on how to figure out how to improve in this area, check out this post.
Evaluate your habits
Do you have habits that suck away time and energy? For me it was social media. I had to go so far as to delete the apps off my phone so that I wouldn’t use them mindlessly during the day. For you it might be checking your email or tracking every little thing that you do. If you have habits that you know are stealing your energy look into what you could do to replace them with healthier ones. If you need help breaking habits, check out this post.
Are you struggling constantly with being busy and running yourself ragged – but you can’t seem to make it stop? If so, please contact me. Coaching can help you get control of your life back so you can work on what’s important to you.
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