When someone asks you how you are, what’s your typical response? If you’re like most people your typical answer is probably “super busy,” “tired,” “overwhelmed,” “stressed,” or all the above. All of these are closely connected and usually happen sequentially, or simultaneously depending on your personal circumstances. Either way, you are not alone.
In the age of digital communications, 24-hour news cycles, social networks, email, and smart phones, we’ve become a wired society swirling in a relentless stream of information that demands our time and constant attention. At the same time, a sluggish economy means many of us are working longer and harder than ever before, multi-tasking like crazy, and left wondering where the time went.
The irony is that you’re probably not even aware of how much time you spend every day dealing with stressful situations and how much of a toll that stress is taking on your body and your health.
So how can you get a leg up and reclaim your energy and vitality? The first step is to identify the conditions and patterns that consistently drain your energy and plug them. Here are 7 tips for plugging some common energy drains:
1.Check in and Take a Breather
Shallow breathing is a basic but frequently overlooked energy drain. Most people take shallow, rapid breaths, using only about a third of their lung capacity, but your body needs a good supply of oxygen to properly metabolize food and create energy at the cellular level. If your cells aren’t producing enough energy then everything slows down and drags you down in the process.
On the other hand, deep breathing slows your heart rate, which immediately calms and grounds you, lowering your blood pressure in the process. So awareness of your breath is the place to start. When you feel fatigued or stressed stop and check-in with yourself. Is your breathing rapid and shallow or deep and measured? Take 10-15 minutes a day to focus on your breath and practice deep breathing until it becomes second nature.
2.Get in Touch with Nature
If you’ve ever been on a nature hike or for a long walk on the beach, you know that it’s hard to feel tired or stressed when you’re taking in all the sights, sounds, and expansive wonder of your surroundings. You can also experience a profound sense of calm and wonder by playing or connecting with a beloved pet. We are creatures of nature but modern living with its artificial constructs often makes us feel disconnected from source.
Make a point of taking a walk outdoors first thing in the morning –preferably in an area surrounded by trees. If the weather permits, take your shoes off and walk barefoot in the grass. Or take time out to bond with your dog or cat. Even diffusing pure essential oils can help. Whatever you choose to do, find a way to re-connect with nature on a regular basis to boost your energy.
3.Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins
Breathing clean air, drinking clean water, and eating clean (i.e. pesticide-free and hormone-free) food are the basic foundational blocks of healthy living and boundless energy. Having all three of these all the time may not always be possible but there are ways you can lower or minimize your exposure to toxins.
Invest in a good water purification system and an air purifier for your home. Avoid cleaning, home, and personal care products made with synthetic and toxic chemicals, including candles with lead wicks and plug-in air fresheners made with synthetic fragrance. As much as possible eat organic food and use a fruit and veggie wash for produce that’s conventionally grown and harvested.
4.Keep a Stress/Gratitude Journal
Another common and often overlooked energy drain is a lack of joy and connection that can pervade when we are constantly busy and stressed. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind, withdraw from others, and slip into routines that keep you from doing things that make you truly happy.
Keep a journal. At the end of each day write down all the things that made you feel stressed or disconnected, how you reacted to them, and the outcome of your actions. Then remind yourself of the things that make you happy or bring you joy (whether you did them or not), and acknowledge all the good things in your life. If you do this regularly and consistently you will soon start to identify patterns that keep you stuck and drain your energy. Then you can start consciously doing more of the things you enjoy and less of the things that make you anxious or unhappy.
5.Tame the Negative Chatter Beast
When we’re tired and stressed it’s easy to slip into persistent patterns of negative and pessimistic thinking. These thoughts feed on one another and keep spiraling around in your head, draining you and your energy –making it difficult to feel good about anything. First make sure you are eating enough protein. Protein is the fuel that your brain needs to function properly. When you don’t get enough it can lead to obsessive and repetitive thought patterns.
Try setting an alarm or timer to go off at regular or random intervals throughout the day to help snap you out of any obsessive thought patterns you may get stuck in. This is known as a “pattern-interrupt” –an unexpected distraction that short-circuits your brain’s thought pattern. If you’re pessimistic by nature then work at shifting the language you use to describe events to others and especially to yourself. Replace self-defeating language with positive empowering language and notice how it affects your demeanor. Sometimes a subtle shift in your energy is all it takes to stop an energy drain.
6.Set Boundaries and Stick to Them
Many of us (women especially) have trouble setting personal boundaries. The need to make our selves available to everyone is one of the fastest emotional and energetic drains we face. Without sufficient boundaries, even when you’re in a good mood, you can be easily de-railed by someone else’s negative emotions.
Learn to set boundaries and put a quick and decisive end to tolerations –-things you don’t like or that drain you but you continue to tolerate. Learning to say “No” to people and situations that don’t support you is key. As you simplify and pull back, you create space in your life for positive, uplifting people, and activities that lift your energy instead of draining it.
7.Unplug and Meditate
Who among us doesn’t suffer to a certain extent from information overload? If you’re a news junkie or find yourself constantly checking emails or voicemail then you’re a major candidate for this energy zapping behavior.
Do yourself a favor and unplug for a few hours a day. Give yourself the opportunity to be still and quiet and “tune out” for at least a half hour or so. Meditate, visualize, listen to motivational or hypnotic audios, music that relaxes you -–anything to quiet your mind and give it a rest.
Follow all or most of these tips for a few weeks and notice how your energy starts to shift and become more consistently available. If you have any other tips you’d like to share here, I would love to hear them!