Everything that you encounter can either increase or deplete your personal energy. Like a solar panel uses the sun more effectively when it’s not obscured by trees or covered in dust, your body does its best energy management when you have the right balance of sleep, nutrition, movement, purposeful activity, passion projects, social connection, and fun. Regulating your energy plays a key role in how resilient you are and how unflappable you feel.
The Biggest Energy Management Challenge
Part of the problem in developing a balanced personal energy is that the requirements for optimal energy input and output are unique for everyone. This means that although science can lead you to an ingredient list of “must-haves,” it cannot tell you how much of each ingredient you need.
Take sleep, for example. You probably recognize the difference in how your body feels when it is sleep-deprived versus how it feels when it is adequately rested. Even so, you may have no idea how many hours of sleep you need. Businesswoman Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution says, “Sleep is a fundamental and non-negotiable human need,” which is true for every human. But do you need six hours or eight hours? Or is it REM sleep time that is most important? The biggest energy management challenge remains the lack of one single answer to questions like, “How much sleep do I need?” (A rule of thumb from Deepak Chopra is you are probably getting the right amount of sleep if you feel sharp mental functioning throughout the day, abundant energy, freshness, positive moods, and consistent alertness without stretches of fatigue and dullness.)
Factors in Energy Management
To begin maximizing your energy, consider an assortment of “ingredients” or contributing factors.
- Sleep: You need enough rest to feel refreshed. Tracking your sleep routine and adjusting based on your energy will begin your day with a strong foundation for managing energy.
- Nutrition: There are so many ways to eat; Keto, vegan, Mediterranean, intermittent fasting, and gluten-free are just a few eating trends that may have crossed your path. Most of your body is fueled by glucose so no matter how you choose to eat, focusing on managing your glucose level will help to regulate energy. Choosing foods that have a low glycemic index (foods that are absorbed slowly in the digestive tract) like chickpeas and lentils, will help manage blood sugar and keep energy from having the highs and lows of a sugar crash—that sleepy feeling you get after eating sweets. Tracking how you feel after meals is a good place to begin.
- Movement: Bodies are meant to move. This is not only exercise like running or swimming, but it can also be gardening, hanging your laundry on the line, or fishing. According to personal wellness expert Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes, sitting for an extended period of time changes the physiology of your muscles and causes your body to stop using fats which then clog your bloodstream leading you to feel sleepy.
- Time in Nature: Forest bathing is a hot trend, which is actually a rebrand of an old concept—nature is healing, and spending time outside feels energizing. As little as 20 minutes in nature is all it takes to help you to feel re-energized.
- Relationships: You have lived wisdom where relationships are concerned. You have likely experienced people who feel draining and people who feel inspiring. Spend more time with people whose contagious energy lifts you.
- Purpose and Meaning: Find a cause that speaks to you and become involved. Research indicates that having a sense of purpose in life is connected to longevity.
- Meditation: Experiencing energy depletion like stress, confrontation, or fear can leave you feeling physically frazzled. Meditation allows for a more effective recovery from acute stress, as shown in a study of breast cancer survivors. This can buffer from the damaging physical impact that repeated stress has on your body’s energy.
- Fun: A good laugh leaves you feeling lighter and joyful. It also allows you to reboot your energy by providing an action that switches off the stress response and turns up your positive energy.
In addition to these energy-management techniques, it is also important to cultivate the skill of recognizing the many sources of energy depletion that you encounter daily. According to Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, an expert on the science of vitality, you regularly encounter things like stress, decisions, multi-tasking, and taking the initiative that deplete your energy resources. There are also relationships that can be depleting. Paying attention to the people in your life and spending more time with those who energize you is one smart strategy.
Barriers to Energy Management
Sometimes you probably think you want to feel better, lighter, or more vital, yet you get stuck in patterns that create barriers to feeling vital. Some pitfalls to avoid include:
- Being attached to work through technology 24 hours a day
- Watching the news before bedtime
- Eating out of boredom
- Sitting all day
- Allowing “what if” thoughts to dominate your inner dialogue
- Decision fatigue
- Feeling a desire to control things outside your locus of control
- “Shopping therapy”
- Over-indulging in alcohol
In small doses, none of these things are bad. The dosage matters!
As you begin to understand that you control both your physical and mental energy input and output, the benefits of fueling your body and mind with nourishing resources will start to feel natural.
With open-minded and curious attention on what feels expansive and what feels contracting, you will soon feel energized, vital, and in control of your health.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.