One of the biggest sources of stress, anxiety, burnout & life dissatisfaction is a lack or a perceived lack of control over our energy. When we invest our energy into things that aren’t in alignment with our goals and values, spend more of it on other people than on ourselves and/or are spending an excess amount of energy without also taking the time to recharge our batteries, it’s inevitable that stress & anxiety will take over — eventually leading to burnout and in extreme cases, life dissatisfaction.
So how do we protect it? Here are some (not always so) simple steps.
- Recognize it’s a problem. Identify where you are NOT protecting your energy, how it’s effecting your life and why you want to make a shift. Ask yourself whether you’re controlling your energy or whether your energy is controlling you. Without a clear understanding of how you aren’t prioritizing this or a meaningful reason for wanting to do so, none of these other steps will matter.
- Get clear about your priorities. What things are most important to you? In what areas are you currently spending most of your energy & in which areas do you want to be investing more of it? When what we WANT to be spending our energy on isn’t in alignment with what we ARE spending our energy on, it can naturally be unsettling.
- Visualize. What does life look like if you continue investing your energy in areas that aren’t in alignment with your priorities? What would life look like if you did? How would you feel mentally & physically? What would your relationships be like? How would you communicate & interact with people? What would you accomplish? Visualizing a life where we’re protecting our energy is more likely to cause us to prioritize doing so.
- Set boundaries. In order to protect our energy, we need to set boundaries with the other people in our lives. We need to say no to things that don’t realistically fit in our schedule, aren’t in alignment with our own values or goals, and that may deplete us of the energy we need for other things. Whether it’s a co-worker, friend or family member, don’t hesitate to set boundaries and put your energy first.
- Communicate more. In conjunction with #4, we need to become better communicators. We need to tell other people what we need from them and get vulnerable & honest about why we may have to say no more often. Chances are they will understand, respect and sometimes even admire our ability to do something they’d also like to do more of. In turn, this strengthens our relationships and, if not, some distance from the type of people that lack understanding and empathy for our needs may be a good thing.
- Schedule time to re-energize. Even if we’re spending our energy in full alignment with our goals, values and priorities, it can still be exhausting. We all need time to decompress and recharge our batteries. Set time aside each day to do so — even if it’s just an hour in the morning or at night. Determine what helps you feel re-energized and implement those activities during this time. Whether it’s reading, writing, watching television, or taking a hot bath, part of protecting our energy is allowing ourselves the time & space to cultivate more of it.
- Anticipate energy-draining activities. The truth is, we can’t always avoid certain tasks/activities/relationships that can drain us of our energy. However, we can learn to anticipate them and approach them with a different strategy and mindset. Setting time aside for ourselves before and after a particularly energy-draining activity is important. It’s also helpful to go in with an action plan for what we’ll do when & if it starts to become overwhelming. Approaching the situation with a plan of attack for how to implement breaks, ask for help, communicate better, etc. helps us feel more confident and in control of our energy.
- Ask for help. Sometimes we think we need to take on everything & to be all things to all people, but putting our pride aside and asking for help or delegating some tasks can make an incredible impact. We’ll often find that people are more than happy to help and we may even become less resentful in our relationships as a result, which cultivates more (and better) energy.
- Avoid toxic people. The type of people that we surround ourselves with can greatly effect our energy and it’s no surprise that being around negative, bitter or tense energy can quickly deplete our own. Do a scan of the people you spend the most time with and ask yourself if they’re adding positive or negative energy into your life. If it’s the latter, it may be a good time to communicate with them so you can work on shifting your energy together or putting some distance in the relationship.
- Know your stress signals. It’s important to know what symptoms you experience when your energy is being taken or controlled by someone/something else. Tension in your neck/shoulders? Rapid heartbeat? Shortness of breath? Clenched jaw? Be able to pinpoint the physical symptoms that you personally experience so you can use them as a trigger reminder to regain control over your energy.
Have you been trying to implement these strategies for awhile with no or little success? Talking to a therapist or a friend who will hold you accountable can keep you intentional in this mission. As tip #8 suggests, it’s okay to ask for help — not only with the tasks that are consuming your energy, but also with staying committed to protecting it.
Have other strategies that help you to protect your energy? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!