10 Tips for Protecting Your Energy

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

The 5 Most Crucial Steps for Becoming a Morning Person

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We know that developing a positive morning routine can greatly impact our mental and emotional well-being, increase our productivity levels and improve our quality of life. But we also know it’s a lot easier said than done, right?

As a former late sleeper turned morning person, I’ve compiled what I believe to be 5 of the most crucial steps for breaking up with the snooze button.

  1. Determine your motivation. If you don’t have a really strong reason for wanting to take your mornings back other than that you’ve been told it’s a good idea, you probably won’t fully commit. You need to determine HOW reclaiming your mornings will impact your life and WHY that is important to you. If you don’t have really strong reasons for waking up earlier, the rest of these steps won’t matter, so it’s important to get crystal clear about your goals and how an earlier wake-up time will help you achieve them.
  2. Throw out your current narrative. Proclaiming that you just “aren’t a morning person” isn’t exactly opening up the space for you to become one, is it? Focusing on how much you hate mornings probably won’t help you in the process of learning how to enjoy them. Shift your mindset and visualize yourself enjoying your mornings every night before you go to bed. Focus on the aspects of morning that you enjoy rather than what you dread about them. When you wake up, replace complaints with gratitude and set positive and productive intentions for the day.
  3. Develop a routine. We are creatures of habit, so developing a morning routine will make you more likely to be successful in your mission to wake up earlier. As you consistently do this routine, waking up earlier will feel like less of a chore and more of a normality (typically after the first month). Develop your routine by choosing tasks that are directly connected to your motivation and that will directly impact the reasons you’re deciding to make mornings a priority.
  4. Sprinkle in things that you enjoy. Start by thinking about the things you love to do, but find yourself not having the time or energy for later in the day — exercise, reading, journaling and meditation are common morning practices that help people feel more fulfilled and productive throughout the day. Think about what things might make you feel that way and schedule them into your routine accordingly. Without some form of enjoyment in your morning routine, chances are you’ll feel more inclined to skip it.
  5. Commit. One of the biggest reasons people fail to develop a new routine or habit is because they don’t ever fully mentally commit to it. They see it as optional, something they would like to do, instead of a requirement and something that they have to do to achieve their goals. This is often a defense mechanism we use to cope with our fear of failure. Try, instead, to think of your morning routine as a non-negotiable part of your day. If you do miss it, don’t let that be a perceived failure or an excuse to give up entirely. Instead, make a re-commitment to your morning routine every day with your WHY at the forefront of your mind.

You may often hear about behavioral techniques you can use to trick yourself into getting up earlier — putting your alarm clock across the room, splashing water on your face, jumping into a cold shower, sleeping in your workout clothes, getting to bed earlier — many of which are incredibly helpful and effective. But these things alone won’t get you out of bed earlier every day. You must have a strong desire and motivation, something that excites you and a routine and mindset that will help you stay committed.

Whether you love or hate mornings, I’d love to hear from you. What things help you to have or prevent you from having a productive morning? Which of these 5 steps, if any, do you need to implement most in your quest to reclaim your mornings?

Addicts: Love Them or Leave Them?

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Disclaimer: This blog post isn’t going to answer the question posed in the title. There is no right or wrong answer to this complex, loaded dilemma. But there are some other questions you can ask yourself to get some clarity about how you should approach your relationship with one.

Addiction is a complicated illness that leaves a path of people who know & love someone with one feeling guilt, anger, frustration, resentment and confusion. It begs the question – ‘should I stay or should I go?’ and often results in conflicting answers. On one hand, this person that we love is hurting and needs our help. On another hand, we may worry that we’re setting aside our own needs in order to be there for them.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What am I getting from this relationship? It’s important to make sure our needs are being met and that we aren’t just taking on the role of caretaker. Is this person adding value to our life? Do they give us something special despite their addiction?
  2. Does this person want to change? If the answer is no, you need to follow that up by asking yourself if you’re okay with that. When people tell us what they want, we need to accept that instead of thinking we can change it for them.
  3. Is this person hurting me? All relationships have problems, but if you find that you are being emotionally, physically or verbally hurt or abused, it is important to protect yourself first and foremost. You can love someone while also choosing to prioritize your own safety and well-being.
  4. Are you willing to accept a life of this? Addiction is a long-term, life-long illness and sobriety is a day-to-day choice. When choosing to be with an addict, it’s important to understand that there will likely be ongoing challenges and that even after long periods of sobriety, the risk of relapse will always exist.
  5. What are your boundaries? If you chose to have a relationship with an addict, it’s important to set clearly-defined boundaries. Understanding that nobody is perfect, what missteps are you willing to tolerate? What behaviors would cause you to terminate the relationship should they occur? Don’t forget to share your boundaries and expectations for the relationship with your partner.

Addicts are people and they deserve love, but that doesn’t mean we should set aside our own needs, safety, and feelings because of that. If you want to help them more than they want to help themselves, if your needs have been consistently neglected, if you spend more time unhappy & in pain than you do feeling happy & fulfilled, and if the relationship has become abusive, it may be time to take some space and re-evaluate the relationship from a distance. Again, this is a complex issue with no right or wrong answer, but asking yourself the above questions may help you gain some clarity about where you and your relationship stand.

Finding Time for Self-Care in a Busy Schedule

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Work, chores, errands, and a never-ending to-do list – sometimes it feels impossible to do it all. We run ourselves into the ground while trying to and rarely stop to take a breath. We pile things onto our plate when we have no room left on it because we feel like we can’t say no. We have trouble justifying self-care because we convince ourselves that we just ‘don’t have the time for it’.

What if I told you there was a way that each one of us could add more of it into our lives and that instead of taking time away from us, that it would actually give us MORE time?

Yes, that’s right – taking even as little as 15 minutes a day to practice self-care can, over time, lead to lower stress levels, increased focus and more positive thoughts – thus increasing our productivity levels, which in turn allows us to accomplish our usual tasks in a lesser amount of time.

People often think of self-care as a luxury that only people without kids, without busy jobs or with a lot of down time get to enjoy. The truth is that self-care is an experience available to everyone that is open to prioritizing it, which is where we need to take an honest look at lives.

Many of us don’t prioritize ourselves for a number of reasons. We don’t believe we deserve it, we think we’re being a hero by putting others’ needs before our own, it gives us anxiety to not keep busy or to be alone with ourselves for more than a few seconds, etc. So instead, we keep our plates full with things that help us escape from that and we claim we just ‘don’t have the time’.

If you’ve recognized that you don’t make self-care a priority and have used the excuse that you don’t have the time (and trust me, we’re all guilty of it!), I challenge you to look inward and explore the other reasons that you don’t MAKE the time.

Perhaps you can start by:

  • Setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier & starting the day with a guided meditation
  • Taking some time to sit down & read a book while you enjoy your morning coffee
  • Sitting outside during your lunch break instead of at your desk
  • Listening to an audio book or podcast on your commute to/from work
  • Spending a few extra minutes in the shower doing some deep breathing
  • Jotting down a list of what you’re grateful for
  • Doing a brain-dump when you wake up & before you go to bed to write out your to-do list, daily goals and/or random thoughts
  • Keeping a journal with you throughout the day to write down thoughts/feelings as they arise
  • Taking a walk around the block while listening to music

Are these things you think you could implement once a day? Once a week? Once a month?

Self-care doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be a full day at the spa or nothing at all. But we often assume that it does, which is why we usually just throw in the towel on it altogether.

If we can open ourselves up to prioritizing self-care in small ways, it will allow us to see the effects that it can have on our lives and empower us to prioritize it in larger ways, too.

In what ways can you add a little self-care to your life without disrupting your usual routine? What’s holding you back from getting started?

Give yourself permission, start small, and embrace it. And above all else, remember: you deserve to make some time for you.

Using Anxiety to Better Understand Ourselves

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Let’s face it: the symptoms of anxiety are uncomfortable. Tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, shaky hands, sweaty palms, obsessive thoughts, and sometimes even worse. Those symptoms don’t appeal to most of us. But what if I told you that anxiety plays an important and even crucial role in our lives? What if I told you that accepting our anxiety as a helpful part of ourselves would, in some cases, be more useful than trying to find ways to cope with or avoid it?

When we understand the ways that our anxiety can benefit us and when we accept it as a helpful part of ourselves, we in turn have a healthier relationship with it and are better able to manage it and, eventually, experience less of it. On the contrary, when we do everything in our power to avoid, eliminate or disengage with our anxiety symptoms and what’s at the root of them, it is often counter-productive to our emotional growth.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t use techniques and strategies to cope with our anxiety in the moment. These tools can be helpful and sometimes even critical, especially for those with anxiety or panic disorders. But once our anxiety symptoms subside, we should fully acknowledge and explore our triggers and patterns through talk therapy, movement therapy, journaling or cognitive challenging.

I personally believe that underlying most of our anxiety is fear. For example, those of us that get anxiety when running late may have an underlying fear of being perceived as irresponsible or a fear of being judged. While we may be able to practice breathing exercises or other mindfulness strategies to minimize our anxiety symptoms in the moment, we are likely to experience this anxiety again in other situations unless we acknowledge and address our underlying fear of judgement. In some cases, our anxiety may also be the result of some internalized, past trauma and, similarly, it is only after working through and repairing that experience that we can fully begin to heal.

Anxiety, while uncomfortable, alerts us that something is off. It gives us the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and it is through that learning that we grow, develop, and improve our quality of life.