Try this basic 4-step Mental Energy Plan:
- step outside of yourself and watch yourself in action
- focus on what
- de-energizes you (drains your mental energy)
- mentally energizes you, not forgetting what used to energize you before you got so busy, and
- re-prioritize where you allocate your mental energies – in and out
- make the changes needed.
You are of course a busy person, a knowledge-worker whose mind is under pressure 24/7. My concern is if my messages don't cause you to review let alone act to improve your quality of life, you risk major health problems:
- Constant busy-ness is at the core of today’s major quality of life issues – stress, work life balance, mental and physical health, and long-life planning
- If you run with your head always down you will eventually hit a wall
- Burnout: the result of not regularly re-energizing your mind
- silently eating into the quality of the most important thing in your life – your health!
Step 1 Step Outside Yourself
I learned “Step outside yourself and watch yourself in action” from a stress management program. It is a good means of helping you to recognize the behavioural changes that always happen to you when you feel stress coming on and working out ways to deal with the feeling before the stress gets to a level where it is potentially dangerous to your long-term health and wellbeing. In short notice what happens when you get stressed and plan to do something to head it off before the stress takes hold of you.
If you were able to step outside of yourself and watch yourself in action on an average day, how often would you see yourself:
- Running (at least mentally) from situation to situation?
- Becoming stressed, angry, tired or worried?
Note the sort of situations that bring on these feelings. Your spouse or a close friend might help you with this exercise. Be ready to deal with those negative feelings next time you sense them begin to rise within you.
Step 2: What burns your energy and what energizes you
What situations or people “drain your mental energy”? It probably isn’t difficult for you to recall instances of this happening to you. The energy drop is palpable. They are a fact of life, demanding resilience to cope.
If you only breathed out and not in you would of course die. Similarly, if you only burnt mental energy and didn't create any, you would burnout.
Energy-draining experiences are like breathing out. Energizing experiences are like taking deep breaths, creating healthy mental energy. The real bonus is that energizing experiences are not measured in time but in quality. Short "state of flow" experiences can energize long periods of energy-draining situations.
When did you last create an enjoyable experience totally unrelated to your work or other stressful situations, designed:
- for its intrinsic pleasure,
- to challenge your natural talents,
- to be fully within your control
- ...after which you wondered where the time went, you felt energized and perceived your world a little more positively.
If you're having trouble thinking of one, that’s a worry. You’re missing a lot of your life’s purpose. State of flow experiences energize your natural growth. My definition of a state of flow experience is when you lose yourself in any interest you love, you find yourself. Your true, natural self re-surfaces with heightened self-esteem and self-belief, generating a ripple effect of new energy through the rest of your day and week.
Examples? Anything that creatively and naturally expresses the real you – eg any form of music, arts, crafts, drama, communing with nature, or any enjoyed exercise. Don't forget what you used to enjoy before life got too busy.
Step 3 : Re-prioritize where you allocate your mental energies - in and out
Now that you are more aware of what stresses you (drains your energies) and enjoyable experiences that energize you (replace burnt energy), you need to do your personal energy plan - i.e. see where you are currently allocating your mental energies. This is different to where you are allocating your time. Quite often very stressful activities take up an inordinate amount of your time and effort. Equally a few minutes of energizing fun can carry you through the rest of the day or even longer. Life is too short to spend the majority of it in a state of stress.
Step 4 Make the Changes
Talking about it does nothing for your energy. An Action Plan is an oxymoron. Action is the only way to go if you want to sustain high levels of positive energy.
Create a state of flow experience at least once this week. Note how you feel during and after the experience. Energy drives your living, loving and laughing. Enjoy creating new energy often.
Feedback (in the comments section below) about the value or otherwise of the Plan is welcomed.