Many of us respond to increased competing demands in life by trying to do more. We work longer hours and push ourselves to fit more in. However, this comes at a cost, physically, emotionally, and mentally. The impact of burnout is at an all time high. We are stretching ourselves beyond human capacity.
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have researched this modern phenomenon at the Energy Project. In their work, they highlight some obvious and simple, yet commonly downplayed truths: time is a finite resource and humans have a limited amount of energy resources and when we run out, we need to refuel. They identify four sources of energy in humans: body, emotion, mind, and spirit.
In a 24 hour period, we all face limitations in the four areas of energy sources and require renewal to stay engaged. There are behaviors, rituals, and practices that can help us build up and sustain our capacity in healthy ways.
Particularly in highly ambitious people, their bodies cannot consistently keep up with all they hope to accomplish, which can generate negative emotions and enhance stress. Evaluating our physical energy is a good place to start. In order to optimize our physical energy, habits focusing on good sleep, rest, nutrition, hydration, and exercise are foundational. Identifying rituals that build and renew physical energy can help us increase our performance and output overall. This may include taking regular breaks, working in intervals, and scheduling rest. For example, elite athletes treat their rest as important as their most intense workouts, because they know this is critical to enhancing their performance.
We can also attend to our emotional experience. We can experience negative emotion for only so long before it takes a toll on our well being. When individuals are challenged with frustrations of their bodies not keeping up with their minds and goals, it can fuel negative thinking, which will sap energy. There are numerous ways to optimize our emotional experience, such as cognitive reframing. We can change the narrative we tell ourselves, particularly as it relates to setting unrealistic expectations or feeling burdened by self-inflicted “shoulds.” Another way to optimize our emotional experience is to intentionally foster positive emotions, including gratitude practices, reflecting on positive life experiences, and engaging in acts of kindness. Mindfulness, breathing, and meditation practices can help renew our emotional energy and bring us back to a centered state.
Our cognitive energy can become taxed as well, especially when we are faced with frequent interruptions and distractions. When we are depleted of our cognitive energy, it becomes difficult to remain focused and productive. In order to replenish mind energy, experts suggest working in chunks of time and again, taking intermittent breaks. Anything we can do to reduce distraction will help us build the muscle of focusing as well. Mindfulness practices also serve to renew our cognitive energy.
We can also consider spiritual energy, which is experienced in multiple ways, some of which include finding meaning and purpose in our lives. We are able to tap into this energy source when we are aligned with the values in our lives and spend time doing things that matter to us. When we are moving too fast, we can overlook the powerful impact regenerating our spiritual energy can have. Many feel they do not have time to engage in spiritual practices, which experts would suggest is when we need it most, when we are operating out of urgency or fear of not getting enough accomplished.
If you feel your body is not keeping up with our mind, consider ways you can rejuvenate, recover, and become more centered. Addressing these energy categories to ensure a healthier balance will enhance your sense of alignment, well-being, and performance. This may require doing less or increasing more restorative rituals and behaviors. In order to thrive, pay attention to your body’s needs, as the investment will be worth it.