If your tank is almost empty, there’s a way to recharge your personal reserves.
On a typical day, Nancy Giammarco manages to piece together about six hours of sleep. Between caring for her bedridden mother during the day and running sound at a Dallas live music venue six nights a week, she doesn’t remember the last time she’s enjoyed a good night’s sleep.
“I try to get some sleep on Saturday, but I have dogs to care for and a lawn to mow and housework. To me, a vacation would be seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.”
Nancy’s social life is mostly conducted online these days, and she stays plugged in 24/7 to stay in touch with her sister and the nurses and respiratory therapists helping with her mother’s care.
“I can’t afford to be out of touch,” she says.
As a result, she is perpetually exhausted. On a good day, her energy level peaks at five out of 10 points, she says. And while Nancy’s situation may be extreme, she’s not alone.
Experts say that most of us are having—or heading toward—our own personal energy crisis. We sleep too little, work too much and fail to give ourselves the time we need to relax and recharge.
“It’s all about energy,” says Christine Porath, Ph.D., associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “It really is the key to everything. You can’t buy more time, so if you can increase your energy, it will not only improve your performance at work, but your health and well-being, too.”
Implementing new strategies can help boost energy, restore good health and improve productivity in every area of our lives, says Christine, who studies how to create a thriving workplace environment. And what is true for the workplace is true for the homefront, too.
“If you’re fueled with energy, your relationships at work and at home are bound to be better. You bring a more mindful, focused, engaged self into these relationships.”
That means learning to regulate and renew your personal energy reserves. In order to live our lives to the fullest and to truly enjoy and appreciate the moments as they occur, we need less stress and more bliss. But today’s “always on” world seems to be fighting that at every turn. Emails and texts invade our downtime, and many of us never fully unplug.
“The stressful nature of life has left people feeling depleted,” Christine says. “They lack energy. In my research, I see a high correlation between energy and happiness and life satisfaction.”
One of the biggest energy drains is that feeling of not being able to unplug. Working in the evenings and on weekends, constantly checking—and answering—texts and emails, and spending not-so-quality time with our laptops, tablets and smartphones all adds up to one giant, emotional, electronic overload. Pulling the plug on work when you leave the office, and spending time on a hobby you enjoy instead of dragging work home with you can have a powerful effect.
“Disconnecting and recharging is a great way to refuel,” she says. “You build your energy resources this way and then go back to work, or come home, stronger and more effective.”
Being able to switch off at a set time can generate a feeling of regaining control, and it allows you to relax and turn your attention to more important things like your family, your friends and yourself.
Recharge, Refuel, Reboot
According to The Energy Project, a consulting firm dedicated to creating healthier and happier workplaces, nearly 75 percent of employees worldwide are experiencing a personal energy crisis. They’re paying for it at work, with lowered productivity, and at home, with less engagement. Relationships are compromised (or sacrificed entirely), and life satisfaction bottoms out.
“The vast majority of employees feel depleted, diminished, disenfranchised, demoralized and disengaged,” wrote CEO Tony Schwartz in The Human Era @ Work, a study The Energy Project conducted with Harvard Business Review. “And it’s getting worse.”
But we can turn it around, Tony explains. Even small steps, like taking a break, has a measurable effect. Tony’s study found that employees who took even a brief break every 90 minutes boosted their ability to focus by nearly 30 percent and improved their creativity by 40 percent. And doing things you enjoy in your spare time will carry over to your day-to-day duties.
“Thriving outside of work can bring more energy to the workplace, and vice versa,” Christine says, adding that people who thrive are more enjoyable to be around, and everyone benefits.
The Energy Project identifies four aspects of our lives that affect our energy: physical (health), emotional (happiness), mental (focus) and spiritual (purpose). The physical aspect is considered most important; it is the foundation of all energy and includes proper sleep, fitness, nutrition and time during the day to rest or recharge.
If you’re feeling a little low on energy, here are Christine Porath’s recommendations for improving in each area:
Physical. Get on a regular sleep schedule and work in at least 30 minutes of exercise four times a week.
Emotional. Invest in relationships that are enriching and energizing; these may be existing relationships that have been pushed to one side or could be new relationships.
Mental. Take breaks from your email and texts. That might mean going for a walk in nature (and leaving the phone behind) and allowing time for your mind to wander.
Spiritual: Keep a gratitude journal; it will refocus your attention on the positives in your life. And find a practice—whether it’s prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.—that helps you connect to something greater than yourself.