3 Sneaky Things That Mess With Your Energy
Something truly magical happens when I put on the song “Good as Hell” by Lizzo. No matter how many delayed trains, spilled cups of coffee, or how slump-y my 3 p.m. slump, the song makes me feel unstoppable for at least a full 45 minutes. It’s like the musical equivalent of a deep breath.
I like to think of this song as one of my energy “zaps”—something I can turn to when I need a quick boost of mental energy. And knowing what “zaps” and “saps” our energy—aka takes it away—can help us keep momentum throughout the day.
Are You Energy Efficient?
We often know the physical things that energize us—getting the recommended eight hours of sleep, drinking coffee—and run us down—running a mile (or, you know, just to the grocery store), cleaning the house. But we don’t pay nearly as much attention to the things that mess with our mental energy.
Why we should start noticing our “zaps” and “saps”: Research shows that we start each day with a limited amount of mental energy. When we exhaust that finite resource, we’re less effective. Mental drain can lead to poor decision making and decreased productivity, among other things.
We can’t always control if the bulk of our day is draining or energizing—there will always be decisions to make and taxing tasks to finish. But we can create a list of things that “zap” and “sap” our energy so we know where to turn—and where not to turn—when we’re feeling sluggish.
Here, three areas to explore when discovering what zaps and saps your energy:
1. Your Digital Habits
When we let our digital habits go unchecked, we can unintentionally sabotage our energy.
For example, checking Instagram might be your auto-move when you’re waiting, but it’s important to ask yourself: Does checking up on my friends energize me? Or, does it fire up the comparison game and leave me more drained? (For me personally, I’ve learned it’s the latter.)
Today, get curious about your go-to apps and how they affect your energy. Maybe a better “zap” would mean listening to your “Good as Hell”-equivalent pump up jam (you can check out the Shine Squad’s favorite pump-up songs here). Research shows that music is a proven mood and endurance-booster.
Or, maybe your “zap” involves going through your photo album to get a boost from happy memories. Or, re-reading one of your favorite text messages from a friend. Find your tech Gatorade—and intentionally turn to it when you’re feeling sluggish.
2. Your People
Whether we notice it or not, the people we surround ourselves with play with our energy. Studies have shown that emotions are contagious, which can have good and bad implications. If someone’s happy, that’s great to catch. But if someone’s throwing off negative vibes, that could bring you down, too.
Josh Linkner, an entrepreneur and speaker, likes to describe people as literal “zappers” and “sappers.” He breaks down the difference on his blog:
When you are with a Zapper, you feel energized. You become engaged, you lean forward, you feel stimulated. This enhanced state is ideal for creative expression.
On the other hand, there are the Sappers. These are the folks that drain your energy. You could have just gulped six shots of espresso and four Red Bulls, yet you want to fall asleep after speaking with them for five minutes.
That’s not to say you should forever avoid sappers, but it’s key to know the difference so you can optimize your mental energy.
If, say, you’re already feeling worn down, maybe reschedule that Zoom meeting with the sapper co-worker. And if you need a pick-me-up, that’s your cue to set up a socially distanced walk or phone date with your hype person. Gauge your energy and, as best you can, surround yourself with the vibes you need.
3. Your Self-Talk
We all have an inner critic that thrives on negative commentary. It knows how to feed our fears and insecurities, and that, dear reader, can drain us just as much as a real-life “sapper.”
“Like it or not, everything you say to yourself matters,” Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., explains in a Psychology Today article.
Today, notice how you talk to yourself—especially when you’re feeling sluggish. Are you talking to yourself like a friend, or more like a frenemy? Once you notice your self-talk, try to change it to something that “zaps” you rather than “saps” you.
A study from Carnegie Mellon showed that “self-affirmations actually buffer stress and improved problem-solving performance in underperforming and chronically stressed individuals,” according to Psychology Today.
Create a positive “I …” or “I am …” statement that can remind you of your strength, resilience, or anything that gets you a little fired up. My new go-to: “I am able to persevere”—as in, persevere through the afternoon slump. It pairs well with a few deep breaths.
If you can’t think of your own affirmation, try listening to a one-minute audio affirmation, like the tracks now available in the Shine iOS app (there's even one called "Push Past the Midweek Slump").
Bottom line: We can’t control how taxing our day is, but we can take steps to keep our momentum.
Learn your “zaps,” try to avoid your "saps," and do more things that make you feel “Good as Hell”—even if it’s just for a few precious minutes.
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