Six tips for recharging an energy slump

Have you ever found yourself in an energy slump? If you have, then you know the feeling; facing the day ahead of you (and your list of Things To Do) leaves you feeling drained before you’ve even begun.

There are days (like today) when all I want is to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head, and pretend I’m fourteen and on summer vacation. “Sleep all day” seems like the only to do I can manage.

Sadly, this is rarely a viable option. As a small business owner, if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. Whatever it may be.

So what do you do when your energy levels are so low, you just can’t imagine getting those things done that need doing?

First, acknowledge the slump.

In these days of working faster, harder, more, it’s tempting to just try to power through it. We want to pretend that we can operate at optimum levels at all times. The problem with this is that it just isn’t realistic. There are going to be times when you just don’t have the energy.

When you pretend otherwise, you end up wasting a lot of time and effort on pretense. You sit at your desk, determined to get some writing done. But because you’re too tired to focus, you get distracted by Facebook, or your email, or whatever. And before you know it, you realize hours have passed, and you still haven’t written anything.

So the first step is acknowledging the situation. Recognize that you have zero energy, let yourself want nothing to do with working and getting things done. If you need to, spend a moment bemoaning your life, wallow in the woe is me. Just don’t let it stick around for too long… remember, when you’re feeling the energy slump, wallowing can too easily turn into an all day affair.

Second, recognize the source.

Now that you’ve acknowledged your lack of energy, and the resulting lack of motivation to actually do anything, it’s time to give yourself a motivation jump start, right?

Wrong, actually.

Before you go juicing yourself up, you need to consider the why behind your lack of energy. If you don’t know why, you can burn a lot of energy focusing on the wrong thing, and still not get anywhere.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re driving to a friend’s house. Shortly before you reach your destination, your car stalls. You get out and, assuming your battery is dead, you push the car the rest of the way, figuring you can get  a jump when you get there. It’s not far, but the push isn’t easy either. By the time you arrive, you’re sweating and exhausted. Your friend pulls out his jumpers, hooks everything up… and that’s when you realize you’re out of gas.

Trying to motivate yourself out of an energy slump, without first considering why you’re feeling slumpy, is a lot like pushing that car because you assume the battery is dead; it takes a whole lot of effort, and in the end, you’re still running on empty.

More often than not, there will be multiple factors at play, and some will be more to blame than others.

For instance, the weather here has been very gray and dismal. This tends to leave me feeling rather dismal and slumpy. However, if other factors in my life are contributing to my energy levels, this one won’t affect me quite so much.

On the other hand, December is an incredibly busy month for me; my birthday is coming up, shortly followed by my son’s birthday, and then of course Christmas and New Year’s. On top of that, I also happen to be very pregnant right now. I usually take a bit of “me time” on the weekends to recharge for the week ahead, but with all the planning and preparing for {All The Things!}, that didn’t happen this weekend.

In this situation, it wouldn’t really matter if the weather were gorgeous and perfect, I would still be drained.

Once you have some idea of what brought you to this slumpy state, you can start to look at ways to pull yourself out of it. Different causes will have different solutions, but here are some of my favorite tips for rebooting your energy levels;

1. Get physical.

I know that getting up and moving may seem like the worst idea ever when you’re feeling super low energy, but ironically, expending a bit of energy can be one of the best ways to create energy.

“A lot of times when people are fatigued, the last thing they want to do is exercise,” says researcher Patrick O’Connor, PhD, in a news release. “But if you’re physically inactive and fatigued, being just a bit more active will help,” says O’Connor, co-director of the University of Georgia exercise psychology laboratory, in Athens, Ga. (source, Science Daily)

When you’re feeling drained, try moving your body (in whatever way works for you).

Personally, I love taking a dance break when I’m feeling slumpy. (Bonus points for music that inspires and energizes.)

This is an excellent reboot for times when you’ve been too busy to attend to your body’s need for regular movement, or when those gray days are starting to weigh you down. (Side Note; if you’re feeling drained because you’ve been ill, or are already doing too much physical activity, you might want to skip this one.)

2. Eat something fresh.

When I’m immersed in a project, I tend to forget to take the time to make fresh, wholesome meals for myself. It’s so much easier and faster to just eat some cereal, or make a quick pb&j sandwich. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really make for a good long term nutritional strategy, and if I let it go too long, I definitely start to feel the lack of nutrients (especially with Second Son draining every bit of good nutrients I do manage to eat).

If you’ve analyzed the source of your slump, and are realizing your diet’s been a little less than ideal lately, consider picking up some fresh fruit and veggies.

Take the time to make yourself a well balanced meal, then sit down at the table and actually enjoy it.

Not only will the higher quality food recharge your body, but taking the time to attend to it will recharge your mind as well.

3. Do something you enjoy.

All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl, but for some reason our culture has bought into the idea that overworking ourselves is actually something to be proud of. There are a number of problems with this; first, we focus so heavily on all the things we need to do or have to do, that we start to feel burned out. Second, we start to equate work with that stuff we don’t like to do.

So if you realize that you’ve had your nose stuck to the grindstone for so long that the idea of doing even one more thing is just too much to bear, consider doing a task that you actually enjoy. Whether it’s organizing your books, responding to email, or even washing the dishes, find something that you can do that will give you a sense of accomplishment, and doesn’t make you groan just to think about.

Two bits of advice I would give on this one; first off, start small. Even a project that you enjoy doing can seem overwhelming when you’re lacking the energy to move. Remember that baby steps lead to big accomplishments, so if washing the dishes is your thing, start just by gathering all the dirty dishes in the house.
*And don’t laugh at me, I’m not weird just because I like to wash dishes!

Second, unless the thing you enjoy doing is one of your goals for the day, give yourself a limit as to how long you’ll keep at it. You want this to jump start your energy, not take over your entire day.

4. Change the scenery.

I spend my day sitting in front of a computer. Sometimes, the idea of spending any more time in front of a computer is just too much. It doesn’t matter how important the thing I need to do is, or even if it’s something that I would normally enjoy. If it involves sitting at my computer, I’d rather just go to bed and call it a day.

Fortunately, my home computer is a laptop, so if my office is just feeling too horrible to face, I can curl up in bed with my laptop on my lap, and work that way.

If your surroundings are bringing you down, consider changing things up. Go to a coffee shop and soak in the ambient noise. Take your work to the park, and soak up some sun (assuming the sun exists where you live). Figure out what it is that’s lacking in your current environment, and think of someplace else you could work that has more of that.

Bonus tip: If what your current environment lacks is something that would help you work more energetically on a regular basis, consider what you could do to bring more of it to your normal work space.

5. Try different tools.

Sometimes it isn’t so much the environment that has us wanting to hide under the covers, but rather the tools we’re using in our environment. There are times when I need to write, but staring at my screen and typing at my keyboard leaves me feeling… highly uninspired. When this happens, I pull out a notebook and pen.

True, it’s less efficient, in theory; I write slower than I type, and if it turns into something that I want to share with the world, I’ll have to type it in after I’ve written it. But if the alternative is sitting at my desk staring at my screen, writing nothing, well, there’s not much I could do to be less efficient than that.

Changing the way that you work can also kick start the creative side of your brain. It takes you out of your rut, and allows you to find new ways of doing old things. So if you’re feeling drained by the idea of doing more of the same, consider ways you might be able to do it in a different way.

6. When all else fails, take a nap.

For some reason, napping is looked at somewhat askance in our busy busy world. But you know, sometimes, curling up in bed with the covers over your head is exactly what you need.

If you’ve been ill (or pregnant!), or engaging in activities that drain your reserves, your body may need time to recharge. Give yourself permission to take a bit of time for yourself, and remember that doing so will allow you to work better in the long run.

One caveat; unless you have been ill, I wouldn’t recommend this as your first option, since moving can actually be a more effective way to recharge (see above). But if you’ve gotten your body moving, you’re eating those wholesome meals, you’ve tried changing things up, and the thought of being productive still makes you want to cry… go ahead, curl up and sleep for a bit.

In the end, you’re better off taking that nap and getting up refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day, than if you spend all day trying to pretend you have more energy than you do.


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