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How to protect your energy

with Holly & Co resident coach


Feel like you’re losing the balance again? Struggling to remember what those non-negotiables you identified post-pandemic were? Or just feeling like your energy is taking a hit? You’re not alone. But what if you reminded yourself to look out for those red flags again so you could start to avoid them? What if you learned how to reduce stress, how to protect your energy and how to feel happier as a result? Think how different your life could be.

Holly & Co’s resident business psychologist and coach Kate is here to help us understand how energy provides the building blocks on which our resilience sits. Energy has a direct relationship with pressure for many of us, in that if there’s not much challenge in what we’re doing, our energy levels can languish. Up the pressure a little bit though, and you will reach that sweet spot where you feel highly motivated, focused and energised.

This is “The Zone”, an optimal space for energy and resilience, where you find momentum and optimism. 

What if you learned how to reduce stress, how to protect your energy and how to feel happier as a result? Think how different your life could be.

When you’re in The Zone, you probably find that you sleep well, wake up feeling ready to go, and are emotionally balanced and in control – no problem is insurmountable. However, if that pressure goes up, remaining unchecked for a period of time, you can tip into overwhelm, and seemingly out of nowhere.

When this happens, we have to lower the pressure. But what if that’s out of our hands? We have to draw on our energy reserves and we can only do this as long as we haven’t been running on empty, so it’s important to fiercely defend our energy at all times.

We all have red flags that can let us know we’ve taken on too much – and ‘too much’ is different for all of us – the trick is to notice them. They’re different for everyone but you might recognise some of these:

  • Feeling tired even after rest
  • Sleeping less well
  • Starting to be snappy and irritable
  • Losing confidence
  • Feeling foggy-brained
  • Experiencing mood swings
  • Anxious thoughts creeping in

You will have periods of time when your routine slips, for example pre-Christmas, but protect your energy at all other times and you’ll accumulate the energy reserves and resilience to see you through.

When things are unpredictable (as they were during the pandemic), we can take on more work than we can manage because we feel like we don’t know what the future will bring. This can then trigger a merging of our days and a loss of our routines. We start giving every waking hour to our work. You might start skipping your morning walk, your lunchtime yoga, or maybe you allow work to eat into your evenings when you should be downing tools. The irony is that these things are core to maintaining your energy, they are your rocket fuel. These things offer protected time which helps build your resilience reserves and therefore keeps you energised. They are your non-negotiables.

If you ever worked in an office before you built your business, you might have had colleagues who would give you ‘the look’ as you went for your lunchtime walk or your gym session. Perhaps you knew then that playing the martyr, chained to the keyboard, was not the height of efficiency. Now that you work for yourself though, you’re the only one judging as you head out for your fresh air or take an afternoon nap.

If you know that you need that ritual and routine in order to power through the afternoon, then that is non-negotiable for running your business. Don’t forget that you don’t need to follow business hours anymore. If playing tennis on Tuesday from 11am to 12:30pm gives you a high that carries you through the rest of the week, that’s your non-negotiable.

You will have periods of time when the pressure goes up, for example pre-Christmas, but the difference in staying fit and resilient or getting run down and ill is in protecting your non-negotiables even in these high-pressure periods.

Get started by being specific about what your non-negotiables are, that way, you’ll notice much faster when you’re allowing those boundaries to be crossed. Make a list of what you do to feel energised and make sure you protect those activities. They could be physical –  so, primarily, exercise and sleep – or psychological, like spending time with family and friends or doing things you love. Then make a list of what makes you feel drained. How can you avoid these things or approach them differently? If you’re stuck on pin-pointing what matters to you, a good question to ask yourself is “What do I not want to lose?” The below examples might help you.

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Defining your non-negotiables:

  • Connection with family: Not missing out on those everyday moments like mealtimes or bedtime stories.
  • Connection with self: Doing the things that keep you inspired, like going to art galleries or museums.
  • Health: Making sure you have time to enjoy movement every day whether that’s t’ai chi or tennis.
  • Sleep: If you need eight hours every night or six, have to be in bed by 10pm or wake at 5am, everyone is unique, honour your sleep pattern.

When making decisions about how much work you take on, keep your non-negotiables at the front of your mind. This will ensure that you are grounded in making decisions based on what matters to you and so protect the vital energy that supports your resilience in the long-run.

Kate Downey-Evans is a qualified business psychologist, with over 15 years worth of experience in some of the world’s largest corporations, including Bupa and HSBC. In 2019, Kate launched The Green Door Project to help both individuals and organisations discover the hidden diamonds, unlock their potential and achieve the extraordinary.

Image: Batteries – Sew your soul. 

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