Energy management is a topic so many of us are concerned with. We generally want to feel our best. When one feels sluggish or low in energy, there are typical things they might start looking at, often so that they feel like they are busy with finding a solution to their problem… (yes, I’ve been there too). The perpetrators we point to first are usually sleep, diet and exercise.
This article won’t be addressing those areas. We are diving off the deep end instead, and looking at a more elusive set of energy leaks that might be able to give you some even bigger gains than lifestyle tweaks:
The lone wolf mentality
Lack of “white space”
By the end of this article you are going to have something tangible and actionable to take forward, because we’re going to dive deeper than you might have gone before on what’s keeping you stuck in a low energy loop.
My suggestion is to read through to the end of this article and then return to the section that felt most important and relevant to you. From there you can determine one action you would like to take to recall your energy and plug those leaks.
If, after reading this article in full, you haven’t got anything to action and you’re still scratching your head about your personal energy equation, then contact me via this form. We’ll set up a free 90 minute online coaching session where we can talk about your energy and how to create more of it.
This is a longer read, so perhaps get yourself a cup of tea and let’s start unpacking!
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash
There are few things that have the ability to drain your energy reserves quite like unfinished business. Let's speak plainly - we all have it, and sometimes it can get pretty stinky.
Unsaid words. Incomplete tasks. Unfelt feelings. Even praise we never offered but feel we probably should have.
Such things are like a cord tied between the present moment self, and the point in the past at which the unfinished business was left.
What do I mean by “unfinished business”? Here we’re talking about things that belong in the past, but are still weighing on you. Anything that when you think about today, you still feel some kind of emotional charge. It could be:
An argument you had a with a housemate years ago
Hurt or misunderstanding in the context of a friendship
Old stuff connected to a romantic relationship
Promises that you didn’t keep but never faced up to
A compliment or praise you never gave
Hurt by/to a parent, sibling or other relative
Falling out with a business partner or colleague
A course you never completed
A trip you never took
Money never repaid (to you or by you)
When it comes to things you didn’t complete (or feel through to completion), it may be a matter of grieving an experience or opportunity, emotionally letting go of losses (including financial), or deciding that you don’t need the course/experience/obligation anymore and formally severing yourself from that. It could also mean making a plan to recommit, if that feels aligned. How you can reclaim the energy varies greatly depending on the context you’re examining?
In examining unfinished business in the context of your relationships with others, I want to offer you a powerful tool that I share with my clients when they feel the need to personally revisit a relationship that hasn’t ended well, or is in a state of tension or unease. This tool is a “Clearing conversation” guide. It’s a specific and intentional conversation plan you can prepare in advance to give you confidence and clarity once you’ve decided to take your full 50% of the responsibility in the relationship. I’ll share the worksheet with you, complete with instructions and a helpful script, below.
IMPORTANT: when contemplating this kind of big step that involves others, know that your action will impact them. Where any kind of trauma is involved, it could get difficult or even become unsafe for both of you very quickly. Consider the consequences of opening a dialogue, and how the other person might respond and be impacted. If in doubt, consult a mental health professional, coach, trusted mentor or spiritual counsel to be sure about your next steps. This is about creating more integrity in the relationship for both parties, so stay on track and take a sufficient amount of time to feel confident in what you’re seeking to achieve before opening a dialogue. Some things can be healed in relationship with others, some things are better addressed in the context of a personal healing journey that is supported by a suitably qualified professional.
ACTION: Choose 2-3 matters of unfinished business and create a plan for how to address them. No need to start with the biggest things. Start small, and notice how that shifts things for you. Allow any energy that is freed up through this process to inspire you to move forward with other items. Here is your Clearing conversation worksheet:
Link to Clearing conversations resource
Photo by Guido Jansen on Unsplash
Anger that is pushed down and suppressed or repressed rather than expressed will continue to deplete your energy.
Emotions, including anger, are like waves on the ocean. They carry a great energetic charge, and if we attempt to stop the motion, it will take an even greater amount of energy to do so. So why is it that many of us let the waves of joy and excitement pass through uninterrupted, but when it comes to something darker, we brace, block and push back?
As children, many of us learn that anger is a bad or unacceptable emotion. If we are not allowed to express it or made to feel wrong about our big, wild or fiery expression, we are likely to decide that we should push it down, internalising it, subconsciously labelling it as inappropriate.
When events happen in life that challenge our values, our morals or our personal boundaries, anger is generally the natural first response inside our nervous system. It is a normal, appropriate and valid response to a threat. If we learn how to express it in a safe and controlled way, it will serve its purpose of revealing what is out of integrity for us and the energy will dissipate again. If we suppress it, we might instead endure or cope with the threat or affliction, adding to the slowly filling rain barrel that is a culmination of all the times we made ourselves wrong for our anger. Then, at some point, this rain barrel may just overflow, and we will behave in ways that make us feel deeply ashamed and reinforce this belief that our anger is wrong.
Can you see the cycle here?
Can you get a sense of how many energy resources we must allocate to keeping all of that unexpressed emotion under control if we haven’t developed the skills to express it healthily?
ACTION: This is a big topic to refine down into one action point… I could offer a 3 month coaching trajectory on just this topic! A great starting place is to write about your anger. Write letters to people who you are harbouring anger towards, expressing your complete and raw truth, and then destroy them (important: DO NOT send them!). The writing process gives you an opportunity to acknowledge and validate your feelings, and the destruction of the paper is cathartic and freeing. Imagine that you are literally getting rid of the emotion and reclaiming the energy to use elsewhere. Going forward, when anger shows up for you, instead of trying to push it away, ask “what is this emotion trying to show me?” Perhaps there is an opportunity for you to calmly and confidently establish a boundary.
Lone wolf mentality (and over-assuming responsibility)
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One of my first coaches once said something to me that will stay with me forever:
“Responsibility is a finite resource. You can only allocate it once.”
This stopped me in my tracks. I realised in that moment that I was trying to take responsibility for EVERYTHING in my life. Not just things that belonged to me, and things that were shared, but things that belonged wholly to others. I even considered other peoples’ emotions to be my responsibility. Boy, was this exhausting!
Now of course our responsibilities can shift over time. Responsibility is not fixed in place. However, we are limited in the amount we can allocate at any one time. When I had this pattern of over-responsibility reflected to me, I felt confronted, but also inspired. Now that I could see what I was doing, I could consciously hand back some of this responsibility so that I could more deeply commit to what was truly mine. This is not a one time thing, it’s a practice that we need to engage in daily so that we stay on track and remain dynamic. Interesting to note, it’s only when you have a sense of the boundary between you and another person that you can start this process of discernment and rebalancing responsibilities (boundaries is another topic entirely–I’ll save that for another article).
The idea of responsibility is connected to that of independence in that the latter often grows from the former. When we learn early on in life that we are responsible for creating our own safety on a physical, emotional and/or mental level, this can drive us to gather more control of the things going on around us so that we can secure our safety. We might create a belief that says “if I don’t do it, no one will”. This belief sits snug with another close relative - “it needs to be done by me so that I know it’s done right”. Another set of twins in this family of beliefs are “if I can’t do this then it must mean I am not good/not enough/incapable/not worthy/different” and “I must do this so that I prove that I am good/enough/accepted/valuable”.
These are unconscious beliefs. We generally don’t know they are driving us. We just feel the push. So we take on everything, alone. Even things that don’t really belong to us.
If you recognise in yourself a bone-deep resistance to asking people for help, or accepting it when it’s offered, then this awareness might be worth some deeper exploration. Perhaps the darkest side of this shadow is that if we never let people in, and simply endure any pain that comes along with attempting to hold so much responsibility and going it alone, something will likely stop us. It could be a health concern, a career interruption or some other event beyond our control.
Before we get into the actions on this point, let’s not ignore the gift of being the independent one. You’re probably highly capable. You are probably multi-talented. You are probably trusted among your family and friends to get things done. As they say, if you want something done, give it to a busy person. Your independence has forced you to become a highly effective operator. That’s a great clue that you can trust yourself to take care of yourself. And now just imagine what life can look like if you shift from in-dependent to inter-dependent. Imagine knowing that you’re highly capable, and that you’re allowed to receive support so that you can take space to dedicate to leisure and creativity!
ACTION: Make a list of all the things that you are taking responsibility for managing–at home, at work, within your personal relationships, in the community. Review your list and sense-check whether all of the things on the list actually belong to you, and, whether it's serving you to be doing them. For those that don’t, seek to hand them back to their rightful owner. For those that do, consider what opportunities are available for you to ask for some support. Bonus points: consider which activities you are carrying out are due for revision and improvement. One of the blind spots for the lone wolf is being stuck in the do-ing and not creating time to improve the process and make it more effective. Sometimes all it takes to reclaim some effort and energy is a little distance from the task so it can be seen from a new perspective.
Lack of “white space”
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One of the biggest opportunities I see for my energy-deprived clients to generate some quick wins is to put some “white space” back in their lives. White space is space scheduled for nothing.
Not for reading, scrolling, working out or strategising or whatever you feel called to doing at the time.
Many people become low in energy simply because they are always in the do-ing mode, rushing from task to task, oriented around their busy agendas and length to-do lists. We all have obligations. And we are all human and function best when our minds and bodies are offered an opportunity to replenish and refresh.
One of my personal favourite places to enjoy intentional white space is out in nature (device free).
Connecting with nature allows us to slow down. This is especially important for those of us who struggle with activities like meditation due to a very active mind. When we leave our minds untethered they can rush about, disturbing us. When we align them with the speed of nature through being open and curious about our surroundings, we can tune into our thoughts in a different way, give them more of our presence and create space for new and creative ideas to emerge.
Here’s a useful adage from the US Navy Seals:
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
In other words: slow down to speed up.
This is true because slowing down enables your energy to be replenished, provides for better chances of avoiding unnecessary mistakes and allows us to engage the creative part of the brain.
In scientific terms, one might say that being in nature is helpful to support the regulation of the nervous system. In lay terms, that means it can help reduce your stress.