After almost 2 years of the underlying, unrelenting tension and trauma of navigating a global pandemic, for many the start to 2022 has felt like stepping onto a treadmill that is flying at full speed. There was little time to warm up and we just had to start sprinting. As many rush (or resist) a return to the perceived comfort of a sense of normal, return to the office or navigate a new flexibility in work, there is a sense that resilience is low. The energy warning lights on our dashboards are flashing in an imminent warning that it is time to reclaim our resilience. Earlier this year, in March and April, I often commented that people’s energy felt like we were in October or November, when everyone is tired from the year and hanging on for a much needed vacation over the holidays. Since then, the number of people that I know that are feeling or have been diagnosed with burnout has been unparalleled and rather alarming. And those are only the people that are talking about it. Many are still keeping silent, often in shame, hoping that holding on for the oasis of a year-end holiday will be their savior. But we can’t wait for a holiday to take action on our resilience, energy and health.
The time is now.
We have to be intentional about managing our energy and our resilience daily. If we think about our energy levels akin to the battery on our phones, we often don’t have the same awareness of how full or depleted our batteries are at any given time as we would on our phones. There is no energy saver mode or warning that automatically activates in our bodies to help preserve our energy. We are in the driving seat and have to own this for ourselves by creating an awareness first. Check in as to how your energy levels feel during the day and how rested you feel when you wake up in the morning. An easy way to do this is to give yourself a percentage or a score out of ten as a rough guide on where your energy levels are at or how well you slept in order to have a personal, consistent awareness. And this is not about judging yourself and where your energy is at. Awareness is the first step to take action and change where you are now, knowing that you are worthy of feeling well and full of energy. Energy underpins everything in our lives and how we connect in our relationships, feel joy and deliver in our work. It’s the foundation for creating and living a life that we love. If we understand where our energy is with love, kindness and empathy for ourselves, we move into action far quicker to support ourselves.
Consider what activities, work, interactions or tasks depletes or drains your energy levels and what replenishes them. Ask yourself if everything that drains you really serves you, and whether these items are really essential in your life. What energy are you exposing yourself to that does not support you? Are there activities or interactions, energy thieves as I often call them, that you can eliminate or change in your life? Are there expectations that are draining your energy that you need to step away from or clarify? Maybe a boundary needs to be set and held consistently with kindness. The biggest myth is that someone else has crossed a boundary in our lives. Rather we have allowed it to be crossed. Do you need to say no where you are saying yes in your life? People pleasing is massive drain on our resilience and it signals to our bodies that everyone else is a priority in our lives before us. You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can give of your best to others. Consider what balance means to you and how are you bringing your version of balance into your life? We need to ensure we have more things that replenish our energy rather than drain it to keep the balance in our energy right. Similar to the battery on our phones, when our batteries or energy levels become low, our energy seems to deplete even quicker. This is individual for each one of us and we need to know what that level is for ourselves personally, rather than waiting to get sick or for that deep fatigue to set in. No one else is watching your energy levels and resilience for you. Only we can start to change how we manage our energy in our lives. And we can’t blame others for depleting our energy. We have allowed it with vague boundaries and putting ourselves lower down on our own priority lists. It’s time to reframe putting yourself first as no longer being selfish. Salt baths are great, but self-love and managing your energy levels are the most radical act of self-care.
Balance is a flow in our lives and should reflect your intentional priorities in your life. There may be times where your version of balance looks skewed from the outside as you pursue a passion or a goal, but this is a balance that should serve you and no one else. We also need to consider where we are creating barriers to balance in our lives. Often, we create complexity and overwhelm in our lives. We take on too much, whether it be opinions, possessions, habits, commitments or expectations that create this complexity. Simplifying your life, and stepping away from energy and attention thieves may bring more serenity rather than the anxiety that complexity often brings. We clutter our lives with busyness, people pleasing and staying always on, red-lining through life, rather than allowing spaciousness for pauses. Pauses are where our potency lies in life. They are where we breathe. We come back lit up, inspired and often more creative ready to deliver our best at a high level.
Rest is restorative. A solid sleep routine is the foundation that underpins our health, wellness and resilience, but we need to remember that rest can be both active and passive. And most importantly we need to define rest as being productive. This can include time spent on self-care, personal growth and development, such as hobbies, time in nature, reading, counselling, journaling, meditation and movement. These activities (and my list is far from exhaustive) allow us to come back stronger, more innovative, more resilient and feeling well. I still hear people saying that they don’t have time to rest. But it’s time to get real as we are not making time. We are de-prioritising rest and often discount the extensive periods that it takes to recover from burnout, illness and deep fatigue after we have decimated our energy levels. Everything feels harder and takes longer for us and our bodies when you feel like you are trudging through treacle. Short periods of rest to restore and regenerate our energy levels take up way less time in the long run as opposed to recovery from burnout, illness or deep fatigue. Pauses don’t have to be holidays or weekends, we need to create micro-breaks within our day with time to breathe as well as a clear ending to our day where we disconnect from our day. Pursue passions, become incorruptible about your sleep, say no where you said yes before, take ownership and step away from energy thieves, move your body, take time to journal and practice gratitude. How are you reclaiming your resilience today? Start small, but just start.
Nicky Rowbotham is author of Embrace Your Elegant Power – Your Path to Success with Ease and Steps to Finding Flow – Flip the Script on Stress. Both books are available in all good book stores in South Africa, Amazon, Kindle, Takealot, Loot, most audio formats and at nickyrowbotham.com.