Everyone I know has a busy, busy life. The temptation for most people is to go and do, trying to fit everything in. And when youâ€™re an author, you always have writing hanging over your headâ€”it doesnâ€™t matter whether youâ€™re published or unpublished.
About fifteen years ago, I found out the hard way what happens if I push myself past my energy limits. I was in graduate school at the time, in addition to working and everything else I was doing. I remember feeling stressed and fatigued, but I had a few projects to finish. My intuition kept saying, â€œRest.â€ Iâ€™d answer that Iâ€™d rest once Iâ€™d completed everything, just a few more daysâ€¦.
Then I heard the message, â€œIf you donâ€™t stop, Iâ€™m going to force you to stop.â€
I gave the same answer, so, sure enough; my body forced me to stop by making me sick. What a lesson!
Ever since that time, Iâ€™ve paid attention to what my body tells me about the stress Iâ€™m feeling, what my energy levels are, and if my immune system feels compromised. Iâ€™ve learned the little signals, personal to me, that tell me what I need to do to help myself. Consequently, Iâ€™m rarely ill.
In my work, both as a therapist and as a crisis counselor, I give a lot of my energy to help others heal. Therefore, I need to make sure I replenish my energy.
One of the best ways to take care of your energy is to know if you are an introvert or an extrovert. The way to determine if youâ€™re an introvert or an extrovert is to ask yourself how you replenish your energy. â€œDo I replenish my energy through solitary activities (reading, writing, gardening, playing on the computer) or through people-oriented activities (going to parties or events, participating in clubs or organizations, or hanging with a group of friends)?
Most people make the mistake of thinking an extrovert is someone with an outgoing personality. Yet, you can be (like me) an outgoing introvert. Or (like most writers) you can be an introvert whoâ€™s not comfortable around a lot of people.
Once you know if youâ€™re an introvert or an extrovert, youâ€™ll know what to do to restore your energy. If youâ€™re an introvert, and your extrovert spouse wants you to go to a party, you know that wonâ€™t help your energy levels, and in fact might actually deplete them more, even if you enjoy yourself.
As an introvert, itâ€™s important for me to balance my people-oriented work and social activities with solitary time for myself. Otherwise, Iâ€™ll drain my energy too much.
What else do I do to keep my energy up?
1. I exercise semi-regularly. I say â€œsemiâ€ because crisis jobs tend to drop into my schedule, disrupting my routine. Also some times in my life, Iâ€™m more self-disciplined than others. I keep hand weights at home because on busy days itâ€™s easier to take 20 minutes doing weights at home then to drive to the gym. Other days I do complete weight and cardio workouts at the gym.
2. I try to eat healthy. I say try because Iâ€™m too fond of chocolate, cheese, and pizza to be completely healthy. I keep healthy snacks handy that I can grab and eat in the car, such as hard-boiled eggs, apples, yogurts, protein bars, nuts, turkey hot dogs, string cheese. I love salads, but donâ€™t like to make them, so I go to the salad bar at the grocery store and buy a big enough one that lasts for several meals. For each meal, I add avocado and cottage cheese to the salad.
3. I prioritize sleep. I need a LOT of sleepâ€”more than normal. I take naps to make up for not enough sleep at night. I love long naps. Today (Sunday) I sent my boyfriend off by himself to see a â€œboyâ€ movie, so I could nap without feeling guilty for not spending time with him. Once awake, I had enough energy to write and catch up on some of the tasks Iâ€™ve put off this week from fatigue and working long hours.
Iâ€™ve also found catnaps to be helpful. In the afternoon, if I doze for a few (two to five) minutes in my chair between clients, Iâ€™ll feel refreshed for the rest of the day and long into the evening.
4. I take a novel everywhere I go, so I can read every chance that I have. During a difficult consulting job, I make sure to close the door, take a lunch and read, if only for a few minutes. Another way to refresh.
5. I take vitamins, minerals, Co-Q 10, and salmon oil. On days I feel my immune system dropping, I add a fizzy Airborne tablet to water or green tea, take extra vitamin C, and suck on Zinc lozenges.
6. I try to say no to people or opportunities that I donâ€™t want to do, or that I know will take too much of my energy.
My life still gets away from me sometimes, but by focusing on â€œself-care,â€ I manage to maintain my energy level (most of the time) and stay healthy.
Debra Holland received a masterâ€™s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from USC and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is a one-time Golden Heart and a two-time GH finalist.
Dr. Debra is the author of a forthcoming book, Rules of Engagement: How to Have a Boundary Setting Conversation With a Difficult Person.