If only we all had unlimited energy. We’d be able to tackle our tasks like nobody’s business. We would crush it at our job and be home in time for a nice dinner with our significant other. But, the reality is that few of us have the time or the bandwidth to make it all happen on a consistent basis. As a result, we’re spread thin. We hardly have time and energy for some of the most important things in life—our own health and happiness. Fortunately, there are ways to lessen our daily burden. It starts with identifying the areas of your life that drain energy. Here, experts share some of these energy drainers and how to keep them from bogging us down.
Neglecting Self Care
With a piling to-do list in both your professional and personal life, it can be hard to find energy or time for anything. This is especially true for the small, but important, things that feed your happiness. As a result, you’re left feeling overworked and neglected. “If we aren’t well-rested, emotionally nurtured, and feeling strong overall, we lose touch with our core values and identity,” explains Charlynn Ruan, Ph.D., clinical psychologist at Thrive Psychology, in Los Angeles. “This then makes it tougher to make good decisions and take the necessary risks needed to improve our lives.” Her best advice is to take good care of yourself first. This way you can make all other life decisions from a place of strength.
Friends and Family Members
These people are undoubtedly important in your life. But going out of your way for them too often will continually drain energy and leave you feeling depleted. This can be especially true if you’re never asking for what you need in return. “It is really hard to maintain your strength and purpose when you are giving too much to people in your life,” explains Dr. Ruan. “Women, especially, struggle with giving too much of themselves in relationships and letting toxic people run over their boundaries.” In these instances, she reminds her clients that their internal energy resources are limited. If they give too much to people who are not reciprocating or who are negative, they will not have enough left to give to positive people or projects in their lives.
Unresolved Issues or Internal Conflicts
Sometimes the impact of past difficult experiences and emotions linger. This can paralyze us from moving forward, explains Ellie Cobb, Ph.D., holistic psychologist and mindfulness and meditation teacher. “It is important to build awareness of how our old patterns, experiences, relationships, traumas, and challenges affect our current lives,” she says. “This is a process that can be challenging and rewarding. It is often most impactful to work through with a therapist to get professional scaffolding for the experience of addressing the past to create energy and momentum in the present.”
Lacking Silence and Stillness
Meditation is the act of sitting calmly and quietly until you reach a state of deep peace. It can offer a host of benefits for your health—mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s hard to find the time, however, to sneak meditation into our electronically and socially-saturated lives. Still, it’s important. According to Dr. Ruan, we need silence to rest our brain and to hear our internal voice that will direct our actions. “Taking even a few minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness each day can give a sense of control, peace, and clarity to our busy lives,” she says.
Overcommitting to Social Events
Dr. Ruan explains the importance of prioritizing our lives based on our goals and values. If we don’t, she explains that we will find ourselves in a continual struggle over saying “no” to activities. This overcommitment can drain energy and be problematic, as we neglect our most basic needs in the process. “If we have a clear sense of our purpose and values, we’ll be able to align our schedules with a deeper sense of meaning,” she says. “This takes a little time and reflection to figure out, but saves us from wasting time with commitments that are not a good fit for us.”
Staying Up Late
You might be a night owl. But repeatedly staying up too late, whether it be for fun or work, can drain energy and start to wreak havoc on your health and happiness. It depletes your energy level in many ways. “Lack of sleep drains our energy because exhaustion creates stress in the body,” explains Dr. Cobb. “When sufficiently rested, the body and the brain can function optimally. [This] allows energy to be properly and effectively distributed to all areas of life.” Aim to get the recommended seven to eight hours of snooze time each night, so that you can function at your best.
When you start to feel more rundown than usual, consider some of the areas of your life that drain energy. There are often simple solutions that can result in increased energy levels and quality of life.