Where has my energy gone and how can I get it back?

This scenario may sound familiar:

“I have had time off over the holiday season. I ate well, played games, watched television, listened to music, exercised frequently and slept much more than usual. So, why am I still so tired and drained at the beginning of a new year following some good ‘rest’ away from work?”

This post focuses on some advice to help replenish energy levels with the right kind of rest.

A considerable part of the answer is not confusing sleep with rest. Sleep is not the same thing as rest and people often conflate the two and wonder why they are still energy sapped after getting more rest through sleep.

With the modern-day work life fuelling a continuous ‘on’ culture where employees aim for constant productivity, and where lockdowns potentially dictate a culture of even more screen time and sometimes toxic productivity, it is vital to consider and address the reasons for still feeling fatigued after the holiday period. Sleep is absolutely one kind of rest but there are other types we should include in our rest repertoire. With the world as it is right now, in addition to the daily stressors of work, we also need to focus on the other forms of rest we need.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, physician, researcher and the author of the book “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity” talks about seven types of rest that we need to replenish our energy levels. Below we focus on five of the seven types of rest.

1. Physical Rest

According to Dr. Dalton-Smith physical rest can be passive or active. Sleeping and napping being passive whilst activities that are restorative to the body such as Pilates, yoga, stretching and massages are all physical rest as they improve our circulation and flexibility.

2. Mental Rest

We have all, at some point, powered through from early morning until late at night attending a seemingly endless stream of back to back meetings, whittling away at the email inbox, thrashing out work until our eyes cross. We then go straight to bed and unsurprisingly can’t switch off. Inevitably, we  wake up the next morning, despite having a full night’s sleep, still feeling exhausted. The key to getting away from this type of schedule and pressing the mental rest reset button for your day is to schedule frequent short breaks (every two hours or so) throughout your workday. These breaks are deliberate buffers in your day to remind you to slow down and mentally pause from what you have been doing.

3. Create a space to work

It can be tempting to work from your bed or the sofa when at home, but people who already successfully work from home recommend that it is best not to do so. Set up an area in your home as a workstation to give you more of a feeling that you are in an office environment. This will also help you to avoid distractions, maintain good posture and leave the workday behind you at the end of the day.

4.Sensory Rest

Articles on the negative effects of ‘blue light’ are everywhere. There is a reason for this given the onslaught of overstimulation our eyes get from all of our electronic devices throughout any given day. Add the multiple conversations, meetings and constant background noise we hear every day, it is a recipe for sensory overload. Meditating, simply closing your eyes for a minute as well as shunning computers and the TV at the end of the day will all help to give our senses the rest they deserve.

5.Creative Rest

Many professions require brainstorming or finding creative solutions to problems. We also need rest from this creativity and a great way to replenish ourselves is to connect with nature and the great outdoors. It slows down our thought processes and provides the creative escapism the brain needs. The arts are another way to get creative rest. Wherever you work, either your workstation or room, you can put up artwork, design, pictures etc. to give your brain the creative rest it needs when you look at these. They are also often a useful source of inspiration for when it is time for that creativity to kick back in! Another useful piece of advice is to move between spaces where you work, if possible. The room or space where you take calls and write emails will not be as inspiring as a new space when you have to write, design or think creatively – a window with a view, plants, works of art all help to reignite and engage energy levels.

You can watch Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s TEDxAtlanta talk, from which this post was adapted, below:

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