In today’s busy world, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. We’re always in a rush and we’re constantly trying to cram everything into too little time. It’s always go, go, go, but you still never get it all done. You start the next day trying to catch up, and the cycle repeats itself. We know the pace is bad for us, but it has become normal and it seems we are addicted to it.
Dr. Heidi Hanna has written several books dealing with various topics relating to stress. In her latest book, Recharge: 5 Shifts to Energize Your Life, she talks about the connection between stress and energy levels.
Research has shown a correlation between our energy levels and amount of stress we are experiencing. When we reduce and manage stress we are less fatigued, and can actually accomplish more than if we allow our stress to build unchecked.
Dr. Hanna breaks her technique down into 5 things you can do to manage stress and increase your energy levels.
1. Prepare for Quality Sleep. Notice that I didn’t just say get 6-8 hours of sleep. How your morning and the rest of your day will go is largely determined by the quality of sleep you get the night before. Dr. Hanna talks about developing a sleep ritual. This includes shutting off technology an hour before bedtime. That means no TV, social media or emails, or even reading books on a tablet. The light and electromagnetic waves from these devices can interfere with the body’s natural processes and disrupt your sleep, plus all the negativity online is putting your brain in an anxious mode when you need it to let go and relax.
Dr. Hanna suggests activities like reading a paper book, taking a walk, light stretching, journaling, or listening to music as ways to unwind and relax before bed. She says she puts her phone in airplane mode when she wants to relax. She can still use alarms, music, photos, and the camera, but the rest of the world ceases to be a distraction.
2. Start With a Positive Morning. Many of us reach for that connection to the web or emails as soon as our eyes open. Dr. Hanna advises against it. Whether it is the morning news or the mindless junk on Facebook, the information is overwhelmingly negative. This puts us in an anxious and depressed mood right off the bat. Dr. Hanna also talks about how we become reactive to stresses when we immediately switch on first thing in the morning. By getting distracted by all the emails from people asking for us to do things, telling us all the things that need to be fixed, or seeing all the negativity online, our brain is forced to react to all these things rather than proceed with a plan of action we develop if we start things off on our terms.
Save the emails for when you are ready to deal with them at work. There is no need to get all worked up about them before you even get there. And, get used to saying “No.” Not everything needs to be handled right now. Don’t let other people’s lack of planning become your emergency. Stay on track and deviate only if you determine something absolutely has to be dealt with.
Go for a walk, stretch, hit the gym, or meditate as your first act each morning. Studies have shown that these acts of movement or positive brain engagement set us up for a more positive and productive day.
3. Fuel the Brain. The brain works best when the body is properly fed and hydrated. If all it is getting is stuff from a drive thru, you will be operating at less than optimal performance. Along with that, Dr. Hanna advises her clients to have a connection with their food. Take the time to enjoy the meal. Turn off your devices and have an actual social interaction with another person while eating. I know the concept sounds weird, but social enrichment is good for the brain and slowing things down can help prevent overeating too.
4. Move. Just the simple act of standing up can help to boost your energy and help you regain your focus. Dr. Hanna advocates making movement a priority throughout your day, not just while in the gym. Take the stairs, walk over to a coworker instead of sending an email, or take a walk during your lunch break. You burn some extra calories and the increased blood flow recharges your brain.
5. Take a Break. Breaks are important. You can’t expect to be completely focused for the entire 8-10 hours of your day. Dr. Hanna says that short breaks of just 3-5 minutes each hour can do wonders for your energy levels and productivity. Get up and move around, listen to music, or watch a funny video. It’s important to not multitask during your break. Take a true break and do something you enjoy. She keeps a few 3-5 minute relaxation playlists on her music player for these moments. You can also meditate, have a light non-work conversation with someone, pet a dog, or write in a journal.
There’s so much more to Dr. Heidi Hanna’s methods and you can find her videos and books online if you want to learn more.
The main takeaway from this is that to manage stress, you need to take control of your day and not allow the rest of the world to sour your mood or distract you from your plan. If you can start incorporating these five simple shifts, you’ll see a reduction in stress and an increase in energy.