Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another. – First law of Thermodynamics.
Summer has arrived in the city, and with it an explosion of smiling people, short sleeves, bicycles and what it seems to be a permanent flow of energy and good mood. The energy buzz of the season is in the air. However, is this seasonal push enough to recharge our batteries in a sustainable and regenerative way?
This month’s social topic is energy. Energy can be as much a source of motivation , as well as a source of anxiety. While a lack of energy may affect our productivity and results, an excess of it can feed our addiction to multitasking, and to taking on more things we can handle. For this reason, energy a is tool one must understand and learn to use with care.
In this entry, I want to offer a different view on the topic, and to examine, what we think our energy is or what it is not. This question is important, not only for the sake of productivity, but also because what we understand our energy to be determines how we live our daily lives.
Pattern of behavior
For many of us, opening our eyes in the morning may be like wrestling our energy into submission, and to get up feeling moody and tired ‘on the inside’, making us increasingly depend on external palliatives to ease this unpleasant feeling.
Today, the most sensational and recurring promise we are made is that we can access more and more—information, resources and things—by investing less and less energy. We have access to information from everywhere at our fingertips; but that also means everything has access to us.
We live surrounded by constant beeps, buzzes and pings that eliminate any space for quiet, which makes us prone to interrupting ourselves—and others—with every incoming message, leaving us with no room for a restorative ‘nothingness’. As a result, we carry on with our lives feeling more anxious and depleted, the antithesis of energy.
The four domains of energy
We can address energy directly and specifically at different levels:
The Body: The body intervenes constantly, whether one is aware or not; and it is the mode of intervention that conditions how well, or unwell, we feel. We can increase physical energy by improving our diet, sleep, or exercising routine; also by changing counterproductive habits, such as skipping breakfast or not taking breaks.
The Emotions: They relate to the quality of our energy. Being aware of the way we feel throughout the day and learning how to manage our moods and emotions has a great impact on our productivity as well as the level of personal energy we can access.
The Mind: The command center of our energy. Our brain works most efficiently when it can focus on a single task for a longer time. Neuroscience shows us that changing tasks too frequently interferes with brain activity and reduces productivity and could even hinder brain functions. So, even when one feels emotionally satisfied with multitasking, it doesn’t support the energy regeneration cycle.
The Surroundings: Everything we do—or not do—in the world tells our story. It is in relation with others we get our sense of Self. We are a bundle of relationships with our contexts; a hub affected not only by our internal biology and emotions but also by the seasons, by our circadian rhythms, events and the other beings around us. Weighing and factoring in outside stimuli is an important part of one personal’s energy management.
“Psychological physical and social well-being, behavioral effectiveness, and the quality of interpersonal relations bring about the experience of specific emotions of sets of sensations that define mood. This experience involves conscious components of energy (vs tiredness) and tension (vs calmness)”
We certainly have agency over the first three domains: the body, The Emotions and The Mind. In each, energy can be systematically boosted and regenerated by establishing specific rituals—behaviors that are intentionally practiced and precisely scheduled, with the goal of making them unconscious and automatic as quickly as possible.
What will help one handle our surroundings?
Human beings and all the other inhabitants of planet earth, we all have a special biological system that keeps us in sync with the cycles of day and night. Whether you are a mammal, bacteria or algae, all living organisms have their internal rhythms synchronized to the sunset and sunrise. These cycles are called circadian rhythms.
Why is important to acknowledge them? Because everything we do is controlled by these rhythms, from the level of energy and cognitive sharpness we tend to experience during the late morning, to the need of a power nap during our afternoon (between 2 pm and 4 pm). Some studies suggest that a middle afternoon napping is an important part of our daily rhythm and might result in our best interest, the problem is our daily schedules don’t correlate with our circadian rhythms anymore.
On the other hand, as human beings, we live in a constant emotional field or, so-called moods, whether or not we are aware of it. According to the Theory of mood (Thayer 1978, 1979) “Psychological physical and social well-being, behavioral effectiveness, and the quality of interpersonal relations bring about the experience of specific emotions of sets of sensations that define mood. This experience involves conscious components of energy (vs tiredness) and tension (vs calmness). Managing this field is basic to many of our everyday activities and its outcomes.”
As we play our roles within a system, and coordinate work with others, a vital tool to managing your energy is knowing your resources, needs, and energy profile since that conditions our potential strategies to gain synchronicity within a group.
Understanding your personal profile
There’s nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so why do we expect ourselves to do so? Looking after ourselves and stepping into partnership with our energy also means accepting that energy is a fluctuating process—not a constant—it’s an ebb and flow between two opposite poles, which depends on much more than just our brains, moods and bodies.
Let’s try and exercise together: take a deep breath and imagine how your energy looks at this very moment. What image comes to your mind? Once you have a clear visualization take three deep breaths and observe it. What feelings arise? What can that image help you accomplish, and what it will prevent you from doing?
An picture is worth a thousand words
For each of us, the mental representation of our energy could look completely different. Some people may see their energy as a quiet garden, exposed to the seasons, where things grow sustainably. Energy for others might look like melting metal; which takes longer to reach the peak, but once it’s there, the energy release is unstoppable until it cools down. Some may visualize their energy as an agile racing horse that has a lot of speed but only has enough stamina for short periods.
A metaphorical image to describe our energy profile becomes relevant mostly when working with partners, and teams. Why is it so important to take a leap of faith to revise your energy mindset? Because grounding our behavior in a clear picture of our personal rhythms signature, can give us the confidence and agency of responding to challenges, others and obstacles in a more caring and effective way.
In such manner – from listening carefully to one body’s needs and the focus of our thoughts; to paying attention to the quality of our own emotions and the impact of the external mood fields- we can learn how to better manage our energy levels to live in a sustainable and regenerative way.
So next time you feel a lack of energy, ask yourself: What are the things I need to do to support my very own distinctive energy flow? How does my body work, and what does it want to do? And equally important, ask yourself, how is your energy level connected to the seasons, the weather conditions and the spaces you live in; and furthermore, wrapped in which habits, stories, and clothing will your personal energy thrive.
Because how you regard your energy determines not only, the choices you make, the feelings you experience, and the impact on the results of any activities or projects involving others you take part in, but also, it will support you in creating a natural and regenerative flow to propel yourself into the future.