Energy Management: Part 1
Posted by: Kamille Larrabee & Barbora Kjasova | University of Denver Sport Psychology
Right now, it’s hard to feel normal; most things about our everyday life are entirely different. These changes can cause a wide variety of emotions and responses, including increased levels of stress, anxiety, or frustration, and lack of motivation and productivity (all of which are normal!). With that in mind, this post will cover how we can take back control over our energy in the midst of this global pandemic we all face.
Life In Quarantine
For most of us, being at home most of the time is a big adjustment. Some of the general implications to our daily lives include increased screen time, decreased physical activity, routine disruption, and a change in diet. These changes can lead to feelings of decreased motivation and productivity and increased feelings of boredom and restlessness. Here are some tips and ideas to break you out of the quarantine funk.
Build in “Screen Free” Hours Throughout the Day:
Setting aside time throughout the day to walk away from the computer and put down the phone can be completely re-energizing. Get up, take a walk, read a chapter of a book, or do a quick chore around the house to break up some screen time. Working and schooling from home is challenging, and we’re not meant to sit in front of the computer for hours at a time. A good general rule of thumb is every 2 hours of work try and take at least a 30-minute break.
Set Reasonable “To-Do” Lists:
When working on concentration, distractions will inevitably arise. There are one million things that you could be doing at any given time throughout the day. If you know that you have to concentrate on one thing, plan ahead and try to predict some of the distractions that may come up and try to derail you. For example, if you have to get a homework assignment done tonight, but you know your friends are all going to the movies, what will you do to make sure your attention remains on the task at hand (homework)? Plan how to handle this by playing the scenario out in your head; make predictions about how you may respond and how others may respond to you. You can also write down your plan so that you can see it and it becomes more real. Making a plan allows you to be prepared to deal with distractions when they come up, so you are less likely to be thrown off your game and break concentration.
Social v. Physical Distancing:
This topic fits very nicely with planning for distractions. As I mentioned, distractions are inevitable, and you often have no control over them. That is one of the main reasons I suggest focusing on planning how you will react to the distractions, instead of planning on how to avoid distractions all together. It is an unproductive use of your time and energy to worry or focus on things you have no control over. Taking the time to shift your focus to something you have no control over only distracts you from focusing on what is within your control. Just like in the example above, if you were to instead focus on how to completely avoid the distraction of going out with your friends and figure out a way to hunker down on your assignment, you will likely waste more time planning that scenario out rather than accepting distractions are part of life.
A great example of this is having a game with bad or biased referees. Sure, this is extremely frustrating and may end up costing you the game, but what can you really do about it in the moment? If a ref makes a bad call, you have two choices: you can either argue that call because you feel it was so bad, or you can move on and focus on the game and task at hand. Trying to control the refs will take energy and time away from what you can control, such as focusing on your first touch or passing. Concentrating on one or a few things during a game is extremely difficult with all the potential distractions going on. It is all about maximizing this energy and directing it to the right places that will give you the best chance to be successful. If you decide to worry about things you can’t control, such as refs, the weather, or the crowd, you will only be setting yourself up for an uphill battle to success.
Focus on the Good:
Identify and focus on the good things about your day or week; you can reflect individually, as a family or a friend group. Try engaging in daily gratitude practice to improve your headspace and increase your happiness. There’s a lot about this situation that we have no control over, but our own mindset is something we can control.
Self-care is a big buzz word in our society, but what is self-care, really? For most people, self-care isn’t just facemasks, candles, or bubble baths. While those can be a part of a self-care routine, self-care is individualized to each of us (and within our personal control!). Self-care is about making time for ourselves, and engaging in activities that leave us feeling reenergized and rejuvenated.
Taking time to reflect how you feel each day can be really beneficial to your self-care and managing your energy through this period of time. Self-check-in’s can help us recognize how we are feeling throughout the day and help us make changes to our activities and routines. Check-ins help us create awareness in four main areas: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Check-ins create space for us to learn how we can energize ourselves and maintain that energy throughout the day. This is a great way to increase motivation and productivity.
Self-awareness is the key skill for a quality check-in. Take time to think about how you are feeling mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually and reflect on your thoughts/internal dialogue. This can feel like a lot to go through at once, so try starting with one or two areas that are most important to you.
Maybe you realize that specific activities bring you positive energy and motivation while others tend to drain your energy. Though we can’t avoid all of the energy draining activities in our lives, we can work to build our schedules in a way that allows for some of the more positive energy to “sandwich” those activities that leave us feeling drained. For example: say working out and doing something around the house give you positive energy and motivation, but a work call leaves you feeling drained. Try working out first thing when you get up, knock out the work call while you’re still feeling motivated, then complete a chore around the house to make you feel productive.
Creating a Self-Care Routine:
Engaging in self-care activities (working out, journaling, meditation, safe social engagement, reading, cosmetics, alone time, etc.) into your day-to-day is crucial during this time. Make a plan to integrate self-care into your daily routines. Remember: these activities don’t have to be time-consuming and elaborate; the can be as quick as a minute or two when you start feeling stressed, frustrated, anxious, or bored.
Do you sometimes feel more tired when you do “nothing” than after a really productive day? That is exactly what happens when we are thrown off from our routine(s). Routines help establish a sense of normalcy, and can be intentionally or unintentionally formed. Just like the other mental skills, intentionally implementing routines succesffully takes time and practice. During this time it’s important to focus on routines to make you feel mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually your best.
Sleep and Nutrition:
Getting quality sleep is important to maintain high energy, optimistic mood, and motivation. For increasing quality sleep try to limit blue light exposure from your devices one-half to 2 hours before falling asleep, and implement breathing relaxation to lower your heart rate and prepare your body for sleep (4 seconds inhale, more than 4 seconds exhale for 2 minutes).
Pay attention to how food affects your energy and mood. It’s challenging to stick to the same diet that you’re used to while everything else has changed. It’s also challenging to say no to snacking when your work/ school from home space is full of available snacks!
Some tips that we have found helpful are:
- Pack your lunch like you would for a standard work or school day.
- Eat meals and snacks at roughly the same time that you would on a “normal” day.
- Try to set up your designated work space outside the kitchen to limit temptation.
- While eating healthy is very important (impacting your mood and energy), give yourself a break once in a while! Enjoy a cheat meal or snack after a long day. It’s all about balance.
Stay hydrated! Just because it feels like we are moving and doing less does not mean our bodies need less water. If you’ve felt off or had more headaches or stomachaches, keep track of how hydrated you are throughout the day. Also for all my coffee lovers, track how much caffeine you’ve been drinking too, as that also impacts how you feel physically and mentally.
Implementing some form of physical activity is beneficial for your mind and your body. Working out can act as a reset for you each morning or can be a great way to break up long periods of time sitting in front of a screen. For most people, working out in their home is not ideal but it’s an excellent time to think outside the box. Weather permitting, working out outside (sun! Fresh air!) is a great alternative to doing so in your home.
If you’re working out inside, try and create a clear workout space that gives you enough room to do all of the exercises and promotes that “workout mode” feeling. Technology has allowed for many companies and websites to record different at home workouts, yoga, pilates, and more while staying safely inside. This could be a time to pick up a new hobby that is healthy and fun.
Mentally Stimulating Activities:
The same way we need to keep training our bodies, we need to keep training our minds. Finding different activities that challenge you is a great way to do this. There are a wide variety of puzzles, games, and books that can help you accomplish this. Try creating your own word searches or crossword puzzles as a family; this can be just as challenging for the puzzle creator as the puzzle solver! In addition to playing games with people in your life, try reading the same book as a friend or family member. It is a great way to stay close with people you care about while still being safe.
Of all the times to talk about energy management, this is possibly the most important. As you’ve read, energy management comes in many different forms and can look very different from person to person. It can be very difficult to manage your energy right now so we hope you’ve found some helpful tips or ideas in this post. We encourage you to initiate or continue these conversations with your family and friends, while practicing appropriate physical distancing, throughout this pandemic and well after it ends.
CPEX would like to give its support and gratitude to all health care professionals and essential workers during this time. We look forward to getting back on the field with you all when the time is right. In the meantime, keep an eye our for next month’s blog where we will discuss how energy management transfers to the soccer field! Stay safe and stay healthy!