Let’s talk about low-energy days.
You know what happens. They have dips in energy, anywhere from feeling a little blah or under the weather, to actual mental fuzziness and blanking out on important stuff.
Often these dips manifest as the flickering attention or fractured focus we get in the afternoon — usually after we tried to get by on caffeine-drips and convenience food eaten desk-side earlier in the day just so we could cram in all the stuff on our to-do lists.
Low energy manifests in many ways.
Physically, when it comes to posture we can revert to a certain ‘slackness’: slumping or slouching. There’s a sense of fatigue, listlessness and generally feeling “off.”
Mentally, low energy affects how you think: like experiencing the inability to focus, or to hold a coherent and cohesive working idea for a sustained period. You skip from idea to idea without settling on what’s important. Thoughts slip out of focus. The more you try the harder it gets, like trying to hold on to water –or nailing jello to the wall. You can’t concentrate for all the ‘static’ going on in your head.
Low energy can result in slowed reaction times and less comprehension. It isn’t a coincidence that accidents happen a lot more when people are tired, and that we make more mistakes as well.
These dips and slumps in our energy levels can come up like a sudden squall, leaving you feeling like a puppet whose strings have just been slashed. They can slowly creep in and envelop you without you noticing until it’s too late, you’re already foggy and can’t decide what to do first, or next, or at all.
For example: You made plans last night, prepping for today. The list is right there in front of you, but your energy level is somewhere around your knees, your mind feels like sludge, and somehow your give-a-damn’s malfunctioned while you slept and right now, sitting at your desk and looking at what you need to do today, you just can’t care. You’re barely there.
What can you do?
When the issue is immediate:
Physically it could be due to low oxygen – you may have been slouching in your seat for quite some time, and the way you sit left little room for your lungs to fully expand as you breathed, thus limiting the air your really get into your lungs.
Shallow breathing can limit the oxygenation you do, and that’s something which can leave you with a ‘sleepy brain.’ So get out of your seat and move around. A few squats or wall-push-ups while taking deep, slow breathes to really get your blood flushed and your heart pumping oxygen around can wake you up.
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You may actually be getting sick. Are you pre-symptomatic? Do you feel you’re coming down with something?
Rest before you break down further. Feeling bad may be ‘nothing’– or it could be something. Scratchy throat, dry, sandy-feeling eyes, a sense that you’re running hotter than normal…these things may be indications that your body’s going out of whack soon, so you better pay attention.
It’s human nature to avoid unpleasant things, but ignoring warning signs applies to bodies as well as to equipment. You run out of gas, you’re likely to get stuck at a place you don’t want to be in. Ignoring physical symptoms is like ignoring a hairline fracture — with rest and proper care, it will mend. Without rest and treatment, it could worsen, or even break. Don’t let things deteriorate further.
Maybe it’s low blood sugar. Don’t laugh, there are a myriad of physical conditions that contribute to low-energy, and low blood sugar’s the easiest to think of.
You’ve probably heard of sugar-crashes and the ‘hangries’ (hungry and angry) where hungry people tend to exhibit signs of irritability and testiness, right? Go for non-sugary foods (don’t counter a sugar-crash with a sugar high, you’ll keep the cycle going), here’s a list of low-glycemic foods which can help keep you a bit more stable in the sugar department.
When you’ve dealt with the immediate slump you need to think about the future. It happened before, it just happened, it will happen again — unless you’re willing to change some critical habits, you’ll just keep on paying the price over and over. You can’t be healthy is you don’t safeguard yourself and your energy.
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Maybe (probably) you had too little sleep the day before.
Sleeplessness is not a badge of honor. It isn’t really something to brag about. “Hey, I stressed my adrenal glands all week and threw my hormones out of what with just 4 hours of sleep a night. I’m awesome!”
No. Sleep debt is real. Witness the number of road accidents caused by people nodding off at the wheel. Pay attention to how you sleep.
When your energy’s down, everything else becomes a matter of priorities. Too many demands poke holes in your focus, which doesn’t help your pureed attention span. In desperate times you can fuel yourself on caffeine, sudden bursts of manic activity, and energy drinks but that’s not a sustainable solution.
For emergencies, however:
- Attend to the issues that don’t take up much brainpower. Get the momentum going
- Hit the bigger deals when you’re up and running.
- It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be done
In the future, consider this: There is a cost to all that we do. Opportunity costs, labor, time, attention, energy, etc.
When you slip into a low energy day, what is your overarching goal? Use your low reserves to take care of the essential things and pour it into high value, low-volume acts.
Then, when the slump passes, take care of yourself and prepare lighter workloads for the next time it happens. Good prep makes the workload easier to bear.
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