During a prolonged crisis, it feels like everything desirable is in short supply. That is especially true when it comes to the resources we rely on to restore our personal energy. Our best option, in this case, is to focus on maximizing the opportunities that we have easily available for personal restoration in times of prolonged energy drain.
Vital Step One – Recognize the Need
The combination of commitment, strength of will, and the influence of adrenaline can easily mask the depletion of our energy. We must choose to pay attention not just to the physical aspect of exhaustion, but also to the mental/emotional drain that is occurring. Awareness always precedes action.
Vital Step Two – Recognize Your Options
We often refer to the four domains of our being – physical, logical, emotional, and spiritual. The beautiful (and valuable) truth is that we can leverage increasing energy in one of those four domains to increase our energy in the other domains. It’s no secret that increasing our physical energy fuels our mental, emotional and spiritual domains. Similarly, increasing our connection with our purpose (spiritual) energizes our whole being. Obviously, that won’t substitute for lack of sleep, but it will help sustain our focus and a positive attitude while also helping us sleep better when we do get the opportunity to rest.
Below are few examples of how we can leverage each domain to increase our overall energy during times of sustained crisis. Remember that adopting even just one of the following practices may provide the additional boost of energy you need to get through your day.
The Physical Domain (Small Gifts of Energy)
There are many opportunities to insert small physical practices that will extend our energy while also benefitting our thoughts and feelings. Test several of these and see which one brings you the most benefit:
- Eat Better, slower. Make the extra effort to secure hot food, more nutritious food, or a favorite food. Then slow down, add an extra three minutes to your meal and focus on savoring each bite.
- Breathe Deeply, Being Fully Present. Make two minutes to stop, close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply enough to fill the entire space within your lungs. While doing so, imagine the extra oxygen giving extra energy to every cell of your body.
- Stand Strong and Stretch. Plant your feet, lift the top of your head as high as you can, roll your shoulders back and move your shoulder blades toward each other, then engage the muscles of your legs and abdomen. Hold this for 15 seconds, release, and repeat. Next reach both arms as high as you can, lower your arms and gently twist side to side, followed by gently bending over toward your toes (this is even more effective when combined with deep breathing.)
- Vary Your Pace. On occasion, when walking, consciously slow your pace by 10%. Treat it as a small give of gratitude for your body and your mind.
The Logical Domain (Challenging Myths)
We are all plagued by assumptions that work against our well-being. These operate silently in the back of our minds until “our false believe bumps up against a solid reality, usually on the battlefield” (George Orwell). During a crisis is the perfect time to challenge any false belief that may be robbing you of energy.
- Protect the Asset: The chief duty of the US Secret Service is to “protect the asset” e.g. the President. Similarly, your chief duty is to protect yourself because you are the source of healing for your patients and you are the one your team is counting on. False belief to challenge:The needs of patients always come before my needs.
- My Humanity is Beautiful: Our self-sacrifice, acts of compassion, and expertise are all made more beautiful within the context of our human limitations. Thankfully we are not machines. We must practice sufficient self-compassion to work within our human capacities and limitations. False beliefs to challenge: I must be perfect. I must have all the answers.
- I Am Part of a Capable Team: Failing to take care of yourself sends a strong and dangerous message to your team: “I don’t take care of myself and you should follow my example.” Believing that you cannot take even the smallest amount of time to care for yourself diminishes the value of the professionals around you. False belief to challenge: I am indispensable and cannot take time to care for my own needs.
The Emotional Domain (Find Beauty)
Like food is to our body, beauty is to our emotions. The following practices help us mine the rich opportunities around us and inside our own minds to allow what is beautiful to bring energy to our emotions.
- Look People in the Eye. Making eye contact with someone releases oxytocin, triggering feelings of connection in both parties. Appropriate, intentional, compassionate eye contact is the perfect remedy for feelings of isolation and loneliness which so easily develop during a prolonged crisis.
- Sing Silently to Yourself or Listen to Uplifting Music. During a break, while driving or walking the stairs to another floor, insert a few moments of music to energize your spirit.
- Search for and Acknowledge Acts of Kindness. Strangely, in the midst of many beautiful acts of kindness we can miss the singular beauty of each one. Pay attention, celebrate what you see, and maybe tell that person how their action fuels your energy.
- Talk Transparently with Peers. This may be the most powerful opportunity to restore your energy, but it is often the most underutilized. There is a goldmine of benefits when you know others are experiencing the same challenges as you. Don’t allow pride to stop you from initiating brief but transparent conversations with those you trust.
The Spiritual Domain (Being Fueled by Your Purpose)
Whether it be meditation, prayer, or reflection, be intentional in resetting your perspective to energize your whole being. This allows us to choose how we interpret what is going on around us, framing our circumstances as opportunities instead of threats. Here are a few life-shaping perspectives we can employ to shape how we experience each day – if we make the time to consider and choose them.
- Widely appreciated as one of the most powerful choices we can make, searching for things which make us grateful can energize every aspect of our day.
- A crisis can make us feel a loss of freedom. To push back on that feeling, choosing to view every one of our actions as an act of generosity restores our dignity and feelings of freedom.
- Celebrate your expertise and your generosity as foundations for the legacy you are building in each moment. It elevates the value of each act throughout your day and helps you rise above the annoyances and challenges of that particular day.
- Feeling confident that we are fulfilling our highest and best purpose provides incredible endurance. It moves us to remember to “protect the asset” because that is needed for us to perform up to our best for the weeks and months to come.
Remember, simply choosing to practice even one of the items on the above list has the potential to restore energy in the most challenging days.