These days, working long hours is seen as a badge of honor.
Having little time to relax has become a source of pride that people frequently refer to when discussing work. You might hear about a hospital worker enduring 36-hour shifts, start-ups that use all-nighters to get ahead, or a company employee who burns the midnight oil to stay competitive.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” seems to be the popular rallying cry of today.
A lot of the remedies we use to counteract low energy are immediate and have a short-term effect. For instance, a grueling week’s work is remedied by downing energy drinks to stay afloat. A grumbling stomach is fixed by ordering a cheesy pizza dinner.
These are quick methods that keep us going through long hours. The problem is, they aren’t sustainable in the long run. It’s like treating a wound with a band-aid: it’s fine for now, but something’s got to be done about it sooner or later.
Think of your energy levels like a bank account. A healthy account has a sufficient amount of funds, where more money is deposited than taken out. Run your account into the negatives, however, and you face penalties that drain your account even more. Too many lapses in payments and your account can shut down completely.
Let’s refer to these account balances as energy surpluses and deficits.
Energy surpluses are actions you take that result in positive energy levels over a period of time.
For instance, getting a good night’s rest every day of the week will give you an energy surplus. When you’re able to fall asleep quickly and enjoy a high quality level of sleep, it improves your overall health and gives you the energy needed during the daytime.
On the other hand, energy deficits are actions that result in insufficient energy levels over a period of time.
Working long hours every week can drain your energy and your overall health, as is the case of numerous stage performers who get carted to the hospital due to exhaustion. Besides, productivity drops off sharply after 50 hour work-weeks, making those extra hours spent working mostly ineffective.
Energy deficits can also be caused mentally from feelings such as stress and worry. Bad moods and anxiety drain our ability to focus on activities and can even trigger physical pain, such as heartburn and stomachaches.
Now, either inputting energy or spending it isn’t bad in itself. Both are necessary to function on an everyday basis and make progress in life.
But the key idea here is balance. While an energy surplus indicates that you’re practicing habits that keep your well-being in check, you also want to make sure you’re spending energy on the things that will help you improve in the long run.
Moving towards an increasing energy deficit, though, means you’re setting yourself up to possibly crash. Your health is taking a toll from thinking and working too much, without getting enough replenishment to make up for it.
From time to time, we need to step back and evaluate our funds.
Unfortunately, unlike a bank account, we don’t have a number that shows us how well we’re operating. But if we look closely, we can see signs that indicate where we’re at.
While we all have moments where we feel tired or stressed, having these feelings build to the point of depression or exhaustion is your body’s way of telling you that your energy bank account is in need of replenishment.
Overworking yourself and constantly stressing doesn’t make you more creative, more productive, or happier. Instead, they do the opposite.
So if you want to perform at your best, practice strategies that keep you in a positive state of mind and enable you to stay in control of what’s happening.
Here’s what you can do:
Release those thoughts and activities that you feel obligated to hold onto “just because.” There’s no need to feel guilty or irresponsible.
We all have limited energy and unlimited things we can do. The question is: What are the few things that you can and want to focus your energy on?
Originally published at medium.com
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