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So what does this whole idea of energy management mean? Our energy (our battery) is our most important resource. You would think such a vital resource would be used wisely, but we often waste or deplete our energy by focusing it on the wrong things. It is not uncommon in today’s society to work long hours or to be expected to be “on” all the time. Think about how this makes you feel when you get home. Do you have the energy to engage with your family or friends? Another great example of wasted energy is traffic. How do you feel when you get home after a long commute made longer by that fender bender on the side of the highway? I am sure exhausted and frustrated.  What you need to come to terms with is the fact that you cannot control the traffic. If it is out of your control, then there is no point in wasting energy getting mad at the backup.

I recently read an article from the Harvard Business Review that really put the concept of energy management into perspective. The article stated that, “the core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is a different story.” When we continue to try to perform at a high level all the time but do not build in time for recovery, it is not sustainable. To recharge you need to be able to recognize the costs of energy-depleting behaviors and shift gears. Although everyone manages their energy in different ways, I have listed three tips to help you better manage your energy at work.

Building these small rituals into your everyday routine should help you focus your energy on what really matters most:

1. Get up and Move

I am sure this is nothing new but getting up and incorporating movement into your work day, or simply any day, can help your overall energy production. You may roll your eyes and think, “I don’t have time for breaks,” but this work ethic may actually be working against you. In fact, it is scientifically proven that periodic breaks boost focus and productivity. When you are sitting at work, reading through what seems like countless emails, you are complacent. Sitting for long periods of time can impair blood circulation and can lead to a decrease in metabolism. In addition, this can lead to several other health risks and leave you feeling downright grumpy. Think about how you feel as you sit through one of those 4 hour team meetings? After about 90 minutes are you still feeling innovative and focused? Probably not… On the other hand, getting up and incorporating some sort of movement into your day can have the opposite effect on your body. The results include increased blood flow, circulation, cognitive function, and overall energy. Think about how you feel after a short walk or run? That short bout of exercise and movement will leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready to re-focus.

A good rule of thumb is to get up and move every 90-120 minutes. Although you may not be able to go for a long walk on every break, you can also incorporate and try different types of movement to recharge. On days when it’s rainy or cold, I would recommend trying a few desk stretches or taking a lap around the inside of your building. Any movement is good movement.

 

2. Eat Strategically

Have you ever gone out for a team lunch and come back to work feeling sluggish. Maybe ready for a nap? I like to describe this as a small food coma. We have all been there. Nutrition plays a critical role in your health and managing your energy. Different foods are converted in to energy at different rates. For example, foods high in simple sugars, such as that candy or cake that were left in the breakroom, are converted into energy very quickly which causes the body to release insulin. That all too familiar sugar rush is typically accompanied by that all too familiar sugar crash. On the opposite end, eating a large meal can burden the digestive system. This may cause bloating and lower energy levels while the body focuses on digesting. The best rule of thumb is to eat light and eat often. Eating strategically helps:

  • fuel a healthy metabolism,
  • reduce the chances of overeating or unwise snacking,
  • provide the nutrients your body needs, and
  • keep energy levels stable.

When it comes to eating, often it’s recommended that you eat every 3-4 hours. When it comes to eating light, it is recommended you eat to about a 5-6 level on a scale of 0-10 (where 0 is starving and 10 is overly full).

 

3. Get Better ZZZZ’s

Did you know that lack of sleep affects the body the same way drinking alcohol does? That’s right, a recent sleep study [1] found that moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication. After 17 to 19 hours without sleep, performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. After longer periods without sleep, performance reached levels equivalent to a BAC of 0.1 percent. When it comes to sleep, it seems like most of us don’t get enough of it. Although there are few Wellness programs geared toward improving our sleep habits, it is definitely something that we all need to consider. Sleep rejuvenates the body and is a critical factor in your health and energy levels. Below are a few pointers on how to get better sleep:

  • Create a bedtime ritual- Going to bed and waking up at the same time helps your body get into a set routine.
  • Exercise- The quality of your sleep can be improved by getting some exercise in throughout the day. Just make sure to not exercise to close to bedtime.
  • Power Down- Try turning off your TV or shutting off your phone at least 30 minutes before bed. The light emitted from electronics can make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
  • Nix Caffeine-Caffeine is a great stimulant in the morning when you need a little boost but it is best to stop drinking it after mid-day.
  • Forgo Naps- As much as I love a good nap, try to avoid long naps throughout the day as it will cause difficulty when you try and sleep at night. If you are going to nap, try and keep it to 20 minutes or less.
  • Create a soothing environment- Keep your bedroom cool, lower the lights, and try using a sound machine or white noise app to create a soothing and relaxing sleeping environment.  

 

These concepts were taken from the Corporate Athlete Training.

Megan McCurdy

About Megan McCurdy

Megan McCurdy is the Wellness Coordinator at BCBSNC where she is responsible for the planning and administration of programs to promote employee health and wellbeing. She graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Health Promotion and a minor in nutrition.