Have you heard of your energy account?
Imagine you have a full bank account and you are gradually spending money from it. If you don’t have any earnings coming in, you’ll eventually end up penniless, with no means to buy anything. It’s similar with your energy balance: you use up some of your energy every day, but if you don’t draw new strength, eventually your energy reserves will be depleted and you will feel drained.
The problem is that, unlike money, we can’t count how much energy we have. So it’s entirely up to us to gauge our energy reserves and keep within our limits.
But what exactly are these limits and how do we end up exceeding them?
What are the typical reasons for feeling drained?
Feeling drained has a lot to do with our physical and mental capacities. These capacities are determined by various factors that we can actively influence. For instance, we can help our body to have ample energy reserves by keeping physically fit and eating a healthy diet, while on the mental side, we can take care of our cognitive capacities. That means making sure we have enough mental power on hand for perceiving, recognising and thinking. It’s possible for this power to become depleted, for example, because we…
- have a long to-do list at work or at home.
- are meeting a lot of different people.
- are focusing a lot of attention on the city traffic.
- find ourselves in unfamiliar surroundings.
- need to take care of small children.
- are trying to coordinate many appointments in the best way we can.
- keep dwelling over problems in our relationship or social life.
- are spending a lot of time on our mobile phones, for example on social media or messenger apps.
Any of these factors (especially in combination) can cause our cognitive capacity to become more and more depleted. If we don’t supply it with new energy, our psyche will signal this depletion with the feeling of being drained – and the desire for a break. Now, how can you prevent this from happening in the first place?
How do I keep track of my resources?
Remind yourself once more of your energy account. Just as we can check our account balance, we can also monitor our mental reserves. But how does this work exactly? We all have different signs that let us know we need to take action to recharge our batteries. These signs can show up in our thoughts, our feelings or our behaviour.
Thoughts that may appear when your energy is running low could be:
- “I need a break.”
- “It’s all too much.”
- “I’d love to just cancel tonight.”
- “I just want to go to sleep.”
- “I feel stressed.”
- “Why does everything have to be so stressful?”
There are also feelings that come up before you feel completely drained, but you might not notice them because you are so busy. For example, try paying attention to whether you feel…
- helpless or
And to take it back one more step, we often only become aware of these feelings through our behaviour. For example, we might react extremely sensitively to the words of another person. We might burst into tears for no apparent reason, have trouble listening, respond absent-mindedly, or avoid other people entirely.
To avoid becoming drained, your aim should be to notice when your energy account is first starting to run low. This is a matter of paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and behaviour throughout the day. So what can you do if you notice that your energy is running low or you already feel drained?
How can I draw new strength?
As well as gauging the balance of your energy account, it’s up to you to figure out the best way to recharge your batteries. Recovery research has revealed four key areas that play a role in recovery: relaxation, detachment, autonomy and mastery experiences.
Relaxation and detachment
Our article on becoming more relaxed deals with the first two areas: relaxation and detachment. The main idea here is to lighten the load on our cognitive capacities. For example, we relax by focusing on our breath and we try to direct our attention to the physical processes of breathing, rather than our thoughts.
Autonomy helps us to recharge our batteries, because activities we genuinely want to pursue for ourselves tend to give us more energy than they consume. That’s why, for example, it makes sense to find a career that matches our personal core values. Conversely, we should not let our leisure activities be determined too often by other people, such as our children or our partner. Instead, pay attention to what you feel like doing.
Another way to renew our energy is through mastery experiences. While spending a day on the couch can be relaxing, mastery experiences are about active recovery. We master something new, like a dance choreography, some phrases in a foreign language, a climbing wall or a piece of furniture we’ve decided to restore.
Only you can know what you need at any given moment – relaxation, detachment, mastery experiences or autonomy. Therefore, listen to yourself and try out different things. Simply by paying attention and actively taking steps to regain your strength, you can achieve a new sense of wellbeing.
Feeling drained at work
Do you feel like you’re too tired to do anything after work? Are you starting to feel indifferent towards your job? Have you been experiencing feelings of exhaustion for a long time that are affecting your performance at work?
If you are feeling drained in the context of work, you might be experiencing burnout syndrome. Again, there are psychological strategies that can help you overcome this exhaustion and return to healthier levels of performance and wellbeing. You can learn about these strategies and apply them in your daily life, for example with the help of our online course HelloBetter Stress Management. To find out more, check out our course page.