Creating energy rituals frees up precious time for productivity, creativity and community by reducing decision overload. (Image: Vega)
This post was originally written for Vega (myvega.com).
Happiness guru Catherine Roscoe Barr shares simple tips for streamlining your daily routine
Energy is a limited resource. Wasting energy cuts into your achievements and aspirations, and as a result, wasting energy creates stress.
As a happiness expert and wellness coach, I teach people how to reduce their stress and get the most out of this one-and-only amazing life. Managing your energy is a great place to start.
The Life Delicious
In 2009, I created my company, The Life Delicious, as an outlet to teach others what I know about happiness, through my work as a writer, speaker and wellness coach.
The Life Delicious stands on three pillars, The Trifecta of Wellness:
- stress management
I found stress management to be the missing link from the exercise and nutrition gospel I preached as a fitness professional. I believe that overall health starts with mental health, and stress management is vital for mental health.
When I began thinking about managing energy, I came across The Energy Project, whose CEO and founder, author Tony Schwartz, created the concept of energy rituals: “highly specific behaviours done at precise times.”
I've taken this concept and applied it to the Trifecta of Wellness, creating energy rituals for stress management, exercise and nutrition.
The Organized Mind
Creating energy rituals frees up precious time for productivity, creativity and community by reducing decision overload.
“Neuroscientists have discovered that unproductivity and loss of drive can result from decision overload,” says neuroscientist, musician and author Daniel Levitin in The Organized Mind. “It’s as though our brains are configured to make a certain number of decisions per day and once we reach that limit, we can’t make any more, regardless of how important they are.”
By creating energy rituals, you’re making important, self-nurturing decisions ahead of time and freeing up mental energy for productivity, creativity and community.
Energy Action Plan
Let’s take a closer look at four different areas of stress – mental, physical, chemical and electromagnetic – so you can create a personal stress management energy action plan.
- Mental stress
Mental stress is insidious. It’s easy to slip into patterns of negative thinking and difficult to realize what an enormous impact it’s having your life. Our brains have a negativity bias – a penchant to scan the world for danger – which served us well when we were on the lookout for saber-toothed tigers and caveman foes, but less so now that many of our foes are less dangerous and even imaginary: a stranger jumping the queue, an insensitive colleague, a perceived disagreement with a loved one, or thinking that you have bad luck.
The good news is that it’s possible to reduce mental stress by overcoming our negativity bias and re-wiring (or re-training) our brain to scan the world for the positive.
- Set aside 1 minute each day to write down, or at least think of, 3 or more things that you’re grateful for and/or positive experiences that you’ve had that day. This re-wires your brain to scan the world for the positive, and reduces mental stress.
- Set aside 5-10 minutes each day to sit in a quiet spot and focus on your breath going in and out, your torso expanding and contracting. Every time you have a thought, acknowledge it, let it go, and return to focusing on your breath. This teaches your brain to be mindful of the thoughts that are entering your mind.
- Physical stress
Our bodies are meant to move and a sedentary lifestyle can cause both mental and physical stress. Physical activity produces feel-good chemicals, like endorphins, and keeps our bones, joints and muscles strong and functioning properly. Exercise – physical stress – is necessary for metabolism, muscle growth and maintenance, but must be balanced with periods of rest and renewal. On the other side of the coin, too much exercise, too often, too intensely can put you at risk for injury and push your total stress load over the edge if you’re already struggling with high levels of stress in other areas of your life. Listen to your body, pay close attention to proper form, and balance a physically active lifestyle and active recovery (like gentle yoga or low-impact swimming), with those high intensity workouts.
- Start an anti-sedentary revolution! Since you’re likely at a desk for your job, schedule your day into alternating sedentary and active blocks, so you’re never sitting or standing still for more than an hour at a time.
- Schedule a workout, even a mini 10-15 minute workout, at least 5 days per week, alternating strength training, cardio and flexibility for a balance of physical fitness.
- Chemical stress
Vega creator, Ironman, and author of the Thrive book series, Brendan Brazier, says that over 40-percent of the average person’s stress comes from nutritional stress – i.e. consuming too much empty-calorie food and not enough nutrient-dense food.
- Fuel your body and mind with fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds – and look for local, organic options when possible
- Cut out, or drastically reduce, processed and packaged foods
- Electromagnetic stress
Electromagnetic stress, especially in the form of screen time – TV, computer or hand-held device – can disrupt your sleep, by raising cortisol levels and reducing melatonin production, which prevents your body from properly performing its nightly regime of renewal and repair.
- Stay away from screens for at least an hour before bedtime – read, journal, meditate or have some fun between the sheets instead
- Dim your lights or use candlelight for at least an hour before bedtime to promote melatonin production and optimize your sleep
Free up precious time for productivity, creativity and community by creating energy rituals to address mental, physical, chemical and electromagnetic stress on a daily basis – let me know about your success!