We all know how important it is to eat right, exercise, sleep well and balance work with relaxation. One thing we don't often talk about is why all that is so very important, but it's all about protecting your mental energy. You can be in the best shape of your life, but if something (or someone) is draining you mentally, you're going to feel terrible.
That job you thought you'd love? It looks good on paper, but the office is a gossip-laden mine field, and you dread going in. That "friend" you've had forever? She does nothing but complain about life, and makes sneaky little comments that have you questioning yours. You leave every hangout feeling exhausted.
That job is bad for you, and so is the friend who isn't really your friend. To really be living your best life, you need to know how to protect your energy from their negativity.
Stressed? Know the signs, so you can chill out better and faster. Irritability, tension headache, feeling out of sorts or just not like yourself are all signs of stress lurking somewhere in the background. We all deal with so much during the day that it's easy to stop paying attention to these signs, but it's such an important thing to do. You're not a machine. Things upset you. Cultivating an awareness of your emotions is the first step to protecting your energy, not wasting it on stress.
Learn to say that doesn't work for me, maybe some other time, no thanks. Drawing a line beyond which you simply can't extend yourself is a powerful protective measure that lets you husband your energy, and keeps the draining influences of other people's demands at a distance. Don't feel bad for saying no. Your needs are just as important as the next person's.
This is all about policing your thoughts and intentions. We are what we think we are, so when you constantly focus on how stressed or tired your are, how busy this awful day is, then stressed, tired and busy are all you'll be. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what you're thinking and how you're talking to yourself, as well as how the attitudes of those around you affect you. When you achieve this awareness, tuning into positivity, and away from negativity (inside and out), becomes so much easier.
Then close your eyes and go there in your mind. No joke! Visualizing a place you love, where you feel safe and calm, is a strong tool to use when it comes to protecting your energy. Maybe you think of your bed, all cozy and piled with comfy blankets. Maybe it's that trail you love to hike. Taking one full minute to sit with your eyes closed, breathing deeply, imagining that space in as much sensory detail as possible, recharges your battery like you won't believe.
Does too much stress make you anxious? Of course it does. Protect your energy from the wasting effects of both anxiety and stress by learning, and working with, your triggers. If deadlines make you curl into the fetal position, learn to become a maven of organization. Social nerves? Limit your encounters to ones you find actually enjoyable, rather than those you feel pressured to attend. Again, there is such power in saying no, no thank you, pass.
Create a soothing home full of textures, colors and scents that you love. Designate areas just for your favorite activities, and dedicate time for doing those things you love. Cooking, crafting, learning: whatever your hobbies or interests, take time to indulge in them. Knowing you have a lovely space to return to at the end of a hectic day will offset a lot of stress and negative energy. It can even be the happy place you take a time out to visualize.
De-cluttering your zones at home, at work and in your head is a powerful way to protect your energy. Maintaining a solid, grounded mental state is difficult when you're hemmed in on all sides by physical and emotional stuff. That kind of environment lends itself more to disorder, chaos and stress.
Clear the dross. Get rid of things (and, yes, also people) that just aren't doing you any good. From old clothes you'll never wear again to anxiety-inducing social media you follow and especially to toxic people: donate, un-follow, un-friend. Difficult? Sometimes. But also totally worth it.
Dealing with a person or situation that feels unhealthy? Protect your energy by listening to your instincts. You'll learn who or what isn't good for you by how you feel after dealing with them. If they leave you feeling drained or just distracted and a little overwhelmed, there's a reason for that. Pay attention and limit your exposure to anything and anyone that causes you to feel off.
Go toward people, groups and activities that make you feel good. Just as someone draining you negatively affects your energy, so being around happy people that make you feel comfortable will have a positive effect.
At work, this can mean seeking out coworkers whose vibes you really like and finding ways to spend more time together. Coordinate lunch or coffee breaks, after-work drinks or even a weekend hangout. Tuning in to folks who leave you feeling energized makes it that much easier to protect yourself from the influences of those who don't.
When it comes to protecting yourself from negative energy, creating a barrier is a super useful practice. Much the same as thinking about your happy place, doing this taps into the power of visualization. Take a breath, close your eyes and surround yourself with a soft white positive light. Think of it as a protective bubble, a force field or some good old fashioned light therapy. Whatever you call it, it's a solid way to block out negative vibes.
The fact is, you feel drained because you allowed someone or something to take all that happy healthy energy from you. When it comes to saying no and setting boundaries, you have to want to do so. Not because you know you should, but because you understand the benefits of protecting and feeding your own energy, as well as the consequences of always feeding someone else's. A difficult idea to put into practice for a lot of us, since we tend to want to help our coworkers, friends and family more than ourselves. But that old adage is true: you have to love yourself, first. You have to really want to.
How much energy do you waste reacting to negative influences, throwing it away on things that just don't matter? Be honest with yourself about just how much you obsess over that perfectly Instagrammed life, or how easily you're drawn into an argument over some gossip. Your ego is at work any time you react to toxic energy, worry about looking as good as someone else or try to "fix" someone's opinion of you. Before you react, pause. Don't let your ego run your mouth or wast your energy. Ask yourself, first, if this issue is even worth your valuable energy. Chances are, it isn't.
Protecting your energy is crucial to your mental and physical health because it is the ultimate determinant of your overall happiness. We give a lot of ourselves away every day, at work, to our friends, our loved ones. We need to recognize that our needs are just as important as everyone else's. Protect your energy. Give yourself the gift of a truly healthy head space.
Heather Adams is a creative content & copy writer specializing in business storytelling.