Everything in life is a balancing act between the energy we have and the energy we spend. At work, we often get in the habit of thinking that energy is
an inexhaustible resource. We think that no matter how many hours we spend on the job, how much lack of sleep or poor nutrition, our bodies will keep
giving more to us.
After all, we’re still plugging along right? Maybe, but not for long.
Energy imbalance, both mental and physical, shows these tell-tale signs in our bodies. We notice the afternoon slump at work, the lack of mental clarity, the migraines, irritability, crashing blood sugar, or lack of ability to manage our emotions.
Are you currently experiencing any of these?
Until I started observing these tell-tale signs of an energy crisis in my own life, I had a hard time picking up on their cues in other people. I just assumed that someone was having a bad day or that I caught them at the wrong time when they snapped or seemed overwhelmed. But chronic fatigue is a huge problem in every workplace, and it’s important that we recognize its presence in our lives by taking inventory of our baseline energy levels while at work.
In early 2006, a global consultancy firm called “The Energy Project” surveyed a small sample of 106 employees in the banking sector asking them a total of 16 questions to measure their energy levels while at work. (You can go and take the quiz yourself to see where you stand.)
Marking “True” for eight or more of the provided 16 questions indicates a “full-fledged energy crisis” according to the firm. If you’re experiencing a shortage of time to spend with friends or family, struggling to find gratitude for the good things in life, skipping nourishing meals and exercise, or have your phone glued to your palm for work reasons, chances are, you’re already experiencing an energy crisis.
I mention this not to discourage you that yet another thing in your life has fallen off the wagon, but to remind you that this is the perfect time to take a step back from your work to replenish your energy storehouse for the remaining year.
It’s crazy how little we stop to analyze how we are doing in this area of life, but I do understand how it happens. Leaders are the most vulnerable to burnout because we feel the weight of the company’s future on our shoulders. People look up to us for our work ethic, our reliability, and mistakenly think that we always have the right answers. This can put a lot of undue pressure on leaders to keep up appearances, even while they might feel as if they are drowning.
I give you the permission you need today to take a break.
And not just a 15-minute break, but a real, sustained rest. Dip into that vacation bank at work. Call your significant other and tell them you want to take that trip you’ve been thinking about. Consider hiring a professional coach to get your overall wellness back on track. Seek out a mentor who is able to hold you accountable to taking the rest you need. We talk about reaching our professional goals as leaders all the time, but no one talks about having goals for rest. In fact, I know it is not a goal for most leaders, because of the deep sighs I usually encounter when I bring up the topic.
“Rest? That sounds nice, but not for me. I can deal with the pressure. I can handle it. After all, that’s why I’m the one in charge, right?”
But you can have a choice in the timing of rest or your burnout will choose it for you. More than likely, it will come at a highly inconvenient time if you wait for your body to tell you when enough is enough. It will tax your bank account with medical expenses, your primary relationships, and maybe even your long-term health before you heed its warnings. As I always tell my clients—it’s better to choose when you would like to take a break than to have it chosen for you.
You can choose how and when you’d like to press the reset button. You can bring intention, purpose, and meaning to it so that your energy levels are adequately replenished and you return to work able to accomplish two-fold what you did before.
Or, you can carry on as you have before. Maybe you don’t notice an immediate difference. You think you can keep it up until fatigue finally gets the best of you. Maybe it’s an illness that keeps plaguing you, or your body just doesn’t want to wake you up in the morning or relax to fall asleep at night. Your brain seems foggy when you try to focus on one thing at work. Eye strain triggers regular migraines that interrupt your meetings or ability to look at a screen.
There are a lot of ways our bodies try and tell us “enough!” but we need to heed the warnings before the symptoms show up. Take some time right now, even if it’s just for five minutes, to consider what rest really looks like for you.
What are you doing when you’re at rest?
Write out what that looks like to you. What kind of food are you eating? Where are you physically in that state of relaxation? On a lounge chair in your backyard? A cabin in the woods solo? What kind of music is playing? What does your day look like, and who is there?
List the activities you desire in your downtime. Maybe there’s a creative project that’s simmering in the background of all your work, or a skill you’ve been longing to focus on now that you have time.
Bring these things to mind and include them in your “ideal day.” Now it’s time to consider how you’re going to make your “great escape” from your overloaded schedule. Just saying these words alone can strike fear or doubt in your heart. You may be having thoughts like: “This is not an option for me” or “This is the wrong time for a break.”
I want to assure you that now in fact, is the perfect time, especially if your energy score indicates that you are in “full-fledged energy crisis.”
There will never be a future for the professional goals you long to fulfill if you are not able to show up for them because your physical, emotional, or mental health prevented you from doing so. Take a rest now and don’t put it off for later.
To your excellence in taking that long-desired break,