Boss Lady

Managing your energy in the workplace


Many of us respond to rising demands in the workplace by putting in longer hours with few recovery breaks, which can take a toll on us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. But what if there was a more efficient way to achieve your career objectives, while still having energy for family and home life?

I recently facilitated a resilience workshop for the entrepreneurs from SheStarts. SheStarts is an accelerator program run by BlueChilli that helps female business leaders grow their ideas. This workshop, which GSK Australia encourages all employees to complete, equips participants with principles and guidance to build energy and resilience.

Energy and resilience enable us to achieve balance between work and home life. Unfortunately, looking after ourselves is often overlooked when we enter a period of stress and anxiety, like when we start a new job or decide to create a start-up business.

Human energy is multi-faceted, including physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components. Recovery across all components is key to renewing and sustaining our energy. In each component, energy can be steadily expanded and replenished by developing specific practices. It’s important to mention, that each of these components are closely connected – one component cannot be affected without it impacting the others; whether it be positive or negative.

It’s all too easy to take our physical health for granted until we lose it; only then do we realise its enormous value.   To enhance physical energy, it is important to participate in regular exercise, maintain adequate sleep, and eat a healthy, nutritious diet. Fuel your day beginning with a healthy breakfast, don’t skip meals and have small healthy snacks in between. It is key to drink water throughout the day, and continue to move around to stimulate circulation. At the office, consider using “walk and talks” for one-to-one meetings, take the stairs where possible, and keep healthy snacks on hand.

Let’s face it, life can take up a lot of our emotional energy. In his book, Practicing The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle says “an emotion is the body’s reaction to the mind”.  Our emotional state has a profound effect on all areas of our lives. Our ability to establish a positive mindset is crucial to navigating life’s inevitable ups and downs.  Consider how you show up emotionally with people – at work and home?  How do your emotions influence your own perceptions and other’s perceptions of you? Are your emotions impacting other people’s days?

Mindfulness is a wonderfully simple practice that can help us to manage and replenish our emotional energy. It develops our awareness of being in the present moment, and encourages us to accept of all of our emotions and thoughts. By accepting our emotions and thoughts, we are able to stop feeling like life is a constant battle. Mindfulness teaches us to nurture and love ourselves for who we are, not what others expect us to be.  Other techniques to replenish emotional energy include daily practice of gratefulness, performing acts of kindness, journaling, and listening to music you love. Great joy and insight can be experienced by engaging with someone else in conversation, so next time you are speaking to someone, remember to listen deeply to what they are saying.

The third pillar, mental energy, includes the ability to focus, prioritise, learn, think logically and strategically, to challenge self-limiting beliefs and develop positive self-talk.  In my experience, the two most important aspects of managing our mental energy are:  the stories we tell to ourselves about ourselves that shape our view of the world; and our belief that by multi-tasking we are more efficient. Multitasking is often less helpful, as it splits our focus.  Taking your first steps to improving your mental energy might include:

Practice focusing on one thing at a time

  • Take time to plan your day
  • Strategically stop the desire to ‘fix’ things (including fixing yourself), give your mind a rest from problem-solving
  • Try not to schedule back-to-back meetings
  • Step away from your desk
  • Practice mindfulness; remember to breathe
  • Become aware of your self-talk – is it positive or negative. Consider – if you spoke to your colleagues, friends and loved ones the way you spoke to yourself, would you still be their friend?

The final component, spiritual energy, is the ability to recognise what is most important to us and live our life accordingly. To paraphrase psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, what matters is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of our life at a given moment.  Our core values form the basis of what is truly important to us, giving our life meaning and purpose. Living purposefully can inspire people to do extraordinary things. Increasing a sense of meaningfulness in life is one of the most potent–and underutilised ways of feeling fulfilled. To enhance your spiritual energy, reflect deeply on your core values and purpose. Ask yourself, do my daily actions reflect these core values and purpose?  Are my behaviours and actions the legacy I want to leave?

Recovery is required to sustain energy and stimulate growth across every component of human energy. It is the key to building and maintaining our energy and resilience. In order recover successfully, you need to identify what works for you and build a strategy around it.  Think of these techniques as a practice. When we practice we don’t have to get it perfect, it is a work in progress.  Perhaps your first step in this practice is to give yourself permission to stop in order to recover. Start by changing one thing at a time – embed it into your daily life, and then move onto the next. Finally, don’t give up. This is your own very personal experience.  What works for one person’s recovery might not work for another. For me, recovery includes spending time with those I love, walking, reading, practising mindfulness, listening to music and inspiring podcasts, watching movies, laughing and learning. If I don’t prioritise my recovery, I compromise my health and happiness.  And that’s not okay!  So map your own journey, determine what you won’t compromise and honour it.

One last thought, Mahatma Ghandi said that “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”    In the context of energy and resilience, I feel this is extremely relevant.  So, what will be your destiny?

Below are a few resources that inspire me – be open, research and choose what works for you.

Podcasts:  Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield – mindfulness inspired (and wonderful storytellers)

BooksMan’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl, The Inner Game of Tennis – Timothy Gallwey, The Power of Full Engagement – Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz, The Art of Communicating – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Wise Heart – Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry – Jack Kornfield, Mindfulness, A Practical Guide to Awakening – Joseph Goldstein

TedX:  So many available – choose anything that inspires you

About Jacqui Smith

Jacqui Smith is in GSK’s Health & Wellbeing Centre of Excellence, and is the Health and Resilience Consultant for GSK Asia Pacific / South Asia. She has 24 years of corporate experience including Sales, Learning and Development, Coaching and Health and Wellbeing.

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