As an Executive Coach, an all too common complaint I hear from people in the workplace sounds like this: “I wish there were more hours in the day” or “My life is one, non-stop meeting”. Statements like “I’m barely keeping my head above water” are sadly all too common.
Most leaders live their lives reacting to a blur of email, chat messages, social media messages, and approval requests. The wheel of burnout keeps spinning. Our phones rarely turn off. We don’t know how to rest because it’s not part of our professional culture as Americans.
Consider this finding by Dr. Michael Marmot’s team at the University College London School of Medicine that despite spending 2.5 times more on our health care, Americans are less healthy than their British counterparts. We are more prone to high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, and cancer. What does this say about us? We are stressed out of our minds.
Americans have secured the corner of the marketplace on burnout. But what are the sources of this burnout zapping our energy? Here are seven big ones to combat in the workplace.
1. Poor Nutrition
How you eat correlates with how you feel. Period. Think about energy as a bank account, and nutritionally deficient junk food as a frivolous purchase. If you are constantly making impulse purchases, you will achieve momentary satisfaction, but not longevity in the energy department. Resist the momentary sugar rush. Plan ahead, order a meal kit service if that’s what helps you eat a greater variety of healthy ingredients. Dianna and I use Blue Apron for three meals a week and really enjoy the fresh food variety. Ensure there are oranges, veggie snacks, and other high-fiber treats stashed at the office when you get that 2pm craving for a cookie. Notice your triggers and maybe go for a walk when you’re feeling stressed instead of reaching for a candy bar.
2. Overexertion (Not enough breaks)
The brain, like a muscle, needs time to store away knowledge and to rest. The brain as an organ uses an enormous amount of energy. It works overtime to provide us with the mental computing power and memory storage we need to be successful. However, as amazing as the brain is, it is not limitless in its energy supply (i.e. We need breaks). More than likely you’re not giving your brain enough breaks at work.
The New York Times cites a study that over a third of employees make it a regular habit of eating lunch at their desks. If you want to be the most productive, you need to take time away from your desk. Ten or fifteen minutes can give you enough of a refresher to come back recharged. Overexertion, many times, comes from a desire to be highly productive. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we can let it drive us into the ground if we’re not careful. Set alerts on your phone every 90 minutes for a small break. It will make all the difference.
Does espresso perk you up and then let you down equally fast? If this is a common occurrence then chances are, you are dehydrated. Coffee strips the body of key nutrients and drops energy levels back to where they were before. Roughly 60 percent of our bodies are water. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your morning coffee, be careful to supplement with vitamin rich beverages and hydrating snacks that will help boost your body’s nutrient levels and replenish your electrolytes to prevent dehydration headaches.
4. Inconsistent Sleep Patterns
Getting a full eight hours of rest is all about schedule and discipline. Short, inconsistent intervals of rest can send our moods and productivity levels careening into a concrete wall of fatigue. Lack of good sleep can contribute to the breakdown of collagen in your skin, high blood pressure, forgetfulness, and the overproduction of cortisol in the body contributes to weight gain. Moral of the story: be the guardian of your sleep schedule. Consider using a health app to track when you go to bed and when you wake. Enjoy a short nap. You will be surprised at how few more hours of shuteye make a big difference.
5. Toxic Relationships
People who spew negativity, incite drama, or pick fights with others are bound to be a workplace distraction and source of strife. Distance yourself from these individuals as much as possible. If they work in the next cube over, invest in some noise cancelling headphones or find another quiet corner in the office where you can escape the negative energy they spin. It may be that you will have to consult a manager or human resources if it means getting some peace in your workspace. Work is draining enough without the added stress of someone polluting your environment with unnecessary drama.
Marie Kondo’s New York Times bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” teaches that clutter brings a chaotic sense of energy to a room. Anything from loud print messaging of a poster to disheveled stacks of paper or dirty dishes can create a cluttered environment. Avoid this scenario by cleaning up for clear thinking. Enjoy purging items that are crowding your workspace so you can streamline every ounce of your mental energy.
A combination of all the above can contribute to overstimulation, particularly lack of sleep or too much caffeine. Being overstimulated triggers anxiety and the onset of stress. Consider how noise is affecting your work environment. Is your focus trying to compete with a high-tempo song blaring through your headphones? If this is the case, turn it off. People do not often consider noise as a polluter of focus or environment, but it absolutely is. Persistent noise can contribute as a stress factor and should be examined before plugging those earbuds in and hitting your Spotify playlist.
By confronting these sources of energy drain, you can make the most of your natural energy sources without propping yourself up with caffeine like a zombie. You can begin to experience the reward of a hard day’s work without getting overzealous and burning yourself out prematurely.
Let’s all purpose to eliminate the energy drains in our life and operate each day at our peak performance.
To greater energy in our lives,