These days, working long hours is seen as a badge of honor. Having little time to relax has become a source of pride that people frequently refer to.

To make up for our lack of rest, we remedy our drowsiness by consuming energy drinks. We order a pizza to fix a grumbling stomach. These are quick methods that keep us going.

The problem is, they aren't sustainable in the long run. It's like treating a wound with a band-aid: it's fine for now, but something's got to be done sooner or later.

Enter the concept of energy surplus vs. deficit

Think of your energy levels like a bank account. A healthy account has a sufficient amount of funds, where more money is deposited than taken out. Run your account into the negatives, however, and you face penalties that drain your account even more. Too many lapses in payments and your account can shut down completely.

Let's refer to these account balances as energy surpluses and deficits.

Energy surpluses are actions you take that result in positive energy levels over a period of time. For instance, getting a good night's rest every day of the week will give you an energy surplus. When you're able to fall asleep quickly and enjoy a high quality level of sleep, it improves your overall health and gives you the energy needed during the daytime.

On the other hand, energy deficits are actions that result in insufficient energy levels over a period of time. Working long hours every week can drain your energy and your overall health. Besides, productivity drops off sharply after 50 hour work-weeks, making those extra hours spent working mostly ineffective.

Now, either inputting energy or spending it isn't bad in itself. But the key idea here is balance. While an energy surplus indicates that you're practicing habits that keep your well-being in check, you also want to make sure you're spending energy on the things that will help you improve in the long run.

From time to time, we need to step back and evaluate our funds.

How to figure out the amount of energy funds you have

Unfortunately, unlike a bank account, we don't have a number that shows us how well we're operating. But if we look closely, we can see signs that indicate where we're at.

Energy Surplus

  • If you wake up and look forward to your day, then you have a positive outlook, which translates to a better well-being.
  • Being able to concentrate on your daily activities means you're getting enough time to relax.
  • If you're focused on the present, as opposed to worrying about the past or future, it's a sign that you're spending your energy productively on tasks within your control.

Energy Deficit

  • Consistently eating junk food and take-out meals due to lack of spare time leads to fatigue and long-term health problems.
  • Feeling on edge and getting irritated easily are signs that some events in your life are causing high levels of mental strain.
  • Dizziness and trouble concentrating means that you probably need to get more sleep.

While we all have moments where we feel tired or stressed, having these feelings build to the point of depression or exhaustion is your body's way of telling you that you need rest.

Move your energy balance upwards

Overworking yourself doesn't make you more creative, more productive, or happier. Instead, they do the opposite.

So if you want to perform at your best, practice strategies that keep you in a positive state of mind. Here's what you can do:

  • Dump the stress out. Finding ways to offload worries that you can't do anything about can help keep you focus more on what you can control. Try breathing exercises, writing out your worries, or jotting down things you are thankful for in your life.
  • Rest. If you can't think through a problem or feel dizzy, a nap can make you feel much better and help you think more clearly afterwards. On a similar note, getting at least 8 hours' sleep a night improves your decision-making skills and concentration.
  • Exercise. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings. If you're feeling down, try taking a walk outside to boost your mood and energy levels.
  • Be selective. If there's something on your to-do list which isn't that important after all, it's okay to say "no". Saying "no" to the activities that don't push you in the right direction or aren't exciting gives you more room to focus on the activities that get you where you want to be.

We all have a limited amount of energy. What are the few things that you can and want to focus your energy on?

Published on: Jun 5, 2017
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