Do you often feel depleted of all energy, even after a good night’s sleep? Are there days when you just feel flat and joyless? Chances are you’re suffering from emotional fatigue – and in our frenetic always-on society you’re not alone. The great news is you can refill your emotional energy tank by getting into a new habit of self-care and seeking out people and activities that make you happy.
1. Do more of what you want
Carve out satisfying moments in your day that give you real pleasure, like sitting peacefully in the sun on your lunch break or finishing your favourite writer’s latest novel on the bus. Work out what makes you really happy and keeps you emotionally nourished – and keep doing it.
2. Plan occasional treats
Having a treat to look forward to, whether a holiday you’ve booked, a weekend walk with friends or simply a tranquil bath, is a great way to keep your emotional energy tank revved.
3. You don’t always have to say yes
Do you have that constant sense of frustration and a little voice in your head saying ‘why am I the one who has to do this?’ The truth is, you rarely have to do the things you think you do. The greatest emotional drain is depriving yourself of fun, while feeling emotionally exhausted by all the responsibilities and calls on your time and energy.
If it’s not giving you pleasure or satisfaction, just stop doing it or do it differently. If popping round to your parents is turning into a duty call, suggest going out for a pub lunch instead. Divvy up the housework instead of playing the martyr game and give yourself more time for self-care. If you’ve had a long week at work, you really don’t have to say yes to manning the tombola stall at the jumble sale for the whole afternoon. One hour, that’s a possible yes. Any more, no.
4. When was the last time you really laughed?
Not a wry smile at something on the TV but a stomach-clutching, wiping away tears fit of the giggles? Seek out those times, whether it’s arranging a night out to a comedy club or just meeting up with an old friend you don’t see enough of who makes you laugh. Rediscover your inner child by doing something physical and silly like running down a hill shrieking, skating or going trampolining.
5. Extricate yourself from toxic friendships
We all have them, those people we see out of duty or habit, rather than genuine excitement. But worse, are the ones who actually seem to have the power to make us feel negative about ourselves and exhausted in their company.
6. But do spend time with people whose company you enjoy
One of the best ways you can fill up your emotional energy reservoirs is by spending time with people who are upbeat, glass-half-full, interested, compassionate and full of joy. These are the people who bring out the best in you.
7. Stop comparing yourself and your life to others
Envy is a powerful emotional drain – and utterly pointless. Try to actively feel grateful for what you do have, rather than always craving what you don’t have.
“We are often so busy being hard on ourselves that we forget to acknowledge what we have achieved. Keep a gratitude journal by your bed to record all the good stuff,” suggest Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton, co-authors of a new book called Physical Intelligence which aims to “harness your body’s untapped intelligence to achieve more, stress less and live more happily”.
8. Start the day well
“Leave your phone on airplane mode for the first hour of the day. Try it. It’s magic,” says health coach Olly Leicester. “And use this time to curate your body and mind into a positive state. Meditate, exercise, hydrate, read an uplifting book. Do what it takes to prime your body and mind to be how you’d like to be for the rest of the day. You’ll be more resilient in dealing with life’s inevitable challenges when you start your day this way (rather than reacting to emails, social media, mainstream news headlines that kick you into a fearful and negative state).”
9. Realise prioritising yourself is not ‘being selfish’
If you’re emotionally drained, you’re not giving your friends, family and work your best self. If you prioritise self-care, you’ll be in a better position to help others in your life. Everyone wins.
10. Try 10 minutes of meditation every day
A simple quick meditation can make you feel more positive. “A meditation practice is like making your bed in the morning,” says motivational speaker and wellness expert Jody Shield. “You know you should do it as it’ll kick-start your day, organise your mind, and make you feel well and happy. Instead, you wake up late, dash into the shower and forget so your bed remains messy.
“Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. There’s your way, and that’s the best way. It’s a practice, so it’s something you get better at the more you do it.
“Allow yourself to go to a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit down, close your eyes and place your hand over the centre of your chest. Take a nice deep breath into your chest and observe how the hand rises and space is created inside you. As you breathe out, notice how the hand falls and your body folds and softens. Stay like this for a few minutes, and as other thoughts come into your head, see them, observe them and notice them but let them pass gently by without engaging with them. Remember, don’t judge yourself if you lose focus. Do this for 10 minutes each morning for a week and notice how you feel in yourself. I guarantee you’ll see a difference.”
11. Reframe ‘should’ to ‘I’m looking forward to…’
You still have to get up in the morning, go to work, sit in some meetings or whatever your daily work holds. But within that broad framework of your life, you can do two things to stop the emotional drain: create pockets of freedom and fun like stopping on the way to work for a coffee in the sun, rather than queuing to go, and, secondly, take back control of your day. If you feel over-committed and exhausted just thinking about the day ahead, you can make practical changes. Does that meeting have to be a scheduled one hour or could it be a five minute desk chat instead?
12. Stop worrying and take action
Worrying never solves anything. It’s just a negative emotion that gnaws away at you. Action is the best cure for worry. Rather than tossing and turning all night, get up and write a to-do list. Try to dial down the ‘what ifs’ and feel happier in the present. And if the same things are constantly guilting you on your list, that’s a sign you don’t want to do them. So just don’t.