Leadership advice for when you’re running on empty

I’m having one of those low energy days. It doesn’t seem to happen very often for me, as I have a lot of Driver energy. But it’s easy to spot the cyclical nature of my energy patterns when I’m reaching one of those low points. The blahs creep in, I feel a sort of sadness overhanging everything, my motivation starts to slip and I find faults in my relationships with others. Boy, do I ever hate this mode. I much prefer my high-energy days where I can run circles around everyone, pump out the work, and stay upbeat and positive (almost to the point of driving everyone crazy :-).

It’s easy for me to start beating myself up when my energy is low – I’m not getting enough done, I feel like things are taking too long, or I’m not using my time the way I “should” be. But like all other aspects of life, we need balance – renew and refresh, stretch and release, drive and recover. This got me thinking… If this low energy state is part of our natural cycle, how can we use it to its maximum potential?

Lower your expectations
It made me cringe just writing this. But when your energy is low, setting lofty goals (like multiple tasks you want to accomplish) become impossible demands that sap your reserves even further. Consider yourself on generator power. Use it for essential purposes and one or two small things on your To Do list. Big appliances don’t operate well in a brown out and either do you. Lower your expectations for a little while and feel good about the small things you can accomplish in low energy part of the cycle.

Recharge the batteries
Back in the old days, I used to push through low energy periods like they were some sort of evil to overcome. Take a lesson from the animal world and give your body more rest. For me, this doesn’t mean staying in bed til 11:00 am, although for some people this may seem like nirvana. Find some time to let your body just relax. Grab your tablet or a book and do a half hour of uninterrupted reading, meditate, or take a nap. Find a rejuvenating activity you rarely let yourself do, and do it.

We take better care of our cell phones than our own bodies. In the book, The Zen Leader, Ginny Whitelaw writes, ” Steady stress pushes a system to habituate and run down over time. Pulsing it keeps the system in a state of fresh activation. What’s our equivalent to plugging in and recharging?” She suggests, “A best practice combines brief (2-minute) breaks each 90 minutes or so, with longer breaks (30 minutes) for meditation or exercise once a day. Does this really seem all that hard? It’s not. If you’d like some suggestions for mini-breaks and centering activities, you can download them here.

Follow the 3 Laws of Energy Management
Energy is a renewable resource, when we’re talking about our own bodies, but it IS a cycle that has differing needs at each stage. The Zen Leader suggests we follow the 3 Laws of Energy Management, which also directly relate to the “flip” from tension to extension. In a nutshell, they are:

  1. Rhythm, not Relentless – Build a rhythm into your day, including practices that stretch and renew.
  2. Down, not Up – Settle down and breathe deeply to and from your center.
  3. Out, not In – Extend your energy through the extensor side of the body, relaxing the front flexor-side.

For a more detailed explanation of these 3 fundamentals, I suggest you download the here, from The Zen Leader.

I used to think, when I started to see signs of my low energy mode, I had to hit bottom before I could start the climb back up. And in a scientific sense, I suppose that’s still true. But what we DO when we are at the bottom, is key. We can beat ourselves up, wallow in our own misery and extend our stay in this part of the cycle, OR… we can accept it as a renewing stage of energy management and enjoy the opportunities it presents us for reflection and rebirth. I prefer to choose the latter.

What ways do you recharge and renew your energy?

For more resources based on the flips of The Zen Leader, visit www.thezenleader.com

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