Managing your physical and emotional energy levels

With University Mental Health Day on the 4th March, let’s take a slightly different look at a consideration for your wellbeing and to help with your studies.


With University Mental Health Day on the 4th March, let’s take a slightly different look at a consideration for your wellbeing and to help with your studies. 

 

What are energy levels and why is it important to me?

Managing our energy levels is important for our mental and physical health and can also to help us to complete our everyday tasks, meet work deadlines, achieve study goals and to get through the never ending to do list. Higher levels of energy can help us to be engaged, motivated and to work with a sense of ‘flow’. Lower levels of energy are needed to help us to relax, switch off and to re-charge. 

Often our energy levels work against us and are a result of our (bad) choices as well as other factors sometimes outside of our control….we all know the feeling when we just don’t have the energy and desire to do something that we would normally be excited and enthusiastic to do. We can also have negatively charged energy levels; maybe having too much to do causes you to feel stressed and your high levels of (negative) energy could be used in less positive ways, such as snapping at someone. Or you get so tired that your low energy levels cause lethargy and you feel demotivated. 

The good news is that we can influence our energy levels through our own actions and behaviours, both proactively for the future and in the moment. We also need to empower ourselves to be able to recognise the feelings and signs that indicate what our energy levels are doing. Throughout the day we often ask others “how are you?” but how often do we ask ourselves this?

We need to have an energy level that corresponds to our current or upcoming action. So, if you are studying, then being able to concentrate, be engaged and feeling enthusiastic through higher energy levels is important. However, if a long day at work has left you drained and tired, then encouraging lower levels of energy is what you could need right now. 

Sometimes we override how we are feeling, and we use caffeine or high sugar foods to force us to feel energised. This can work occasionally but in the long term is not so good for us emotionally and physically. 

 

So how I go about managing my energy levels?

First you need to be in tune with how you are feeling. A good tip here, and to make this reflection easier, is to have a range of words to choose from that describe your emotions – or you could even use emojis. When we know how we feel, we can consider what we need to do immediately and in the next few hours and can assess whether our energy levels are appropriate. 

Before certain events such as studying, you can reflect on your energy levels, but you could also consider your feelings and mood. If you are feeling negatively energised with stress and anxiety, then you probably need more calming low energy right now, then may need to lift your energy levels before you start studying. So, you might go off and read a book to engage a lower energy state before going to play with the kids in the garden to help raise your positive energy levels. 

We can also check in with our energy levels throughout the day to proactively manage them. You can ask yourself how you are feeling and spend just a few minutes to reflect. If you have been on the go all day, then some low energy could help you to re-charge. Or you have been on a box set binge in your PJ’s but later on you have planned to start on your TMA, then a walk outside might be in order to help boost energy levels in advance. However, we could also recognise that we are in a positive high energy state and seize the moment to get some studying completed, or to crack on with some outstanding chores. 

Another top tip is to have a range of go to actions that are tried and tested to help you to healthily raise or lower your energy levels. Things like reading, having a bath, watching TV, mindfulness practices or even having a nap will help with re-charging lower energy levels. For raising energy levels you could go for a walk, do a little housework, play a game with your children and even actions like watching certain TV programmes, such as a comedy show or travel programme might help lift your energy.

 

Putting it all together

Maybe find some time today (why not right now?), to ask yourself how you are and to consider your current levels of energy. Then think about what you have coming up right now and maybe even later today and consider if your energy level is appropriate for the task ahead. 

Remember we don’t have a limitless amount of energy, so being able to re-charge will help us to keep going throughout the day and week, plus it will help to make sure you are energised at the right times. 

You could even keep an energy levels diary and after reflecting across many days, be able to spot trends in how you feel at certain times and what triggers your energy levels to dip and rise or to be positive and negative.

 

Take away point

Our levels of energy not only help us to achieve certain things in life, such as studying, but managing our energy levels also helps to regulate our moods and supports our wellbeing. And remember, you have influence over your energy levels by choosing the right behaviours for you.


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Neill Boddington
Neill is an Open University mental health advisor.

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