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By Dr. Bethanie Hansen
Faculty Director, School of Arts & Humanities, American Public University
You may have heard that it’s important to be yourself and be authentic. You have a contribution to make, and others need you.
But we have all experienced times when we feel like we have nothing to offer. It could be a lack of energy. Maybe you just aren’t feeling energetic and wish the day would end without you having to do anything. When you hit that energy slump, how can you get moving again?
Breaks to Renew Your Energy Are Necessary Sometimes
Sometimes we need a break; distancing ourselves from the tasks or pressures we face can refresh us. Our need for a break is legitimate. Afterward, we’re better able to return to work, care for others or manage life’s challenges.
The problem is that life doesn’t always allow us to take a break. That time off is too far away, and you may be obligated to move forward anyway.
You feel stuck where you are and cannot move forward. But a slump is a temporary condition that keeps you from thinking, feeling and acting. Although you may feel this one way for the moment, settling into these thoughts and feelings for the long haul only makes them harder to overcome.
Step Back and Take Stock of What’s Triggering Your Energy Slump
Take a moment to look that slump right in the eye. What is it really about? What are you feeling and how would you describe your sluggishness to someone else?
For example, is it emotional? Are you overwhelmed, lonely, pressured, bored or something else? What does that energy slump look like to you?
Stepping back to take stock of how you are feeling gives you the ability to consider what might be fueling those feelings. Identifying your feelings in the present moment builds awareness. And when you build awareness, you also broaden your perspective and your capacity to act.
Use Positive Visualization
After you take stock of your current situation and become more aware of your feelings, you are in a good position to think about where you would like to be.
Visualization can be an effective way to create a brief alternate reality. It’s a way to create a mental picture of yourself in a more energetic, positive way.
What does that look like to you? What are you doing? What do you think when you are this way? What kinds of things do you say to others? How do you handle the tasks you must accomplish or the pressures coming your way? Visualizing yourself in an energetic and positive way can be even more effective when you close your eyes and allow yourself to really create the image of how you would like to be right now.
Ask Yourself The Most Important Question: What’s Holding You Back?
As you consider your current state of mind and where you would like to be, you might be tempted to justify staying in a slump a little longer. Quash this temptation quickly by considering the question Dr. Grady Batchelor, an experienced coach and Dean at American Public University, often asks: “What’s holding you back?”
Are you avoiding discomfort? Do you feel a fear of failure or even of success?
Consider the mental or tangible obstacles that cause you to think and feel differently. Do you entertain thoughts that rationalize your feelings and keep you in the slump?
Identify those ideas that hold you back or block your ability to change. As Dr. Batchelor often says, “Don’t be the one standing in your own way.”
How to Emerge from an Energy Slump
Becoming aware of your current situation, visualizing yourself in a new state and identifying your roadblocks are all helpful in preparing you to think and feel differently. As you broaden your perspective and open yourself to new possibilities, consider these strategies to move forward:
- Act “as-if.” Take action as if you already are where you want to be. For example, if you want to be more positive or feel happier, purposely smiling when you don’t feel like it can elevate your mood.
Research tells us that flexing the major muscles at the corners of your mouth into a smile shape lowers stress levels and tricks the brain into thinking it is happy. It also reinforces your effort by prompting other people to smile back and break up the furrowed-brow expression common to worry and unhappiness.
- Make a small change. You might not be able to change everything at once. However, taking a step toward how you want to feel or where you want to be could be the catalyst for big, long-term changes.
What is one thing you could start or stop doing that could help you move forward? Some examples might be to stop staying up so late at night, starting an eight-minute daily walking regimen or calling friends once a day.
- Brainstorm possibilities. The rule to effective brainstorming is that no initial ideas are off-limits. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? What if you had unlimited time and/or money?
Also, what could you do to change your current state in only five minutes? What is something very small you can do?
Set aside regular time to consider what you really want to do, now and in the future. Listing options helps break open your creativity and restores your hope that things won’t always seem as bleak as they are right now.
There are many things you can do to recover from an energy slump, but the most important thing is to take action. Reflecting, talking and taking positive action all give you something to do. Use your actions to move forward, break out of that energy slump and get back to being your authentic self.
About the Author
Dr. Bethanie Hansen is a faculty director and Certified Professional Coach for the School of Arts & Humanities at American Public University. She received her B.M. in Music Education from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in Arts & Letters from Southern Oregon University, and a DMA in Music Education from Boston University.
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