About three years ago, I was burned out. I'm not talking about a bit of stress. I'm talking about 18 months of depression, anxiety, constant burning in my chest, an inability to sleep, and short-term memory loss. After learning about burnout and talking to doctors, I found a practical path to recovery. The most significant shift I made was learning to let go of managing my time and turning toward managing my energy. Not to be too dramatic, but this shift may have saved my life.
Lately, like many people, I've had more on my plate than is realistic. Exhaustion and stress started to creep back into my life, and knew I needed to get back on track to maintain my health. So, last week, I dove back into the topic of personal energy management. To expand my knowledge on the subject, I spoke with Healthy Living Expert and Coach Erica Ballard, who gave me tips on how to better manage my energy. After she spoke about the real benefits that regular meditation had on the brain, I had to try it. So, I took her recommendation: 5 minutes of meditation every day for a week.
Here are the lessons I learned from this experience.
Lesson #1: Regular meditation led to better responses to stress, naturally
While I have used deep breathing to manage stress in the past, I applied it inconsistently. After several days of meditation, I found that deep breathing became an automated response to stress instead of an intentional choice. This led to better reactions to, and faster recovery from, stressful situations.
Erica shared that meditation can rewire our brains in a way that helps prevent stress. While I haven't experienced that just yet, most studies demonstrate that benefit will come after weeks of meditation rather than days. This serves as a powerful motivator to continue a regimen of regular meditation. So I will.
Lesson #2: The immense importance of solitude
In a world of almost constant connection, meditation forces moments of solitude. And this is a good thing. I'd never thought much about the power of solitude before, although I've often sought it out in moments of creativity or stress. In the past week, there was great synergy in practicing daily meditations while reading Sherry Turkle's book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. This combination made me appreciate solitude much more than I ever have.
In her book, Sherry discusses how solitude allows us to understand and become comfortable with ourselves. This type of personal discovery is vital to our ability to connect and empathize with others. In addition to daily meditations, I allowed for moments of solitude throughout my week. For instance, when I was alone or bored, I resisted reaching for my phone. I allowed the uncomfortable to exist long enough to let it be comfortable. I also chose to do so during my daily commute; instead of listening to music or an audiobook, I took the time to enjoy a moment of solitude. I realized that I was more aware of my surroundings. I noticed all of the cars around me, the landmarks I hadn’t previously seen, and the sounds of traffic and nature in concert. Driving with an enhanced sense of my surroundings was a positive experience, and likely a safer one.
Lesson #3: Meditation is not enough
At this point, it's probably no secret that my experience with meditation was very positive. However, I also learned that meditation alone is not enough. For me to be at my best, I need to incorporate meditation as one aspect of a healthier way of life. I need to get back to eating well, exercising regularly, and better leveraging the things that give me positive energy.
I will not make extreme changes in how I live my life; that might drain my energy rather than revive it. Instead, I'll choose natural foods instead of processed foods. I'll decide to walk when I could drive and take the dog on a walk more often. I'll schedule time for cardiovascular and strength exercises, and prioritize these sessions for the betterment of my health. These changes will help me regain my energy. I can then focus more on the essential things in my life, such as my family and the positive changes I wish to make in the world.
Pulling it all together
I've shared what I will do to get back my energy, and the lessons I learned from just a week of meditation. How about you? What changes will YOU make to manage your energy better?
If you're not sure where to start, Erica has some simple tools on her website that will help you track your energy, as well as tips to a healthier way of life. Otherwise, connect with your friends and family. Have conversations about what works for them, and what works for you. Find accountability partners, or partner with a local healthy living expert (or doctor) to get yourself back on track.
Also, find more moments to put down your phone, turn off your screens and be okay with just yourself. Become aware of what's around you and learn deeply about who you are. I will continue to challenge myself to do the same. Then, let's connect with one another differently, authentically, and with a sense of calm we may have forgotten. Imagine what we'll learn about ourselves. Imagine what we'll learn about each other.
I wish all of you the power of peace and solitude, and the energy you need to make a difference in this world. Because you can.
Rebecca Scott is the founder of Vivid Spring Solutions. She is a Certified Business Analysis professional with over 16 years of experience driving projects and providing key insights that lead to creative solutions. She is also a public speaker and mother of 4.
The views stated here are solely the author’s and do not represent those of any client or employer.