It isn’t just the fireworks over the 4th July long weekend .. although I love a good firework display. There’s something about an extra day to the weekend that is a real treat. I know that I’m not the only one looking forward to a three day weekend. I realized that as I drove home from the office last night and met the parking lot on the I95 on the NY/CT border!
As I wondered why so many of us were prepared to suffer hours in traffic jams and airport queues just because we have one extra day in the weekend, I came to the conclusion that when we travel to a different location there is something significantly different about how we get our weekend battery recharge.
We spend more time outside – whether it is playing sport, walking along the beach or just a picnic – we certainly don’t seem to be inside watching the TV or doing chores. There is something extremely liberating about staying in a rented house. None of the regular house maintenance belongs to us and a consensus seems effortlessly achieved about the bare minimum of housework that we can live with. We hang out with our family and friends a lot more and share the tasks of preparing some of our favorite foods – all part of the 4th July holiday tradition. We enjoy lazy afternoons catching up on news and sharing meals together.
For lots of people, a long weekend can also be a favorite time for some “me” time. Whether it is completing a task that needs quiet and no interruptions or simply finding time for a massage, when we all go on “vacation” together the emails and texts die down and we feel free to focus on what’s important to us. That tough day at work fades into the background just a little and the dispute we had with a co-worker somehow seems less important than it did in the middle of the week. I know lots of people who love the space of a long weekend to plan – anything from the children’s timetable for the following week to their next moves to grow a new business.
But this isn’t just an impression. There is solid science behind the rested feeling after a long weekend. Our bodies and brains are constantly seeking balance – homeostasis is the technical term – and our 21st Century world can make balance tough to find. In order to be at our peak, it is important to monitor not just one but four [yes, four] major influences that can significantly impact our energy levels.
Physical Energy is a possibly the first type of energy that we think about. Taking exercise, eating well and getting sleep are all important but it isn’t always easy to fit any or all of them into a life that revolves around the demands of work and multiple family members. The chance to get outside, feel the fresh air on our faces and move around can completely change our perspective and the oxygen and sunlight re-energizes our bodies and brains. This stimulates melatonin, the hormone that helps us to regulate our natural, circadian rhythms and is a great promoter of healthy sleep.
Emotional Energy is a little less obvious but will probably resonate with many people. Feeling anxious or uncertain about something at work or home can really sap your energy. Some people – and I am one of them – are also very sensitive to environments where there is a lot of negativity. The impact that I experience when I’m in close proximity to a lot of negative emotion is essentially a heightened awareness that stimulates adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone and depresses my dopamine levels. To allow the excess adrenaline to flush out of my system and rebuild those dopamine levels, I find that getting some distance from the situation is essential to me. If I don’t manage it once or twice each week, a dose of alone-time during a long weekend really gets me back into balance.
Mental Energy is a form of energy that may not immediately come to mind, although I’ve found that when I’ve talked this one through with individuals that I’m coaching, I find it impacts more people than we realize. In our work, school and personal lives, our brains are bombarded by constant stimulation. We are endlessly interrupted – sometimes whether we want to be or not – by phone calls, emails, texts, IMs, notifications demanding that we switch our attention from whatever we were doing to this “thing” that we must do now. The constant stimulation can cause a build up of excess adrenaline and cortisol that is harmful to our health in the long-term. Whenever you feel that sense of exhaustion after a day spent nearly finishing lots of things – and somehow finishing none – that is a potential sign of adrenaline and cortisol overload. A change of scenery, the potential to get away from constant interruption is what we seem to crave during a long weekend and it our brain seeking its way back to the simpler time of our childhood when we lived in the moment and had yet to learn the skill of “multi-tasking”.
Managing your Spiritual Energy might not seem to be something that everyone needs on first inspection. You may not identify as someone who holds deep religious beliefs or as someone who is seeking a greater meaning in life. But if you are someone who has ever felt that they are exhausted after spending the majority of their week doing things that someone else needed or wanted – and just never got to anything that was important to you – then you are likely suffering from a lack of spiritual energy. Once again, it is the driving force of adrenaline pushing you to get all of those “other” tasks done that leaves you feeling drained. To restore balance – homeostasis – your brain craves those activities where you manage to achieve almost effortless, zen-like absorption in the task at hand. Whatever it is that you love to do, time seems to fly by leaving you feeling rested and restored as the brain recovers its balance through an uptick in dopamine levels, flushing out any excess adrenaline or cortisol.
Now I would vote for 3 day weekends for everyone all of the time but I’m also realistic enough to know that this is not going to happen any time soon. So how can we retain some of that feel-good factor during the regular weeks? The trick is to keep an eye on all four of the areas outlined above for potential areas that drain you of energy. Take just a few moments each day to tend to each area and over a period of 3 to 4 weeks you will start to notice a difference. So for right now, enjoy the long weekend; be sure to get outside and walk around, plan some time with the family and friends that you love, seek the company of some fun, positive people and – last but not least – find some time to do a little something just for you. As they say in the L’Oreal advert, “You Deserve it”.
P.S. To all of the Canadians out there who recognize a scene from the very beautiful Algonquin Park, Happy Canada Day!
Author: Paula Bowie is a qualified Peak Performance Neurocoach trained by Dr. Stan Rodski of the MINDPeakPerformance Institute (www.mindpeakperformance.com). Dr Rodski developed the Colourtation technique ©Colourtation 2015 (www.colourtation.com), a series of Anti-Stress coloring books for adults. DYPPeakPerformance (www.DYPPeakPerformance.com) and DYP Consulting (www.developyourpotential.net) are excited to be partnering with Dr Stan Rodski to bring the benefits of Colourtation and the MINDPeakPerformance techniques to the US.