After my blog on nine ways to up your mental energy at work went viral (not really!), I decided to pull another nine out of my sleeve.
Do what you love, love what you do
First things first. If you’re doing a job you love, then you might not need to read about increasing mental energy at work as much as if you’re not. If you like what you do, are good at it, and know why you’re doing it (and I don’t mean ‘to pay the rent’ – go a bit deeper!), then perhaps all you need are a few tweaks for your day to become even more productive and joyful.
Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.Henry David Thoreau
On the other hand, if you’re feeling unhappy in your job, it’s time to make some changes.
What makes you (not) tick?
Ask yourself what’s wrong. Get specific. Write it down and work things out through journaling until it looks clearer. Investigate which parts of the job you don’t like and how you can change them. Is there a trusted person you can go to and ask for support in this? Can you improve the parts of your job you do like even further – and spend more of your time on them? Chances are, if you enjoy these tasks, you are good at them and so it’s in everybody’s interests that you do them more.
No matter what kind of work you do, these tips can benefit anyone. I hope at least one idea is useful to up your mental energy at work.
1 – Take a Dose of Nature
Go outdoors and get some form of fresh air whenever you can. When your body is exposed to daylight, simply put, it remembers that this is the time you are supposed to be awake. And if the sun is shining, you will reap the benefits of Vitamin D.
If you can see a bit of greenery, all the better. A lot of research has shown the beneficial effects of nature on our mental health. One study found that 20 minutes spent in natural surroundings (‘a nature pill’) can significantly reduce the stress hormone, cortisol.
2 – Watch your Language
Words hold incredible power. What’s your motivation? Pick a phrase or even just a word, frame it and place it where you can see. It sounds simple, but it really can lift your mood.
Mantras are not all in the vein of ‘All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them’ (Walt Disney), although if it worked for Walt… There really is something for everyone. Messages have moved on since those ‘You don’t have to be mad to work here. But it helps!’ posters. You can find some funky designs here.
Why not create your own mantra? Or simply use one word which represents the reason you are doing your job. Are you helping people in some way? Making the world a better place? Again, if you’ve lost sight of this, journaling or talking about it can help. Keep digging until you find how your work is having a positive impact in some way.
If your deeper reason is nowhere in sight, then perhaps you are working towards a goal of financial freedom (in which case, take steps towards that with specific dates and timed mini goals). The word ‘Freedom’ could be for you. Then, when you feel discouraged, look up and see a reminder. You will remember the goal is getting closer. You will get there!
3 – Move it!
Move! Have a stretch to keep your energy levels stable. Set your alarm and every 45 minutes, get up and really stretch out, walk around, and if nobody’s looking (or you don’t actually care), do a few Gangman Style moves. If you’re feeling less I Want to Break Free and more traditional, do some exercises at your desk.
The more physical activity you do, the more physical activity you can do!
4 – The Scent of Serenity
Smell the roses (and not your co-workers). Your sense of smell is often overlooked but it can be a strong memory trigger and affects your emotions. When you take a sniff of something, messages travel through your olfactory nerve to arrive in your limbic system which plays an important part in controlling your mood.
You respond to odour through associative learning. For example, if you have difficult associations with hospital visits in the past, whenever you enter a hospital now, your memory associates the clinical smell with these experiences, and you feel anxious. Of if you smell cinnamon cakes – and your granny used to make them at Christmas time – you immediately become relaxed and happy (unless your gran was one to burn the cakes). And probably a bit peckish too, but that’s beside the point.
Certain scents have proven benefits to boost mood and productivity. Use essential oils with an infuser, or simply with a few drops in a bowl of warm water to benefit the entire room.
People have different sensitivities (different associations) to smells. If you’re in your own workspace, then find a scent that you enjoy and breathe in. But if you’re in a shared area, you can’t really impose your scented candle on others unless your colleagues have also been gushing about the joys of calendula. One (wo)man’s rose-scented heaven makes another (wo)man wrinkle her nose. In this case, it’s probably best to simply inhale a cotton ball with a couple of drops on it.
Here are just three essential oils which can increase productivity.
- Lavender – a multitude of benefits including a calming effect. Lavender can reduce tension and headaches.
From the Latin word, ‘lavare’ – to wash.
- Jasmine – one of my favourites, jasmine calms nerves, revitalises and can help lift your mood.
But… don’t use if you’re pregnant.
- Peppermint – peppermint has stimulating properties. It can help clear your mind and up your concentration.
And… it also repels spiders.
5 – Have a break – Have a fruit snack
Snack wisely. If you’re not working from home, make sure you bring your own snacks in to your workplace. The effects on your wallet are hugely cumulative (you may have noticed maths isn’t my thing, but if you work out your savings, you might be surprised!). Again, if you have an escape plan involving getting out of debt or a financial goal you are working towards, then knowing the impact this act has boosts your mood and self-confidence.
Just as importantly, you choose what you put into your body. If there’s a box of chopped up apple, almonds and a small (I said ‘small’!) piece of dark chocolate (good for your endorphins, don’t you know?) in your desk drawer, you’re less likely to feed the vending sugar hit machine (thus avoiding that proverbial afternoon slump). Protein snacks such as nuts or a hummus dip with vegetable sticks help you avoid the sugar crashes which result from snacking on high-sugar carbs.
6 – Don’t stray from the Circle of Influence
Concentrate on what you can control and don’t waste energy on the rest.
There are so many things which are way beyond your Circle of Influence (toxic gossip, the unsettling political climate – eeurgh!). Worrying won’t change them. Instead, think about the ways you can make a difference (not engaging with the gossip, casting your vote, writing to MPs… and then getting on with your own life extending kindness to others), and forget the rest.
7 – Hydrate with H2O
Drink water. Hydration is key to keeping your brain function – and everything else – in top condition. If you add a squeeze of lemon, this helps your liver to do its job, and the citrus scent can lift your mood and improve energy. Plus, this will have a knock-on effect in that it forces you to get out of your seat fairly often and jog on down to the loos.
8 – Have a ball break
Use a stress ball or fidget toy. You can find some of the best here. They bring your focus away from whatever is stressing you out, and use a different part of your brain – and body (https://mellowed.com/stress-relief-toys-adults/).
Could it be that they increase your ability to be mindful? Which brings us to the final point.
9 – Mind your mindfulness
Practise mindfulness. I know, I know. You’ve heard it all before. But it has such incredible benefits if you do practise and apply it to your life. Could you give it a go?
Stop counting the days until retirement
If you’ve done all of this and yet still think your job sucks (or as Dolly says, if your 9 to 5 is ‘All takin’ and no givin’‘), then it’s surely time to really consider other options. Do it as soon as you can and start taking small steps towards a life that you love.
If you do the maths: Eight hours a day (at least)… five days out of seven… 52 minus 5 weeks’ holiday a year… it all adds up at frightening speed. Before you know it, the sum total will be, where’s your life gone?
You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.Henry David Thoreau
That old adage that if you do more of what you love and less of what you don’t sounds so simple. And yet I understand if you think it’s a ridiculous statement. I didn’t used to believe it to be possible. But it is.
There are always choices.
And baby steps all add up.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.Henry David Thoreau
How do you up your mental energy at work? I’d love to hear your comments 🙂