Photo by: Clay Banks
by Andrea Blundell
Exhausted by the pandemic? Wish you knew how to have more energy this year?
How to have more energy even when the world is a mess
We all know about sleep, exercise, and eating well. And even about yoga, and deep breathing.
But what are some psychological ways to gain back some bounce? That might explain why we are so shattered even though we are doing our best to take care of ourselves?
1. Get crystal clear on your values.
Why is it we can feel the most exhausted on days we don’t even do much? But when we have a day packed with things we love, we lose track of time and feel on an energetic ‘high’?
It’s not activities that fatigue us most of the time. It’s lack of purpose and feeling lost. We need to get clear on our personal values.
Values are the things that matter to you no matter what. Not what matters to your family, or your friends, or even your partner, but you. Is it freedom, or stability? Creativity or order? Honesty or excitement?
When we get crystal clear on our values, then stop doing what doesn’t align and start doing what does, we suddenly feel alive even under stress.
If you suddenly won the lottery, what would you do with your life? Or if you were told you had a year left to live? And what can these activities you come up with teach you about what matters to you? How does or doesn’t your current life match?
2. Learn the magic word.
It doesn’t matter how small the favour or activity is. From going to see a theatre show you have no interest in to talking on the phone to a person you don’t enjoy, if you don’t want to do it, you feel drained.
And yet many of us experience very real terror at the thought of saying that magic word — no. We are scared to ‘let others down’, not realising that instead we constantly let ourselves down.
photo by Jon Tyson
The trick to saying no is to only say no, without justification the other person can leverage, and to simply keep saying it until the other person gets it and the conversation moves on. No, sorry, I can’t. I’m not available to to do that. No, sorry. Not for me I’m afraid. Start by saying no to little things, and work your way up.
3. Work at boundaries.
Boundaries mean letting people know exactly what you do and don’t accept into your life. If you don’t like waiting around, let all your friends know that you now have a 15-minute grace period for latecomers but after that you leave. And then actually act on the decision, or nobody will take you seriously.
What areas of your life need boundaries? What would those boundaries look like? How could you communicate those boundaries in a firm but friendly way?
4. Stop feeling so let down.
Another great energy monster is always feeling let down by others. All that frustration, all those tears, it’s hardly invigorating.
But the reason we are let down in the first place is that we tend to have too many expectations of others. And we expect things the other person will never live up to. As the old proverb goes, “you can’t get blood out of a stone’.
Make a list of the three people who let you down the most. Under their names, write down all the expectations you have of them, from putting down that darned toilet seat to changing their career or never lying. Now try to cross out all but three things for each person. How much easier would it be to expect less? If you can’t cross out any expectations, is this really a person who should be in your life if you can’t accept them as they are?
5. Be more authentic.
Another thing that takes a ton of energy? Acting. Always being what you think other people want instead of who you really are.
Of course this dynamic tends to be fairly ingrained, often coming from childhood. And to be more authentic becomes a journey. But the more we can step into behaviours that represent our true feelings, the less fatiguing life becomes.
What do you actually think and feel, if nobody else cared or would be offended? Start asking yourself that with each situation you find yourself in. And take up mindfulness, a daily habit that over time helps you be fully in the present, and less caught up in anxiety and self criticism.
A study on the effect of mindfulness based meditation on a group of nurses found they reported feeling less fatigued by activities that needed their attention when they had a mindfulness practise. 
6. Connect more deeply.
We speak to someone we don’t know well, and we feel drained. We speak to a friend, and we feel energised. What’s the difference?
photo by: Bence Halmosi
It comes down to true connection. Connection means we can relax into being fully ourselves around someone.
Of course you have to be willing to create a safe space for them to be who they really are, too.
Are you always criticising others in your head? Make a list of all the things that drive you crazy about the people in your life. For each item, ask yourself, is there any chance this is something I do myself? Am I actually criticising myself? How could I be more compassionate to myself, so that I can be more compassionate and connected with others?
Depression leaves us fatigued, but connection can halt depression. A study on men and depression found that even belonging to only one social group lowered the risk of another bout of depression by 24 per cent. When subjects joined three groups, the risk was a substantial 67% less. 
7. Lower the soundtrack.
Often we aren’t even aware of just how negative and fast our ‘inner soundtrack’, our overthinking, even is. We just know we are miserable and tired.
Mindfulness is a crucial tool here. It takes commitment, but it helps you hear and then detach from unhelpful thoughts.
Once you start to catch your thoughts, the trick to stopping them is to challenge them. Is the thought as true as you have been wanting to believe? What’s a more realistic thought? (Use CBT therapy’s ‘thought charts’ for help here).
Or try doing ‘brain dumps’ on days you can feel you are overthinking. Take paper and start writing anything that comes, as fast as you can, without worrying if it’s ‘bad’ or how messy your writing is, then rip it up afterwards (if you are worried someone will find it, you’ll never relax and get things out). Write until you feel ‘done’.
8. Face your bad habits.
Let’s be really, really honest here. Do you have a habit that is draining your energy that you have spent years pretending, even to yourself, that you don’t?
That ‘one glass of wine’ a night that is far too often three? The all night Netflix bingeing only for you to tell your colleagues you were up all night working? Or that casual relationship you don’t tell your friends about as you know the other person is bad for you? Not only do bad habits drain us, so does secrecy and leading a double life.
What steps can you take to deal with that habit? Is there a self-help book to get and read, a support group or forum to join? Is it time to finally get some counselling?
9. Stop trying to fix it all yourself.
If there is one thing that top performers recommend as their secret to success it’s delegating. The moment we stop thinking we are the only ones who can do things right is the moment we free up our energy to step forward.
And our mental health is one area we sometimes need to delegate. Trying to navigate depression, anxiety, or a personality disorder alone is a full-time job. No wonder we are tired. Therapy not only helps us navigate such things better, and means you aren’t doing it alone, it can, in the long run, brings back your natural energy levels.
Time to seek support and stop letting life bleed you dry? We connect you with some of London’s most highly regarded psychotherapists and counselling psychologists. Or find a UK-wide registered therapist on our booking site, along with online counselling you can book from any country.
Want to share your tip for being energised with other readers? Use the comment box below. Note we are happy to answer questions about the article but cannot provide a counselling service via comments.
Andrea Blundell is the editor and lead writer of this site. She specialises in writing about relationships and childhood trauma.
 Wong KF, Teng J, Chee MWL, Doshi K, Lim J. Positive Effects of Mindfulness-Based Training on Energy Maintenance and the EEG Correlates of Sustained Attention in a Cohort of Nurses. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018;12:80. Published 2018 Mar 1. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00080.
 Cruwys T, Dingle GA, Haslam C, Haslam SA, Jetten J, Morton TA. Social group memberships protect against future depression, alleviate depression symptoms and prevent depression relapse. Soc Sci Med. 2013 Dec;98:179-86. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.09.013. Epub 2013 Sep 25. PMID: 24331897.