Most of us pack a heap of activities into each week. There’s work and happy hours, dinner dates and coffee catch-ups. Visits to the gym, our parents’ house, the vet, the doctor.
Some activities energize us, making us feel more focused and fulfilled. And some drain us, zapping our energy away.
With so much going on, it’s easy to lose balance and take on too much — which is why it’s so critical to be intentional and mindful about how you spend your time.
“Gaining awareness and building a balance between energizing versus depleting activities is incredibly important for your mood, your physical and emotional health, as well as your relationship with yourself and with others,” said Rachel Perlstein, a licensed psychotherapist at InFlow Wellness.
Here’s how to keep your energy in check when you’ve got a lot going on.
Health experts recommend making a list of all the activities you do, or plan to do, in a given week. Then, jot down how each makes you feel.
This is a great way to check in with yourself and figure out how your daily activities affect your mood and wellbeing, according to Rachel Gersten, a therapist and co-founder of Viva Wellness in Brooklyn.
“How are you feeling after that happy hour with coworkers? Or that meditation session you did after a tough day at work?” Gersten said.
Knowing exactly how you feel about all the stuff you have planned can help you mindfully load up on things that add to your energy rather than drain it.
While some things are unavoidable, too many depleting activities can take a major toll on your health by causing chronic stress, fatigue and irritability.
On the flip side, the right dose of energizing activities can fill your life with passion and purpose.
Many people are totally unaware of how and why certain activities have a negative affect on them. According to Perlstein, it’s not always the activity itself that’s taxing, but rather our relationship to it, the underlying stressors and the way we think about it.
“Once you are able to take stock and understand what and why things are draining you, you can take steps to minimize these activities or take action steps to address the underlying issues and increase your engagement in energizing activities,” Perlstein said.
If you can do away with an activity that seems to only have a negative effect on your life, it might be worth tossing it.
“If it’s something that is depleting and you can cut it out — like an unhealthy relationship, addiction to social media, alcohol or drug use, or a social group or social club you thought you’d love — giving yourself permission to walk away, creating an action plan to do so successfully, and cutting the activity out of your life may be the best thing for you,” Perlstein said.
Of course, you can’t cut out every activity that’s draining. And if you can’t reframe or change how you think or feel about it, you might have to cope.
“It’s OK, and often more realistic, to just accept that some activities (and) situations are going to be difficult and that’s life,” Gersten advised. “If you’re operating with that as truth, then you can adjust the rest of your time accordingly.”
For example, if you know you’re going to have a rough day at work, plan to take it easy the rest of the week or weekend. Or, if you have a long travel day ahead, take a day off to relax and reset.
“Sometimes planning ahead small actions like that can go a long way,” Gersten said.
Maybe the most important thing is to realize this process never ends. You will constantly take on new activities throughout your life — some good, some bad, some you’re indifferent about.
Make a point to check in and figure out if something’s adding to your life or taking away from it. It’s all about striking a balance so you have the right energy to take on the people, places and things in the world around you.
Julia Ries is a writer based in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing, there’s a good chance she’s doing yoga, walking her dog or doing yoga with her dog. Get to know her at www.juliaries.com.