An almost universal complaint these days is being exhausted. The pandemic has drained our energy in so many ways. Our workloads have increased. Our routines have been overturned. We seem to need to re-create ourselves daily. And then there is the underlying fear of the virus itself. There are good reasons to be and feel physically and mentally exhausted. But what if you could turn around the mental exhaustion? To what extent would that affect you physically as well?
Our brains are incredibly powerful, and even if we’ve only begun to understand all they do, we recognize our minds affect our moods and emotions. It’s what we mean when we talk about changing our mindset. It’s helpful to realize is that our brains also affect us physiologically. When we do, we can exercise control and allow body and mind to work together.
Physical energy is restored by having enough sleep, eating healthy, and getting exercise. But what if you eat right, exercise and get a good night’s sleep, yet still have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? According to Susan Fowler, that has nothing to do with physical energy. It has to do with psychological energy or vitality. In her article The Myth of Low Energy – How to Generate the Vitality Your Need Right Now, Fowler proposes that our faulty belief in having a fixed amount of energy is part of what causes us to feel depleted. We need to understand the difference between energy and vitality.
Fowler writes, “Vitality is the energy available to you for taking action. It is the energy that enables you to self-regulate and still have the energy you need to pursue your goals. Vitality is the feeling of being alive, vigorous and energetic. When you have vitality, you are fully functioning.” Vitality is proactive and renewable by changing your mindset. Because it is psychological and not physiological, it isn’t drained the way physical energy can be. It is what you need to be in control of your day and focus on your goals.
According to Fowler, vitality has three components which are the key to not feeling drained: choice, connection, and competence.
Choice- Take time to notice where your actions are a choice rather than something you just have to do. I find it both empowering and, at times, uncomfortable to recognize that everything I do or don’t do is a choice, but this is key to increasing vitality. Noticing choice empowers you. When you have a task to accomplish, consider why you are doing it. Is it because it’s required? Would you do it if it weren’t? If it’s required, how can you frame it so that if fits with your philosophy and goals? Put your mind in control and discover that what you choose and how you choose it affect the amount of energy it will use.
Connection- The changes in the way we socialize have made us more aware of the importance of connection. Although how we reach out to or visit with people has changed, the value of those connections is the same – maybe greater. Take the time to notice them, enjoy them, no matter how they occur. Take time to value the connections in your life. Remember to view your interactions with others not only for how you make their lives better, but how you benefit as well.
Competence – What we know, what we can do, and where we can learn contributes to our vitality. Fortunately, librarians are lifelong learners. Recognize that the pandemic has given us new opportunities to learn and be of help and service to others. Take joy in this process while remembering not to take yourself too seriously. Part of learning has always been making mistakes. Laugh at them then find out what needs to be done to fix them.
Even when our bodies feel rundown, with choice, connection, and competence, we can make a shift to put our minds in control and bring out our vitality.