Monday, February 01, 2016

Thoughts on Energy

I haven't been getting much done lately.

I've been feeling awfully tired in the afternoons, and in the evenings after the kids go to bed, and I don't like it, because I don't trust it.  It doesn't quite feel like actual fatigue, more like laziness, and not doing things that I know will help me to feel better, and giving in to grouchiness instead of taking a deep breath and being kind.  

So I've been thinking about what to do about it.  

My strategies in the past have been to take a deep breath, say to myself "I have so much energy!" instead of "I'm so tired" (thanks Dylan via Chelsea!), to have a drink of water, to go to the bathroom (I'm so bad about that) and to go outside for a little bit.  All of those things are good, but they're not quite enough right now.  

I know that I get energy from getting things done.  Making something, tidying up, crossing something off of a list, sorting through something, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, all of these things, some much more fun than others, give me energy.  I feel happier and more energetic the more productive I am. 

I read an article last week, while sitting by the fire, that really got me thinking.  Take Action! starts with the interesting correlation between increased time watching cooking shows and decreased time actually cooking.  People experience vicarious satisfaction just by watching or seeing or reading about something, and have less motivation to actually do it.  It's the same idea I was talking about at the beginning of the month in my Winter 2016 post.  

Then the article shifts into one of my favorite things, what I think of as pop culture brain research (Not that it's not real research, it's just that it's brain research about things like how people learn, or motivation, or impulse control, the sorts of things that I'm interested in).  

"This isn’t just my own crazy idea, either. It’s backed up by the science of mirror neuronsMirror neurons describe a phenomenon that happens in our brains whenever we watch someone else completing a task; to an extent, our brain fires in the same way as though we ourselves have completed that task."

And what do I do when I'm "tired" and can't manage to do the things I ought to do?  Or the things that I know will give me energy, like making something, or getting something done and crossing it off of a list?  I'm looking at pinterest by the fire, or reading a blog about what someone else has done, or reading about a new recipe or cooking technique, or looking at instagram pictures of what's going on in other people's lives.  It's fun, sure!  And I don't think it's evil or anything, but I do think it's what's sucking my energy.  Whatever part of the brain gets pleasure from seeing those things, it's not the same part of my brain that gives me energy.  Maybe it's the sitting that's the problem!   

A few days later I read this article about How to Read 100 Books a Year and I've decided to apply some of the ideas-but in a different context-sewing.  I love to sew, it makes me happy and gives me energy and when I make it happen I'm always glad.  His five big tips are:

1. Buy In Bulk--I already have enough fabric, patterns, and ideas to sew forever, so I think this is already covered.  
2. A(always) B(e) R(eading)--Always have a project going.  Usually I finish one, and then clean up, and then feel like I ought to do something else first, something more "important" or less fun for some reason.  I'm going to try to stop that.  I can spend a little time each day on something fun.  Certainly more fun than looking at my phone anyway.  
3. Read Relevant Books Only--He's talking about not reading a book because you think you "should" or because someone else liked it.  I'm applying that to mean that if a project isn't working, I can just let it go.  I love to finish things, but sometimes that gets in the way of making new things-sometimes things don't work.  Failure is fun! Nothing new happens without some failure.  
4. Read Multiple Books Simultaneously--I don't know about having more than one sewing project going on at a time.  I think that might make me feel a little crazy.  But I can remember, and try to work on, all of the other things I like to do and have going-little crochet projects, embroidery projects, etc.  Those are things I can do when I'm upstairs, or out of the house, or anytime I can't be down in my office. 
5. Retain The Knowledge--I'm bad about remembering things, so I'd like to try to record and document more about my projects, so I can remember what I've tried, what works and doesn't, what's fun and what's not fun.  You'll probably see all of that here.  :)  
So--That's the plan.  Here's to a fantastic February!  
What gives you energy?  What drains you?  


Melanie said...

Interesting! I also think making stuff/scrapbooking gives me energy. I can see that negative correlation of more time reading/watching scrapbooks and window shopping supplies=less time actually spent making for me! That the brain fires the same way is fascinating and also scary, esp. when I think about kids today and how they can be happier to watch what the world is doing online, instead of getting up and DOING something themselves! Love how you applied the Read More Books concept to something else!

Susan said...

Exercise and prayer usually give me a boost when I'm feeling drained and lazy. TV is the biggest drain ever, but also what I default to when I'm stressed or tired - thus perpetuating the cycle. The end days of winter are just hard - no Christmas coziness, just short, dark, cold days with the promise of spring out there in the unreachable distance.