Manage stress and anxiety – Self-care Activities for Multipassionates (+ FREE Self-care Dashboard)
In my first year of working a 9-to-5 job, I was close to a burnout. I felt super anxious, highly sensitive (more than usual), overwhelmed, and exhausted.
I went to a psychologist to help me deal with stress. At that time I didn’t realize that the cause of my symptoms wasn’t caused by working 40+ hours a week, but by doing a job that didn’t fulfill me (a story for a different blog).
Nevertheless, that psychologist did teach me a tool that I am still using until this day: the battery analogy.
Your Energy Levels as a Battery
Imagine you are a battery. A rechargeable battery. Do you know exactly what is draining your energy and how you can plug in to recharge?
We all know how frustrating it is to end up with a dead phone battery halfway through the day, especially if you forget your charger…
But when it’s not your phone, but YOU who is running out of power, it gets a whole lot more serious. Zero percent life energy means it’s finished, over, dead, end of story.
Luckily, it doesn’t easily come that far, but we do drain ourselves excessively and often unnecessarily.
Do you sometimes feel like you are running out of power, trying to juggle everything in your life? Only to end up depleted, anxious, or overheated?
That was me. I had 10 different hobbies and passions, a busy social life, and always a bunch of unfinished projects. I was always tired, but to me, that was just normal, and I guess my young body could handle it. Until I couldn’t.
I started having anxiety attacks. A clear “Warning! You’re running out of power!”
How do you master your energy?
If you want to perform well in life, whether this is in your professional or personal life, you need to become a master in managing your energy, gaining control over your battery power.
Let’s stick with the battery analogy. The top 50% of your battery is your green zone. Your orange zone falls between 50% and 10% and the bottom 10% is your red zone.
In the green zone, you are fit, energized, and healthy. You are able to focus, communicate, work out and relax.
In the orange zone, your body starts producing the first warning signs that you are running out of power. This can be felt as stress, being tired, irritated or something stronger like anxiety.
The red zone is dangerous. If you are here, you’re dealing with potentially fatal problems like burnout, serious illness or depression.
In order to master your energy, you need to:
- Know which self-care activities recharge your battery: ‘plus activities’. This can be an active plus (sports), a social plus (parties) or a passive plus (taking a bath)
- Know which activities drain your battery: ‘minus activities’
- Know your personal warning signs when you are in the orange zone
- Take action and plug yourself in as soon as you move into the orange zone but definitely before getting into the red zone (do plus activities).
Creating a list of your plus activities, your minus activities and your warning signs is essential to stay on top of your energy.
Have you ever thought about all the things that signal you are too tired? I bet you know it’s not just yawning and being lazy. In fact, like with many young kids, it can be the opposite: when they’re hyperactive, they’re actually too tired. What’s it for you?
Self-care doesn’t always look the same
Contrary to what you might think, minus activities are NOT necessarily activities you don’t like doing!
To give you an example: I absolutely love coaching 1-on-1, but it drains my energy immensely because I give so much energy to my clients. After a coaching call, I am content but I really need to plug myself in and recharge.
Introverts for example will find social activities to be draining while extroverts get recharged from them. That, of course, doesn’t mean that introverts can’t enjoy social events.
The warning signs also vary greatly between people. Some people might become anxious (me), some people hyperactive and some people will just zone out. The better you get in signaling when you are moving into the orange zone, the quicker you can react with plus activities to help you get back in that green energy zone.
What helps you recharge doesn’t only depend on the person, it also depends on the moment in time, or rather: where your energy level is at.
The deeper in the orange zone you are, the more passive your plus activities need to be in order for you to wind down. If you’re sick, going to a dance party is not going to help you get better… But a boogie might be just what you need to recharge after a long week of hard mental work.
Anxiety & Self-care
Lastly, I wanted to write a few words about anxiety, something I’ve been struggling with for years, and I think more and more people are experiencing during these crazy times of war and disease.
Although it’s closely related to energy levels (a sleep deficit, or an intense experience can be a trigger), it needs a bit more elaboration.
I am in no regard an expert on anxiety. Just a semi-experienced sufferer. And in these experiences, I’ve discovered some interesting things about what type of self-care activities work, and which don’t when I feel this knot in my chest, or doom laying over me. Again, this will be different for everyone, but it might help you to discover your own.
When I feel anxious, I mostly want to withdraw. Being in groups is a horror because my anxiety gets amplified by my worry of people noticing that I am not fun (today). Being with someone 1-on-1 can help though, especially when they’re people that are close to me ánd that know how to deal with anxiety. Having a good (distracting) talk can be just what I need to get out of the spiral.
When you’re anxious or stressed out, your heart rate goes up. Although running or an intense workout may seem attractive (just sweat and think about nothing), it’s actually not the best thing for your body. Believe me, I’ve tried to run away from my anxiety on a treadmill and developed a panic attack, gasping for air. It was not fun.
If you want to choose an active activity, choose something that doesn’t put your heart into more stress. My most active anxiety activities are going for a walk, or doing yoga (no Bikram or Ashtanga but a gentle flow).
When I have minor anxiety or stress I love to dance to literally shake it out.
Reflective activities like reading a personal growth book, or journaling are usually not great, because it focuses my attention on what I need to know.
Although meditation is great for almost everyone at any time, it doesn’t help me when I am in the midst of an anxiety storm. Trying to observe, or quiet a mind that is racing around only leaves me more stressed out. I prefer distraction in the form of reality tv (oh yes, other people’s problems distract me of my own), Netflix, or maybe a creative hobby.
The best form of self-care in case of anxiety is one that requires money or a sweet boyfriend: A massage. The harder the better, a little pain is good. I think it’s a healthy form of self-harm.
Oh and another quick trick when you feel yourself spiraling down: take an ice-cold shower. Really, it helps get you out of your head!
As always, I’ve created a freebie for you to help you navigate your busy Multipassionate life. You can download a free Notion Template that includes The Battery PDF worksheet, a self-care checklist, and an activity list that you can customize and make your own.
Hope it helps! Always happy to hear your questions, comments or suggestions below.