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Four Science-Backed Ways to Restore Your Mental Energy at Work

It’s 2pm, you’re feeling that afternoon slump and can’t seem to be able to concentrate on work. Or you’ve worked a long week and just can’t seem to muster up the stamina to perform at your best. You feel tired, unmotivated and unproductive. Most of us have these kinds of experiences at some point. Yet the only way that we hear about to ‘boost our energy’ is to drink caffeine or to get our adrenaline pumping by waiting until the last minute to finish a work project. In both cases, we’re taxing our nervous system with unnecessary jitters and stress (which soon thereafter will end in another crash). Because I see how many people struggle with energy management, I devoted a whole section in my new book The Happiness Track to the science of it. Here are a few key points on how to restore your mental energy at work without taxing your body.

How to Restore Your Mental Energy at Work

Managing mental energy means knowing when you need to replenish yourself (without caffeine or high-intensity emotions). Here are a few research-backed suggestions to restore your energy when it's deleted and you feel drained:

Do Something that Makes You Feel Positive

You know best the kinds of activities that you find uplifting. Create a list of and keep it handy, so you don't have to figure out what to do when you feel mentally exhausted. For example, if you're at work, replenish your energy might mean going for a walk, taking a break, watching a funny YouTube video, looking at pictures of your loved ones, meditating, or engaging in a random act of kindness for a colleague. 

Remember the Big Picture

Focus on the why rather than the how of a task or job. Understanding how your work connects to what you care about and to your values will restore your energy. For example, if your company sells a certain device or product and you value making a difference in people's lives, you can think about how that device or product is helping people to fulfill their needs.

Practice Gratitude

Research has shown that feeling grateful helps you replenish your energy in the face of fatiguing tasks. Let's say you don't like your job. Regardless, there are always things that warrant being grateful: You have a job when many others don't. The reason gratitude has such a replensing effect is that feeling grateful both increases positive emotion and helps you see the big picture.

Detach from Work When You're Not Working

Many people take work home with them at night or do it during their time off. As a consequence, the stress of the day blends into evenings and vacations and eats up recovery time. People who do not know how to detach from work during their off time experience increased exhausting over the course of one year and are less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions. Psychological distance from work is the fastest path to recovery and leads - surprisingly perhaps - to increase productivity.

Excerpted from The Happiness Track by Emma Seppalla.

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