THIS WEEK’S EXPERIMENT
How will my life change if I spend more time with people who give me energy and less time with people who cost me energy?
The energy factor
We all have to spend time in the company of people – family, work colleagues, people in our community – who we wouldn’t choose as friends. Some of these people take up an enormous amount of our energy and have massive impacts on our mental health. But many of us are unaware just how much they are costing us.
The quality and quantity of the energy you give to, and receive from, the people in your life, is proven to be one of the biggest factors determining how you feel about yourself, as well as your motivation, drive and headspace you have available to pursue the goals you have for your own life. As our energy is one of our most precious commodities, it makes sense to become more conscious about where we are spending this valuable resource.
Who drains you?
It could be someone who talks incessantly about themselves and their problems with little interest in what is going on in your world. Or someone who makes demands on your time, doesn’t listen when you say no and guilt trips you if you don’t go along with their plans. Or someone who is incapable of celebrating your happiness or success, undermines your self-worth by making cutting remarks they pretend they don’t mean, or who says you are being “too sensitive” or misunderstanding them if you tell them how their behaviour makes you feel.
Whatever their behaviour, and for whatever reason, in their presence you often find yourself in a protective fight, flight or freeze state. You feel on guard or under attack. Many times, after you leave their company, the interaction you have had with them dominates your thoughts, time and energy with unspoken things you wish you said or conflicts you anticipate having in the future. Alternatively, you feel so drained after spending time with them all you want to do is have a lie down.
I know we all do it, but it’s also important to try not to get stuck wasting further energy dissecting the behaviour of others to justify your response to them. You feel drained in their presence and that is okay. The first step is noticing that.
Who energizes you?
These are the people whose eyes light up when they see you, who make you laugh, who find joy in your joy. They ask you about yourself, celebrate your successes, empathize with your struggles and follow up on conversations you previously shared. They are the ones you can be silly with, dance with and who help you see yourself and the world more positively. After spending time in their company you feel happier, lighter, more hopeful, more seen and understood. Instead of feeling like you are under attack in their presence, you can let your guard down and feel the emotionally co-regulating benefit of being in the company of a safe presence of another. They make you feel like you matter to them and like you belong.
Again, you don’t have to analyse why a person feels energizing to you. Trust and respect your feelings on this without having to get your logical mind involved.
Make conscious choices
The following process is about becoming aware of how much energy it takes for you to be in people’s company so you can start making more deliberate choices about how to expend your energy.
1. Divide a page into three columns: energy +, energy -, neutral.
2. Scroll through your phone/ email/ contacts to see people you regularly interact with
3. Each time you see a person’s name, visualise yourself spending time with them and tune into your inner state. This means staying focused on the felt experience in your body when you think of a person.
Some questions to ask:
- Does my body feel tight, holding or tense or uplifted, open and expansive inside when you think of them?
- Does thinking of them make my mind start racing?
- When I think of catching up with them do I feel joy and eagerness or is there a small sense of dread?
- This process isn’t about analysing why you feel a certain way, it is simply about noticing the sensations in your body, and feeling the impact people have on your energy.
- Assign people a place in a column based on your felt experience. Be honest with yourself.
- Even if you don’t currently spend regular time with someone but you always feel good in their company, make sure they make it to the list. Just because you don’t currently interact much with people, doesn’t mean you can’t change that!
- After refecting on your experience assign people a place in the three energy columns.
4. Analyse how much of your time is being spent with the different types of energies.
5. Begin to make small adjustments to spend less time with energy costing people. How? Here’s a couple of strategies:
- Don’t stay on the phone with them as long
- Set specific time limits on your catch-ups
- Say no
- Keep focused on “I” statements. “I can’t catch up with you on Saturday, but I can see you for an hour on Thursday evening.”
- If they try to guilt you, use the broken record technique. “I understand you would prefer to see me on Saturday, but I have other plans. I can see you on Thursday evening from 6 to 7 if you are free?”
- Think of yourself in a bubble surrounded my light and picture their energy bouncing off you
- Where possible, spend time with people you have identified as draining your energy in the company of others, so you can divide your attention and limit their impact on you
6. Take action to increase the amount of time you spend with energy increasing people. Start to make more effort to connect and spend time with people who energize you. Make it a deliberate plan and take the risk of putting yourself out there and build more positive resources into your life.
7. Track your feelings/ motivation levels / positivity. As you make adjustments to the people you spend time with, pay attention to the way you feel about yourself and your life. Some things to reflect on. Since adjusting the amount of time I spend time with people based on their impact on my energy, I do these things more/ less:
- Criticizing myself
- Feeling angry
- Feeling sad/ lonely
- Working toward my goals
- Feeling joy
- Feeling I belong
Ideas and perspectives
“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the aeroplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”
— Henry Ford
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
— George Eliot
“A champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.”
— Serena Williams