As we wade through our daily lives, stress is almost impossible to avoid –– particularly these days. While 2021 has brought encouragement with the vaccine now being delivered to millions — family stress, work stress, and the daily challenges and uncertainties that define the world still abound. When was the last time you got enough sleep? When was the last time you truly relaxed? When was the last time you breathed really deeply and turned down the volume on the noise in your head?  If only there was a vaccine for stress too.

Great leaders are awesome at taking care of other people: thinking about their needs, adapting to be more effective, helping others to be successful. Yet few also know how to take care of themselves. In our culture, we tell ourselves we need to be strong – we don’t need help, we can go it alone, we need to do more. But the truth is that in order to be strong we have to renew our energy.

We expend energy all day long- solving crises, dealing with conflict, influencing others to come along for the ride. And if we are not recharging our batteries, eventually we begin to wear down and become less effective.  It’s common sense – our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our spirits need fuel to function, yet we believe we can run on empty and still do a great job. We feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, or we feel lazy if we aren’t constantly running from one thing to another.  But there is a real cost to all this busyness: in relationships, effectiveness, and ultimately our wellbeing.

There are four energy states and how we manage them determines how we perform.

Four energy states quadrants

Jim Loehr, founder of The Human Performance Institute describes stress plus fatigue as burnout. It’s a state of mental and physical exhaustion, and it doesn’t go away on its own.  As leaders, it’s imperative to understand the causes and signs of burnout – and how to prevent burnout from happening.  An easy activity to do it so list 5 of your typical work activities (email, meetings, projects, research, etc.), then identify the energy state those activities require (perform, stress, recovery).Once we recognize the energy depleting behaviors we can begin to develop daily rituals for renewing our energy.  Rituals could include things like reading for pleasure, working out, eating well, praying or meditating, or spending time with people who fill your bucket, as opposed to those who punch holes in the bottom.

Like any leadership development, the path to renewing our energy starts with looking in the mirror and making a choice. Effectively managing our energy and living a healthy and balanced lifestyle not only brings out the very best in ourselves, but in every member of our teams as well.

What rules could you set for yourself at work to ensure you have enough energy to perform when you need to and avoid burnout? What activities do you need to engage in at home to ensure you can recover and refill your battery?



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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