As I’ve gotten older I have gained a better understanding of what drains me, and what energises me. I’ve also learnt how to apply this knowledge in my life, particularly as the seasons change, to ensure my energy levels stay balanced.
Here in Tasmania we are in the last month of winter and it's been a particularly tough season for me. Not because it’s been cold, but because we have had week upon week of overcast skies and consistent rain. The bleak weather has kept me inside more than I would like, and it has cast a shadow on my energy levels. I am definitely someone who needs a dose of regular sunshine to recharge my batteries. Without it I find myself quieter than I usually am.
My fiancé often jokes that living with me is like living with a ghost. The older I get I’m finding myself more and more adverse to noise. My fiancé is the opposite. Many a weekend he will come inside to grab a drink, declare there is no atmosphere in the house, turn the television on … and then promptly leave again. I love a house without noise. I love the sound of silence. It recharges me, and as the winter weather drains me I find myself craving it even more.
Noise is also one of the reasons I find work so draining. It's not just the physical noise, but the constant buzz throughout the day of emails, solving problems and negotiating the demands of both staff and residents. It’s why the first thing I do when home is head out for a walk with my dogs, where the only sounds I hear are the birds singing and cows talking to each other in the paddocks. The older I get, the more I realise that nature is the number one cure for recharging my energy.
As the years have gone by I have also learnt to be more conscious of not letting my quietness interfere with my relationship. While I crave quiet and solitude, my fiancé’s love language is quality time. He is also away more than he is home, so weekends spent together are important to him. I used to struggle with this. But as we have grown together we have learnt what each other needs, and how to give that to each other. My fiancé now knows that when I take the dogs for a walk late afternoon it’s not because I don’t want to spend time with him, but I simply need ten minutes to recharge. And I have learnt to build my energy supplies up during the week so I have more to give him when he gets home. It’s kind of like the number of spoons those living with chronic illness talk about.
My need for solitude comes from being an introvert. In the past year I have done the 16-Personalities test four times. I am an ISFJ-A, with a Defender Personality type. Whenever I do this test I score 94% as an introvert. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m shy, or that I don’t get along with others. Give me a meaningful conversation and I can talk for hours. Small talk I can’t do, and I can sometimes come across as disinterested and aloof for that reason. For me it’s about going deep, not wide with all I do.
But I have come to understand that my introversion simply means I need to be even more intentional with how I spend my life minutes. It means I need to make sure my life is as balanced as it can be between the things that drain me, and the things that recharge my energy.
I know my energy is out of balance when two things happen. The first is that I get even quieter than I usually am. The second is that I tend to fall off the grid, and it’s like I disappear from life for a while. I know those closest to me find this hard at times, as it can come across as if something is wrong … either at work, in my friendships or in my relationship. So it is up to me to do two things when this happens. Make sure I am open about how I am feeling energy wise (which isn’t always easy), and ensure I try and live a life as energetically balanced as I can.
Which means over the years I have had to learn what I need, and how to balance this with what others need. It’s learning that I need to work in a job that doesn’t excite me, but gives me flexibility and space. It means learning to take a week off every few months to have some quiet and alone time. It means learning how to spend quality time with my fiancé doing things that recharge my energy levels. And it means learning what small things feel like meditation. Things like reading a book, knitting in the evenings and putting my never-ending thoughts down in writing.
When we understand how our energy ebbs and flows, what drains us and what fills us up, it is a lot easier to live an intentional life. It’s easier to say yes or no to events, people and opportunities.
I believe our energy levels are like an internal compass. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, love the quiet or crave noise, the way you feel energetically will let you know whether the choices you make in life are the right ones.
So tell me, what is your energy compass telling you right now?