Imagine moving heavy boxes all day and then attempting to run a race that evening. Doesn’t sound like a good idea, right? I doubt that few if any people would be able to do it well. Their muscles would be too tired and maybe even sore.
And yet many people attempt do something similar to running that race after moving those heavy boxes with relation to their mental energy.
Put simply, mental energy is the stamina one has to engage in creative work. Mental energy affects focus and creativity, and low mental energy makes us more impulsive and lacking in self-control. It also makes us more easily distracted. Sometimes people think they lack motivation when they really lack mental energy, and in those situations, pep talks aren’t the solution. With my chronic illness, I have low levels of mental energy, so while mental energy is something everyone needs to use wisely, I particularly need to steward mine.
I recently analyzed what drains or boosts my mental energy in terms of activities, time of day, environment, and health habits, and I am sharing the results below.
In terms of activities: A short walk often improves my mental energy. Social media, reading, writing, and talking to friends and family all quickly drain my mental energy for analytical work, but they also usually recharge my emotional energy. Crocheting and lying in bed listening to music drain my mental energy but much more slowly than many activities and are usually things I can do when I can’t read or write.
In terms of time of day: That answer fluctuates a lot. When I am herxing, I am usually best in the afternoon and evening when my fevers and fatigue are usually less after confining me to bed much of the day. Otherwise, when I am not acutely herxing, I stay up in the morning and then need to rest and nap most of the remainder of the day or at least for several hours in the afternoon. I also save my most mentally demanding tasks for the weekend because I take a strong antibabesial with a 2 week half-life every Tuesday, and it usually makes me feel pretty sick and lowers my mental energy until the weekend.
In terms of environment: I need the room to be cool, to have good lighting, and to be quiet, although sometimes I listen to ambient music. I also like to write outside, but I mostly can't do that in the summer and winter because of the temperatures.
In terms of health habits: Eating 3 meals and 3 snacks daily helps to keep my blood sugar steady and to improve my mental energy. I try to eat a mixture of protein, fat, and complex carbs with each meal and snack and eat lots of vegetables and eat a diet that is gluten and dairy free as well as low sugar. I make sure to stay hydrated. Also, supplemental astaxanthin (because it is an antioxidant), fish oil (because it contains omega-3 fatty acids), Burbur Pinella (because it is detoxifying), Alka-Seltzer Gold (because it corrects acidosis), melatonin (because it is the most potent antioxidant and helps me sleep deeper) and other hormones my body doesn't produce enough of on its own, such as cortisol, all seem to improve my mental function. I also use a HappyLight for 20 minutes each morning to help with Circadian rhythm. Sleep and naps are crucial to my mental function since I have chronic fatigue.
I additionally find that it is important that I get dressed every day, even though I am mostly homebound. For me, getting dressed is simple and just means showering and putting on day clothes, but it puts me in a different frame of mind that signals my brain that it has work to do.
What improves and drains your mental energy in each of the four examined areas, and how can you best steward your mental energy accordingly?