Tag Archives: transitions

How Can I just “DO IT”? (Part 4)

Now, you understand about brain energy, resilience, transitions and activation energy. So, “How can I just DO IT?”

Feel free to read this a couple of times to think about it and consider what it means for you. This is putting it all together.

First, let’s review and go back to the car analogy: The first time you try to get to a new destination you are more likely to succeed if you have a large full tank of gas and plenty of time in case anything unexpected happens. This means: To incorporate a novel transition, you are more likely to succeed if you have lots of resilience & maximum brain energy. You set off on your drive (using your activation energy). You may not yet know the “best” route. In fact, you may get lost or end up in construction and traffic (using still more activation energy). In other words, you will need more energy to do something new, and you only have a set amount of energy to start with every day. Plan your day accordingly. More “new” or “unusual” events planned, the more energy you will drain.

You are better off if you have a large full tank of gas because you still have other places to go (more transitions or activities to do) after your first destination, and there may not be a gas station nearby. In the future however, each time you go to that destination, you will likely do it better and faster. The more frequently you drive there, the more efficient your drive will become. In other words, the more “routine” something becomes, the less activation energy required for it.

Concept #4. Hectic days can sabotage our good intentions.

A hectic day has more novel transitions & is often complicated by the requirement that there are specific times those transitions have to be completed.Remember that novel transitions are transitions that are not a regular occurrence. The more novel the transitions, & the more of them that you have in a period of time, the more activation energy is required for each event, the bigger the drain on your brain energy, and the more hectic your day will feel. A hectic day is really like a day with lots of novel transitions scheduled into it – rapidly draining your energy.

Going back to the car analogy when you are over-scheduled with lots of novel transitions over several days: Effectively, you are just DRAINING your gas tank and throwing rocks into the tank too effectively shrinking the size of the tank and decreasing the amount of gas you haave. You will be running on empty pretty quickly. Hectic days have the potential to sabotage your good intentions without warning.

Bottom line, hectic days are days when you just have lots more going on & they are not your usual routine. These are dangerous days. Mistakes happen and good intentions fall by the way side. Often, we end up in survival mode and not being our best selves. We may stop taking the time to take care of ourselves. We are in danger of burn out. These are times when you eat the foods you know aren’t good for you, when you are stressed out, when you consider skipping your workout.

Remember, if it is a novel transition and/or it needs to be done at a certain time (ie. getting to a new appointment), it will deplete more activation energy and may become part of a hectic day. Now you know this. You can prepare for this. It means you will need to plan for more frequent recharging times, more breaks, more times to decompress and slow down. You may choose not to add in too many novel events in a week if you have that option.

In my house with teenage boys, there are certain times of the year that are just full of predictable hectic days, and they revolve around the boys’ schedules. To prevent burn out and to make sure I continue to take care of myself, I create a plan ahead of those predictable times to boost my resilience and brain energy around those times so that I maximize my time and what I accomplish then. I also try NOT to plan “new activities” or “novel transitions” at those times if they are not necessary.

There is a good argument for regular exercise, healthy nutrition and for taking care of your brain energy and increasing your resiliency: If you are fit and you have been taking care of yourself (mentally, physically & spiritually), you will have more resilience, have more brain energy and therefore, more activation energy available to you & you can do so much more before you have exhausted your supply of activation energy and your total brain energy.

With knowledge, planning and preparation, you can achieve your goals and continue to move forward towards new ones. You will achieve much more in life. So, you can now say, “I will DO It!”

Change and Activation Energy

Recently, I had a nice discussion with my mom about the challenges of NOT having a regular schedule.

Why was it so hard to sustain that new exercise routine and healthy eating plan? Was it that the work & home life had so many changes recently? The new school year, the different work hours? Was it the changing weather? The recent 10 day “vacation?” Was it that in this upcoming semester, there would be no 2 days or 2 weeks that were similar – NO routines?

It made me think about what trauma surgeon once told me. “It’s the transitions that are hard in our work. That’s what makes being “on call” so draining. Once we are at the hospital, we are fine and we love what we do. And once we are home, we love being home and don’t want to leave. It’s the transitions that are awful.”

Transitions are hard for children, and adults too, it turns out. A transition is when you have to change what you are doing now, to do the next thing: shift from sleeping to waking to exercising to showering to getting ready for work to being a parent to driving to work to working, etc. A transition may be that you have to change locations: go from one store to the other, go from home to work, go from one appointment to another. The more transitions in your day, the more your brain has to do, the more vigilant it has to be. This can exhaust your energy stores. When those energy stores are depleted, things may start to feel overwhelming. When we feel overwhelmed or when our brain has been vigilant for too long without a chance to recharge, that is when it becomes easier to let your good intentions & health efforts fall to the side.

Transitions require activation energy & there is only a finite amount there. Activation energy is the amount of “effort” and “discipline” you need IN ADDITION to the physical & mental energy you need, to do the next activity. If you are fit and you have been taking care of yourself, you will have more activation energy available to you & can do so much more before you have exhausted your supply of activation energy. You are more resilient to change and transitions.

But if you have not been taking care of your whole self, or have let stress build up in your life…changes and transitions may quickly deplete your activation energy stores and prevent replenishing them. This may cause you to cut out some of the newer activities in your life, such as your fairly new exercise program or your healthier eating plan. The longer you have been doing something or the longer something is a part of your routine, the less activation energy it requires. The newer the activity, the more activation you need to transition to doing that activity. Habits hardly require ANY activation energy. A habit is practically a reflex.

So, in order to live our lives to our fullest potential and joy, we need to find ways to replenish & increase our activation energy stores on a regular basis. Our activation energy stores are directly proportional to our resilience. Our stores of activation energy and our resilience increases with certain healthy behaviors.

The goal is to find those unique things that you have control over that energize and replenish you, that nurture you and give you that boost. Then create a routine that incorporates some or all of those activities into your life regularly. Taking a walk after dinner on those days you eat dinner. Sitting with yourself and thinking about your day before you brush your teeth. Listening to classical music on the ride home from work. Sitting amongst greenery during lunch break. Jogging on the treadmill on waking in the morning. Hanging out with family. You find what works for you.

The longer you make that effort, the easier it will be to maintain that activity and the more activation energy you will develop and maintain and the more resilient you will be to change and transitions. Then, incorporating new changes or transitions into your life or managing your life when you are hit with a new stressor will not be as disruptive. You will be resilient and have sufficient activation energy to meet the demands of your daily transitions. In addition, you will have a reflexive response to replenish your activation stores. You will be able to continue to take care of yourself and you don’t have to let your good habits or good intentions fall to the side. This allows you the freedom to live your life to your fullest potential and full of joy.