Is it the final countdown until your December break or is it just a really busy time at the office. Either way, how do we take care of ourselves during this time?

We speak about our physical energy and how tired we can get but what about our mental energy? Is there a depletion of mental energy that is contributing to the depletion of physical energy.

Do you recognise when your body is telling you that there is an energy depletion? Here are some signs:


I am easily irritated  
I have difficulty concentrating for any length of time  
I feel tired even when I wake up in the morning  
I have difficulty making even simple decisions  
The quality of my sleep has deteriorated. I have difficulty getting to sleep and I wake during the night and am restless  
I lose my temper frequently  
I feel powerful negative emotions  
I feel generally run down and rather unwell  



Life seems to be quite hopeless. Nothing seems worthwhile and I feel really


My eating pattern has altered. I have lost my appetite or I seem to be eating more food to comfort myself  
I have difficulty in absorbing new data  
I suffer from frequent headaches  
I have difficulty recalling information when I am required to do so  
I am drinking more alcohol than usual  
I experience dramatic swings of mood  
I have missed, or been late for, one or two important appointments  
I am unable to achieve my normal level of creativity  
I suffer from backache regularly  
I have taken time off work  
I suffer from indigestion  
I seem to lack the capacity to focus on a particular problem – my mind keeps wandering on to other issues.  
I feel wound up and unable to relax properly  



So how do we strengthen our mental energy? We need to establish some good habits.

  • Nutrition

When we are feeling low on energy do we reach for the chocolate or do we reach for the salad? Yes, the chocolate is a quick release of energy but one which disappears instantly. The salad is a sustainable source of energy, yet not as tasty. Junk food is also comfort food and therefore we turn to it quicker than to the health options. This also applies to the number of cups of tea/coffee or fizzy drinks we consume as opposed to the amount of fresh water we drink. It is not as exciting but definitely better for energy renewal.

  • Exercise

After a long day at the office not many of us feel like going to the gym or going out for a run, cycle or walk around the block. This is exactly what the body needs. The fresh air and change of pace allows the brain to focus in a new area and let go of the day’s challenges. Exercise is linked to oxygen. The more oxygen you bring into the body the better it functions. It is not necessary to join the gym. The most important factor is to choose a form of exercise that will challenge your body and mind so that you can free your mind from the day.

  • Positive emotional attractors

Neuroscience offers a new understanding on the role of positive and negative emotion and their effect on us. The positive emotional attractor (PEA) triggers constructive cognitive and physiological responses that enhance an individual’s motivation, effort, optimism, flexibility, creative thinking, resilience and other adaptive behaviours. The negative emotional attractor (NEA) triggers another process by calling attention to current social and environmental stressors that may compromise an individual’s effectiveness. It is critically important to leverage the beneficial effects of PEA arousal.

We have to develop the ability to find the good in what we have done all day rather than focus on the negative. The more we focus on the negative the more we deplete our energy.

  • Sleep

There are many debates on how much sleep we need in a night, where there is no doubt is the value of sleep. Quality sleep protects our mental and physical health. Sleep helps the brain form new pathways of learning and retaining information. The better the quality of sleep the better we are at making decisions, handling emotions, problem solving, learning new skills etc.





In the world of technology today there are apps that can help us with improving our mental energy. I hear the comments “but I don’t have time to use an app”. All you need is 30 seconds. Yes, 30 seconds. A lot can happen in half a minute. There are many opportunities in the day to put our 30 seconds to good use. Here are some ideas and apps shared by Scott Muska.

Micro meditate

Take 30 seconds, close your eyes and breathe deeply. This will help improve mental energy. The app Mindfulness from iTunes can help you learn to meditate, and guide you through short, timed sessions.


We sit all day in the same position. Whether it is a good posture or not does not matter we just sit. 30 seconds is a good length of time to hold a stretch in order to re-energise the body. Try the app Performance Stretching at to make sure you’re doing the right stretches for the tight spots you’re trying to soothe.

Order a balanced meal

There’s nothing like a good salad to energise the body for the rest of the day.

Get a mini workout

Use the stopwatch on your phone to keep track of time, and see how many pushups or sit-ups you can do in 30 seconds. Or just stand up and see how many times you can go round your desk in 30 seconds.

Donate to charity

Giving back is a really positive emotional attracter. Find a charity close to your heart, hop on their website and donate.

Boost your confidence and mood with an affirmation or inspirational quote

Apps like Unique Daily Affirmations will give you a positive affirmation as soon as you open it – like “I am in control of the situation” or “I’m a confident, powerful, successful person who can achieve anything.” These are great motivators when mental energy is low.

Set a small goal

How do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece. Sometimes all we need is 30 seconds to set a mini goal, which will help us achieve far more in a day. It may also be a tool to refocus our day after a crisis has occurred. Try Smart Goals ( It will help you set goals and keep track of the progress you make toward them.

Pay your credit card bill

It only takes a few seconds and it reduces the mental energy you spend worrying about the bill.

Pamper yourself

Make a hair appointment, make an appointment for a facial etc. Spoil yourself – it is a positive emotional attractor.

Check in on your sleep quality

Apps like Sleep Cycle help keep track of how long and how well you’re sleeping. If you take a few seconds to read the report from the previous night, you might gain insight into something that will help improve your sleep. You can also use the app Zeo.

Text your mother/ grandmother/ special family member

Yes, when was the last time you simply said “hello”? The love from that person will fuel your mental energy.

In South Africa there is a SeSotho saying that translated means “the work never gets finished, it is the human that gets finished.” Top up your mental energy – and get started on life!

Joanne Barnfather is the Managing Member of MindLeap, a training company in South Africa. She works in the private and public sector, focusing on skills that inspire people and organisations to want to be better.

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