Managing Energy While Under Stress

During the past two months my husband and I have been faced with managing energy and staying productive while under stress. As we’ve worked to de-clutter, purge, and prepare our house for sale staying productive day after day has been a challenge.

Although we agreed on the plan to sell our house months ago, we found it hard to get started.  We were too emotionally attached to the house and our lifestyle here.  In the fall, we agreed that we would leave things in place, celebrate Christmas rituals one last time, and then do a big push.  We began with a basement boot camp that you can read about at but found that our energy reserves were depleted more quickly than anticipated.

The boot camp was to last two weeks but continued for six weeks including several days for a painter to re-do the large finished area and basement bathroom. As each week passed, impatience and frustration grew.  Would this never end?

On some days I found myself feeling flat and unmotivated.  Anxiety ruled on other  days.  Distraction made me ineffective.  I made stupid mistakes.  I spent time on useless tasks like organizing a shelf of florist vases  and not recognizing they were junk.

By chance, I listened to a UTube interview with Dr. Peter Jensen who discussed techniques for energy management. Jensen works with many Canadian Olympians. He advocates learning how to turn up energy when needed and turn it down when it’s too high.

His remarks encouraged me.

Jensen recommends getting enough sleep, becoming aware of physical changes in the body when aroused, learning how to breathe, staying positive,  and accepting that pressure is necessary to keep moving forward. Most of these techniques are easy enough, but remembering to use them when faced with stress is the trick.

I’ve tried to use this advice to better manage my time and emotions during a time of upheaval in my life.

  1.  Getting enough sleep. Sound sleep is  problematic when my mind is churning with the ‘to do’ lists for the next day or the next week.  When I know that I’ve slept poorly, I cut myself some slack and reduce the work I plan to accomplish or I make time for a quick nap.  Even 20 minutes of relaxation and a few zee’s gives energy.
  2. Listening to my body’s messages.  Why is it so difficult to pay attention to the signs of physical arousal?  Logic tells me that rapid breathing, multi-tasking, and anxious worry indicate a level of energy depletion. This is the time to pay attention to body messages that show too much arousal. My body is often smarter than my brain.
  3. Using proper breathing techniques to slow down. Jenson describes breath management similar to what I’ve learned in yoga classes.  The method involves making exhalation longer than inhalation and breathing deeply into the diaphragm. Deep breathing relaxes body and mind, thus allowing better self-management, moderation, and control of energy.
  4. Staying positive. My husband is an eternal optimist.  Every day he reminds me of the progress we are making.  He points out areas of accomplishment and helps me to celebrate small gains. These affirmations reinforce the goal and empower me to stay with the de-cluttering and purging. Cognitive techniques that re-frame the project and emphasize purpose reinforce a mindset that tells me I am capable of getting to end-of-job.
  5. Accepting that pressure is necessary.  We’re planning to list our house at the end of March or early in April.  This deadline creates time pressure. Everyday, the deadline challenges us to expend focused energy on preparing the house for sale.  This means saying ‘no’ to other things I might like to do, missing opportunities for ‘fun’ activities, and eliminating distractions.

By learning to manage energy when under stress rather than focusing only on time management and scheduling, the project of preparing our house for sale has taken on a new dimension of personal growth. I’m learning to better monitor myself, not to waste precious energy on inconsequential things, and to replenish myself when anxious or overwhelmed. When overwhelmed, I change my inner narrative to reinforce the reasons for down-sizing.

Managing energy take commitment and focus.  It involves a shift of priorities. It means changing behaviour and thinking to ensure that I use positive energy get as much as possible out of every day.

4 Replies to “Managing Energy While Under Stress”

  1. Selling a beloved home is difficult. You’ve offered some great suggestions for managing it. Thank you!

    1. We’re on the home stretch. Thanks for your vote of support!

  2. Agreed, it’s all too easy to overdo. (Great video.) Take care of yourselves! All your hard work will be worth it when you get the best possible price for your house. Maybe you can use a bit of that “sweat equity” to splurge on an elegant dinner or mini vacation!

    1. Hopefully all the work will payoff although the progress sometimes feels slow. We will definitely reward ourselves with treats once this is over. Being a worrywart, I sometimes catch myself thinking that, once moved, there will be another version of the stress as we settle in to another house and go through the process of making it feel like home! I turn these thoughts off quickly to focus on what has to be done now.
      Be well,

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