How can we combat exhaustion and improve our wellbeing?
Most of us are coming to the end of a week-long break from the everyday activities of school – we’re not out of the woods yet – with the best part of two months to go before the true wellbeing recuperation of Summer can start.
In the final weeks of the summer term, the exhaustion of the year can really take its toll and we can succumb to making bad decisions that can deplete our energy even further.
When our energy is depleted, one of the first things that suffers is our willpower. Resisting temptation takes a lot of willpower and then we succumb to things we know we shouldn’t, it makes us feel bad about ourselves. If you repeat this negative, internal message about how rubbish you are, often enough, you start to believe it.
It’s time to break that cycle now, because it’s not true and can be remedied.
5 Ways To Maintain Your Willpower
Here are five threats to your willpower mojo and what to do about them:
1. Low energy
When our energy supplies are low, our bodies become stingy and refuse to expend on extraneous needs. It’s a vicious cycle and the only way to break it is to ensure your energy supplies never get fully depleted.
Yes, I know, it’s back to rational food choices! Low-glycemic foods such as nuts, grains, fruit and vegetables are always going to be the sensible choice for energy production and conservation. But then you know that, right? Moving on …
2. Low awareness
Willpower is very similar to a muscle: if you don’t use it, it becomes weak.
So, the first step is to notice when you are exerting willpower. The second step is to build it up by deliberately putting temptation in your way and practising resistance.
Place a giant jar of your favourite sweets right where you can see it. Now, tell yourself ‘I am resisting temptation’ every time you look at it. Tell yourself you’re’ ‘just resisting for now’ and see if you can pass up taking one for longer and longer each time.
When you are faced with temptation, try resisting for 5 minutes, then another 5 minutes and see how long you can resist for. Become aware of every time you are facing temptation and resisting it, if even for only a few minutes at first. You might be surprised at how much self-control you are able to build.
Have you ever considered why you give in to temptation?
Perhaps your willpower isn’t weak at all but just your subconscious taking over? Is collapsing on the sofa really your subconscious’ way of saying you need to sleep? Maybe it’s telling you that you’re overwhelmed with workload? Or that you are struggling with a stale teaching role or personal relationship? Or are unsure what to do with your life?
There could be any number of underlying issues that your subconscious is prioritising over your conscious willpower. Focus on identifying the root cause and dismantling it.
4. Remembering to resist
If it’s just a little reminder you need then you are definitely the best person for the job! Perhaps you struggle with resisting staffroom cake? In which case, next time it turns up, decide that you will resist ‘just this once’ and several hours later (when you have successfully resisted!) record yourself saying how good you feel having taken control.
When the next time comes around, listen back to yourself and you’ll find it much easier to take your own advice.
5. Fiendish dopamine
Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that is released in anticipation of something pleasurable. Used in the hunter/gatherer days it was essential for survival, but nowadays can be totally hijacked by advertising agencies, strategic sales patter or a seductive looking stranger.
All you need to know is that your overwhelming desire for, say, the next must-have gadget, is just the dopamine talking and you can just say a firm ‘no’ to it without your survival being threatened. Be especially aware of this when under stress as your body, trying to keep you mentally happy and balanced, may be throwing all sorts of dopamine bombs at you.
The most effective activities for reducing stress are, listening to music, exercising, walking and reading a book.
Your willpower is not fixed or limited, but it cannot function at its best without your help. You have to notice it, practise it and find your own ways to build it. If you do, you will find you willpower serves you well with your mission in the world, whether that’s to spread the word about the beauty of maths, educate teenagers in the politics of World Wars or just get through the afternoon with Year four …