Each of us comes into this world endowed with a fundamental ‘energy’. This energy operates as a kind of bank account and supplies us with the power to function, grow, heal and regenerate ourselves daily. We are designed, however, to supplement this original endowment of energy with what we generate from eating, drinking, breathing, sleeping, working, playing, learning and relationships. Each day we make withdrawals and deposits; we invest or deplete. And when the balance of the scales tips in the direction of us using more than we put back in, we begin to live in the red, with the potential of falling further and further behind.
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To keep the currency analogy going, we are then forced to dip into our savings. When we continuously withdraw from our savings account, alarm bells can begin to sound, telling us that our survival is being challenged. These alarms present to us as symptoms in the body, often of the type that don’t initially lead us to stay home from work … so we soldier on and often do nothing about them. Or the medicating — rather than the resolving — of these symptoms begins. For example, if you get a headache every afternoon at 3pm, it is not a deficiency of painkillers that has led to the headache, yet many people treat the headache as if it is due to such a deficiency.
Some of the symptoms of dipping into our energy savings accounts include fatigue, low mood, anxious feelings, apathy, unrefreshed sleep or insomnia, brain fog, lowered resistance to infections, stiffness, digestive system problems, “unexplained” changes in body fat levels, and signs of rapid ageing. These are just some of the ways our body might choose to let us know that we are physically, mentally and/or emotionally exhausted.
Dr Libby Weaver author of Women’s Wellness Wisdom shares some common factors that may lead us to live in the red when it comes to our energy and what can we do to avoid them?
Caffeine stimulates the production of your short-term stress hormone adrenaline. Essentially, when you produce adrenaline, your body interprets this as real physical danger. While a little bit of adrenaline may not be a bad thing, if you are already feeling pressured to meet a tight deadline at work or to tick off a bunch of tasks on your to-do list and you gulp down a coffee or three, you’re adding more fuel to the stress fire. Not only does adrenaline affect our blood sugar levels, which can cause spikes and drops in our energy, stress hormones communicate to your body that your life is in danger, so it prioritises your safety and down regulates other less essential processes such as reproductive function and great digestion.
We can’t fight our biology – our body needs rest. If you’re on the go 24/7, you’re going to find yourself exhausted after a while. If you add to that poor quality sleep, either because you can’t seem to sleep very well or because you don’t prioritise the need for 7-8 hours sleep per night, it’s just going to compound the situation. You might feel like you don’t have enough time to slow down but actually, the act of slowing down helps you to feel as though you have more time. You will notice a significant difference to your energy if you build sufficient rest time into your daily, or at the very least, weekly care routine.
There is nothing in the world that can replace a nutritious way of eating. For some, food is either about losing or maintaining a preferred body weight, for others it’s about eating the most convenient thing to squeeze into a busy day. Yet, when we eat in a way that focuses on nourishment, our body thrives. Nourishment means whole, real foods as close as they come to nature. It means prioritising vegetables, particularly leafy greens and feeding our body with the nutrients it needs to drive the millions of biochemical processes in our body (many of which lead to energy).
Some people don’t get enough movement in their days while others overdo it. Either scenario can lead to sluggish energy. Our body needs movement or our muscles and joints can become tight and sore. But exercise is actually a stress on the body and we can do too much of it. Be guided by how your body feels during and after exercise – if you come away feeling absolutely exhausted, you’ve gone too far. You want to feel energised afterwards. And don’t discount incidental exercise – parking a little further away so you have further to walk, carrying your groceries in a basket rather than a trolley, taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It all adds up. Remember also to get up from your desk and walk around at least once an hour for a few minutes. Sitting for long periods of time can also drain our energy.
Having too many tabs open in our brain can put a drain on our energy. As can having a perception that everything is urgent and putting immense pressure on ourselves to do it all to the highest standard. If your mind is running at a million miles an hour, your body is likely struggling to keep up. Try to close tabs regularly – this means completing those little tasks that sit in the back of your mind and nag at you. Also explore your perception of pressure and urgency. An inbox overflowing with emails might feel urgent, but in reality, there will be many correspondences in it that don’t require your immediate attention. Look at what you expect yourself to do within a day and ask for support. There’s often people just waiting on the sidelines to help us out if we only ask them!