“The quality of your energy is directly proportionate to the quality of your life.” Dr Libby Weaver
I don’t know about you, but this is absolutely the case in my life. The poorer my energy, the poorer the quality of my life. Period.
That’s why I’m so passionate about understanding the causes of poor energy, finding out how to cultivate and maintain great energy and helping others to do the same. Energy is after all the true currency of life.
Over the past few years I’ve dealt with many unexpected health challenges, one of the consequences of which has been low energy levels.
It has taken much soul searching and determination to understand why my energy levels were so depleted and how to recover them, and I hope to share some of what I’ve learned with you here.
Poor energy is not normal
I think the first step on the road to great energy is to acknowledge that poor energy is not normal.
Just because most people around you are experiencing poor energy does not mean it’s inevitable or that you’re asking too much to expect to feel good most of the time.
It seems to have become accepted that caffeine is necessary for most people to function. Again, this is not normal. We should be perfectly able to make it through the day without the support of caffeine or any other stimulant. If that’s not the case then something needs to change.
Once we acknowledge that something’s not right, that something needs to change, then we can start the process of finding out what’s getting in the way of us feeling good.
There are many roads to poor energy
Let me count the ways….
There are so many roads to poor energy that it’s no wonder so many of us find ourselves there at one time or another in our lives. Below are just some of the factors.
When life becomes hectic convenience often takes precedence over nutritional value. We reach for the quickest option rather than the most nutritious. This is fine once in a while, but when it becomes the norm, that’s when our health and energy start to suffer.
Convenience food is often devoid of the nutrients our body needs to thrive and packed full of ingredients that have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It’s no surprise then, that when convenience becomes the key driver in our choices, our energy levels take a tumble.
Worse still, because our energy levels are low, we can often find ourselves craving foods that give us a quick energy boost and so begins a vicious circle.
Too much stress
When we’re permanently stressed our body loses the ability to use body fat as fuel, instead craving the quick hit that glucose provides and leading us to make poor choices and strap ourselves firmly into an energy rollercoaster.
But what causes us to be so stressed?
There are many factors and they will be different for each of us but a few things that spring to mind are:
- Trying to fit 96 hours into a 24 hour day
- Our perception of what we “have” to do
- Working too many hours and becoming less and less productive as a result
- Not sleeping enough in a bid to get everything done
- Trying to be everything to everyone and forgetting who we are in the process
Many of us are in permanent fight or flight mode. When we live in the fight or flight zone (sympathetic nervous system or SNS) sugar is burned as fuel as our body seeks out the fastest source of fuel to get us away from danger. The thing is, most of us aren’t running from danger every hour of every day and our bodies aren’t designed to withstand such prolonged periods of stress. This is how so many of us are ending up with stress related illnesses such as adrenal fatigue.
Add to this our over consumption of caffeine, which stimulates the adrenal glands and causes them to release adrenaline thereby increasing our anxiety levels, and poor sleep due to the presence of adrenaline, which is designed to keep us ever so slightly awake, and it’s not hard to see how stress depletes our energy levels.
Not enough exercise
Over the age of thirty we need to do resistance based exercise to maintain and build our muscle mass and our energy levels.
Exercise isn’t just about fitness or looking good, it’s about how much energy we have. We need to exercise to enable us to stay strong and mobile, especially as we get older.
Not only that, the more we exercise, the more energy we have and the happier we are. In short, exercise is essential in supporting our physical and mental energy.
What can we do to improve our energy levels?
You’ll be pleased to know that there are as many roads to great energy as there are to poor energy and there are many simple things we can do to put ourselves on the right track.
Be aware of your choices
When making any change in life, awareness is the first step.
The key to making any change is being aware of why you are making certain choices in the first place.
Sometimes we think what we do doesn’t matter. “It’s only one bag of sweets, it’s only one beer, it’s only one more night working late, it’s only one more night of not enough sleep” but those small choices add up and, before we know it, we’ve developed an unhealthy habit that’s hard to break.
When you find yourself about to make a not so great food choice for instance, ask yourself whether the food or drink you’re about to consume is moving you toward taking care of your health or not? Will it nourish you? If not, why are you making that choice? Sometimes it can be pure convenience but often there’s a deeper meaning underneath our choices.
Digging into the beliefs that drive our decisions isn’t easy, don’t get me wrong, but for some of us it’s essential to us changing the quality of our lives.
Poor choices can be an indicator that we believe we’re not worth taking great care of. When we think there’s something intrinsically wrong with us it changes all the choices that we make. Before we can change any behaviour we have to change the belief that’s driving it.
Remember that whenever we say yes to one thing we’re saying no to something else. We say yes to an evening sitting on the sofa instead of working out and we’re saying no to finding the energy we so desire. We say yes to just ten more minutes scrolling through Instagram and we’re saying no to ten minutes of conversation with someone we love.
It’s all about our choices.
Change your perception
Your body is your friend. It isn’t betraying you, it’s a messenger. It doesn’t have a voice so it uses symptoms and signs. If something isn’t serious enough to keep us home from work we often ignore it but we shouldn’t.
Start paying attention to your body and treating it as a trusted ally. It has all the answers if you’ll just listen to it.
Stress can also in large part be attributed to our perception of what’s going on in our lives.
Change “I have to” to “I get to” and see what a difference it makes. It’s very difficult to be grateful and stressed at the same time.
If you find yourself stressing about most things in life, maybe it’s time to examine what you’re afraid of. I’ve heard it said that stress is the achiever’s word for fear and I’m inclined to agree. If you can figure out what the source of most of your stress is, then you’ll be in a position to do something about it.
Life’s a sprint, not a marathon
We need periods of rest in order to recover. We’re not built to keep pushing ourselves, to keep squeezing more out of the energy that we have. By doing this we’re slowly destroying ourselves, pushing ourselves to the point of burn out.
Make time for rest and play. Life’s too short not to. Make a list of the things that you find restful and restorative and make sure you do at least one of those things each day.
Use deep belly (diaphragmatic) breathing to get you from your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to your parasympathetic nervous system (the fat burning relaxed zone). You can’t breathe into your belly when you’re running for your life so moving your breath from your chest to your belly sends your body the message that it’s safe.
Don’t sit for too long. Stand or lie down every hour and do at least thirty minutes moderate exercise every day. Be aware of your posture. Try not to spend all day hunched over your computer.
Be disciplined and focused with your time. Tasks will expand into the time that you give them.
Be conscious of what you’re prioritising. How much time are you giving to things that aren’t really that important or that are somebody else’s agenda?
Do what you can, ditch what you can’t and delegate the rest!
Ask: What will allow me to consistently live in a way that supports my health and my energy?
Ultimately it’s down to you and how you choose to structure your life. As much as it may not seem like it sometimes, you are in charge of your own life.
And, if you decide that it’s time to sort out your energy and you’d like a little help, get in touch. There are several ways we can work together. Drop me a message using the contact form on my website and we’ll find a time to talk about whether we’re a good fit for working together.