Updated: Mar 21, 2021
“Energy is a bit like money: if you have a positive balance, you can distribute it in various ways, but according to the classical laws that were believed at the beginning of the century, you weren't allowed to be overdrawn.”
~ Stephen Hawking
Our bodies are like batteries. When they are fully charged, they perform at a high level. On the other end, if they are drained then performance drops off significantly. We’ve all had those days when our energy seemed boundless. You have a little more spring in your step and it feels great. We’ve also had those days where our energy feels like it was completely zapped from our body and we feel lousy. Simple things like just getting out of bed is a challenge.
The truth is, a lot of people wake up with low energy. Instead of recognizing the cause and changing their habits, they take something to boost their energy artificially with the use of coffee, sugar and energy drinks, etc. As a result, they become completely dependent on these products each day. You will often here people say how they could not make it through the day without their pick-me-up product. Relying on these artificial stimuli for energy often leads to several problems down the road such as adrenal fatigue, heart disease and diabetes, just to name a few.
Why do we feel great some days and drained other days? In order to answer this question, we need to understand energy management. In other words, we need to understand which factors affect our energy the most and how to balance these factors so that we can experience a lot more days with great energy than days with poor energy. Our autonomic nervous system is made up of two main systems – the parasympathetic nervous systems (PNS) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The PNS is the restorative or recharging part (think ‘energy in’ and ‘rest and digest’) and the SNS prepares the body for various stressors such as intense physical activity (think ‘energy out’ and ‘fight or flight’).
Let’s now look at how exercise, one key lifestyle factor, affects these two energy systems. Intense exercise or activity puts a demand on the SNS, whereas gentle, relaxing and deep breathing-type activity stimulates a PNS response. I want you to understand that there is no good or bad between the two energy systems. An extreme either way is what you want to avoid. A healthy work-out and work-in balance is the goal for optimal energy.
Whenever I am assessing my personal energy for the day, I use something I call ‘My Energy Report Card’. With this report card, I can determine why I feel the way I do. For example, if I feel completely drained then I go over several, key lifestyle factors to see where I possibly went wrong. I believe it is important to observe and monitor your daily energy so that you can learn which habits work well and which do not. Of course, you need to own and take responsibility here for how you feel. Yes, certain circumstances like being woken up in the middle of the night by an alarm are out of your control, but these are exceptions not the norm. The aim is to create the habits that support energy balance outside of these types of environmental interruptions so that you have great energy most days.
Below is a list of some of the main factors I assess on a daily basis to determine my energy level. They are not listed in any specific order.
1) Sleep: In the next post, I will discuss ‘Quality Sleep’. Quality sleep is one of the greatest lifestyle factors for the PNS. Nothing recharges your batteries better than a good night’s sleep. Whenever I go over my energy report card, sleep is the first thing I assess. Did you get good quality sleep? If not, why? What can you do to improve your sleep quality? Did you go to bed too late? Were you wired and full of thoughts from that last YouTube video you watched? Is watching YouTube, tv or anything else that stimulates the SNS a good idea/habit before going to bed?
2) Exercise: If your activity level (intensity and/or volume) was higher than normal the day before (or several days in a row) then this can affect your energy. Also, if you did not counter the activity with enough work-in time, this could slow down your recovery and recharge time. I recommend that you increase your work-in time whenever you increase the volume and/or intensity of your activities. At the other end, you can also get fatigued from not moving enough. Over time, inactivity causes your battery power to weaken. The less you do, the less you want to do. This is not a cycle you want to get trapped in.
3) Stress: Stress is like an invisible weight that is strapped on to you. The more stress you carry, the more energy it takes to live out your day. Stress comes in many forms and it can really sneak up on you. If you feel overly stressed then you need to stimulate the PNS with stress reducing activities such as meditation, gentle yoga or even getting a massage. If something stressful is on your mind then you need to talk to the right people who can help you get through, over or passed it. Don’t let these things build up and fester.
4) Diet: You are what you eat. If you ate poorly then you can expect to feel the same way. Your body has to work very hard to digest food, especially non-foods (junk food, highly-processed foods, etc.). In addition, overeating is sure to put even more stress and demand on your digestive system. To ensure you have great energy, you need to follow the diet principles I teach in ‘The Two Pillars of Nutrition: Quality and Quantity’.
5) Hydration: Your body is performing countless of processes a second both on a macro scale (i.e. heart beat) and a micro scale (i.e. cellular function). All of these processes require water either directly or indirectly. Dehydration taxes all of these systems and the body has to go into a defensive mode. It has to select the most important areas of your body to keep hydrated. This is why you will often experience things like thirst or dry mouth as preliminary symptoms and then it escalates to constipation, very dry skin, rapid heartbeat and of course, very low energy.
6) Negative Habits: Any habits that stress your body, mind or spirit will take their toll on you and drain your energy. Whether it’s drinking too much alcohol, staying up too late or playing video games for too long, the more you indulge in negative habits, the less energy you will have. Scan through all of your habits and see which ones serve you for the better and which ones don’t. Try to minimize or eliminate them if you can. For help on establishing new and better habits, read my book ‘One Habit At A Time’.
7) Environmental: Some of these things are out of your control such as a baby crying at night and interrupting your sleep or the weather, like a rainy day and a long winter with very few sunny days. However, there are some things you can do to control environment such as spending more time in nature. Nature is a great place to breathe in fresh air and recharge. Also, what is your sleeping environment set up? Do you have a lot of unnatural lighting in your room or is it dark? Do you have devices on near you which can chime out some notifications? The point is; how can you set up your environment to improve the quality of your sleep or the food you eat (think when you are looking for a snack in the fridge or cupboard for instance) or the sun you absorb and the air you breathe, etc.?
8) Creative Expression: It is easy to become so task oriented these days. When was the last time you drew or painted a picture? When was the last time you created something unique that was soul-driven? Expressing your creativity is a great way to stimulate a childlike state of being. Think of how much energy you had when you were a child. We can learn a lot from children. Look at how naturally and freely they express themselves with singing and dancing, etc. Try bringing some of your favourite childhood activities back into your life and notice how much more energy it gives you.
9) Authentic, Passionate or Meaningful Living: If you’re not being true to yourself and others then you are not going to enjoy life. The feeling of joy brings energy. Furthermore, if we do not love ourselves and honour our deep, sacred drives then our lives lose meaning. Our ‘e-motion’ literally translates to our ‘energy in motion’. The better we feel about ourselves and life, the more energy we will have. To live with authenticity, joy and meaning is very powerful – you look forward to getting up in the morning and seizing each day. The best thing you can do for yourself and others is to make the most of yourself. Be bold, live how you want to live and do what you want to do. Remember, every day that we are alive is a true blessing and gift. This may sound simple for some of you but I know a lot of people struggle with this one.
10) Thinking Patterns and Belief Structures: Our ability to think is a marvelous wonder. However, when it is not correctly managed it can be a problem. Why? Thinking requires energy. If you think continuously without stopping, you literally drain your battery all the time. The problem is that most people think without stopping. This is the reason we practice meditation or mindfulness. It allows us to step outside of our minds, observe and just be in the moment. We learn to watch and slow the flow of our thoughts. We become mindful of hurtful and destructive thought patterns and belief structures which can be causing us unnecessary stress and energy loss.
As you can see, your energy and wellbeing depend on a number of factors. Mastering all of these takes time but I assure you, it’s worth the effort and the ENERGY.
Your V10 Health Coach,
Sal Crispo P.S. If you are interested, I also make a coaching video for each of these posts on YouTube. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel so you do not miss out on any of the valuable content I share. Here is the link for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNTnxk_64ak