I remember answering the phone one sunny winter morning. The eager voice at the other end asked, “Could you deliver a talk for our employees on eating for energy?” I told her I’d be happy to craft that talk, hung up the phone, and sat down to write my proposal.
A wave of contradictions flooded my brain. I thought back to the days I drove home from work, hands on the wheel, fighting to keep my eyes open. I knew something was amiss but I pushed through the exhaustion because “slowing down” was not in my vocabulary at the time. I’m struck by the number of women I see in my practice who are suffering from low energy, low libido, adrenal failure or just plain—too tired to place one foot in front of the other syndrome.
Sure, I can tell you how to nourish the body and lighten the digestive load so that you have more energy to expend on the important business of living your life; but unless we address the lifestyle issues that landed you in this predicament, we’re really not going to get very far. I call those “energy leaks.” Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking about the ways you may be leaking energy rather than conserving it.
1. Know the difference between nurturing and care-taking. It’s wonderful to nurture those we love. It’s draining to put someone else’s needs before our own, mistaking that for love. People become “programmed” to give. Eventually, they find themselves profoundly drained and, in some cases, physically ill.
2. Establish clear and consistent boundaries with friends, family, and colleagues. It isn’t your job to speak for others, read their minds, or to worry about their responses or reactions to a given situation. A little positive energy goes a long way. Keep your side of the street clean and bright and let others sweep their own curb.
3. Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself. I used to think manicures and pedicures were for the idle. Heck, I was shaving one leg in the morning and one at night to “save time.” Now, I revel in the pleasure of having someone massage my hands or feet and I give myself permission to receive that gift. On a recent trip to Colorado, I purchased some “Cheerful Mind Balm” (orange & spearmint) and rubbed in on my father’s hands during our evening visits. By night three, he was holding out his hand, looking forward to our evening ritual and relaxing into the hand massage. The gift of touch is such a simple thing to give and receive.
4. No is a complete sentence. How many times do we say yes to a friend, colleague, or loved one when we really want to say, no? If you’re a “yes person,” begin with, “I’ll think about that and get back to you.” It takes anywhere from sixty to ninety days to change a habit. This is a great start.
5. Change your mind. Be willing to withdraw your commitment to committees, volunteer work, social obligations, car pools—whatever it is that contributes to the stress load in your life. You’re allowed to change your mind. Look for the story you’re telling yourself about your commitments and then be willing to write a new script.
6. How important is it? The next time you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with restless mind syndrome, ask yourself, “How important is it?” Give yourself the gift of perspective. One of my favorite lines about worry: There you go having your pain in advance again . . .
7. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help. If you have a lot of responsibility at work or at home, consider hiring a personal assistant. That may sound like an extravagance but I guarantee the cost of the assistant will be far less than the cost to your health.
8. Stay away from people who drain your energy. Have you ever gone out for a drink or dinner with a friend who had a lot on her mind and needed to spill it all over you? She leaves the evening feeling great and you leave feeling exhausted. She feels great because she has unloaded all of her wrath and you feel miserable because you have absorbed all of that energy. When you see a conversation going down this road, ask the question: “Have you spoken to your therapist (counselor, life coach, advisor) about your struggles? If she doesn’t have one, be prepared to make a recommendation. It is not your job to be a receptacle for someone else’s sorrow, anger, or wrath. If this one has you stymied, go back to numbers one and two. This is a boundary issue.
9. Create a nourishment menu. What feeds you? A walk in the woods? An intimate conversation with a wise and wonderful friend? How about music, art, dance, or just curling up with a good book? Do you give yourself permission to have fun? Every time you feel your energy leaking, replenish it with something from your nourishment menu.
10. Slow down. If you’re someone who lives a massively over-scheduled life, you may want to play with the question, “What am I running from?”
11. Is it true? Byron Katie, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, has a wonderful method for working with energy depleting thoughts. She calls it “the work.” In this method she asks four questions: It is true? Can you absolutely know that it is true? Who would you be without that thought? And finally, flip it. A quick example might be: “My husband makes me crazy.” Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it’s true? Who would I be without that thought? (feeling lighter already) And, finally, the flip. “I make myself crazy.” Now that’s a whole lot more empowering isn’t it? If I’m making myself crazy with disempowering thoughts, I have the power to change my mind. Our thought patterns can be a major energy leak.
12. Detach from drama. Have you ever found yourself in a circle of friends or colleagues who are drawn to drama? You know, the people who immediately see the negative side of any situation. Remove yourself from those interactions, quickly. One bad apple CAN spoil the whole bunch. There is a flip side to every situation, conversation, and perception. When we make a concentrated effort to look at the positive side of a situation, our energy lifts. Closing one door in our life gives us the spaciousness to open another.
Find nourishing spaces that make you laugh and live your life as if each day was your last. I don’t know about you, but I have a whole lot more living to do and I choose to do it with as much joie de vivre as possible!