Energy Leaks

Energy Leaks

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!

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18 Responses to Energy Leaks

  1. Kimby October 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Sue Ann, I’m still smiling over your “Gray Hair, Great Legs” post and now this positive, forward-propelling wisdom appeared in my mailbox. Two treats to savor!

    My impression of your writing is that you’ve been gifted with the ability to turn “what you’ve learned” into a learning opportunity for others. (I only wish I could hear you expound on the Energy Leaks you outlined above!) As a brief “how to,” it was clear, concise and thought-provoking — an excellent illustration of “knowing what you want to say” before putting it into words. Keep up the good work!

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason October 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Great observation, Kimby! Yes, I believe I have a lot of raw material to work with, no pun intended. LOL

  2. Emelie Rota October 14, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    Ahhhhh what a brilliant idea to set aside a bite of time and create a “nourishment menu”… just like menu planning for the week ahead makes it easier (and less overwhelming) to create delicious and nutritious meals at home… creating a nourishment menu of the activities, people, and creative ideas that replenish me would make it so much easier to regularly incorporate those things into my life.

    So, instead of take-out or taking a nap (when I’m really just bored and not all that tired)… I could refer to my nourishment menu and pick something to do that will replenish me.

    Lovely. This is such a helpful post and goes far beyond what was originally asked of you (as I sense is often the case with you…) =)

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason October 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

      And on my nourishment menu this weekend is a new and inspiring vision board. . .

  3. Kathleen Prophet October 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Ahhhhh yessssss! Such WISDOM! These points need to be codified in a Woman’s Lifestyle Change book, Sue Ann! I love the clarity of each of these approaches to changing one’s life. The statement…”let me get back to you on that” is something I find highly valuable. I do think mothers in particular tend to get into the practice of giving themselves away, as motherhood can require so much sacrifice! I found myself struggling between the Mother self and the Artist self throughout my many years raising my sons. At least I had an artist self to fight with the mother!

    I personally am still working on the pampering. Can’t get myself down for a manicure. I DO intend to change that… have candle lit baths and buy something nice to wear rather than books and programs feeding my constant need to grow! haha!

    I am curious though…. did you offer some of this wisdom to the group you were asked to speak to? mixed with good food… what a divinely delicious solution!

    (I mean it… codify this into one of those tiny books sold at bookstores… or a poster. I would love to have this on my bathroom wall! hmmmmm…. maybe I will print it!)

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason October 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

      Yes, my talk became “Nourishment at EVERY Level,” and I love your idea about codifying this post because I use these concepts a lot with my clients. These are the factors that rob us of our energy, our enthusiasm and our life. . . Thank you, Kathleen. I’m thinking colorful card or poster!

  4. Roz Duffy October 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I love this post in many ways and want to read it a few more times! I appreciate all of the reminders and tools you have shared. I am a giant walking energy leak right now and I am going to be able to put these ideas into practice NOW. Thank you for encouraging me to think differently and modify my approach. Mostly, thank you for sharing your amazing gifts and positive energy!

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason October 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

      Thank you for stopping by, Roz. I think we’re all walking energy leaks at various times in our lives (weeks, days, hours). I have to refer back to this list often. Just this week I gave away my energy and had to revisit one of my own suggestions. I love it that I am a “work in progress”!

  5. nasrine October 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    WOW! I need to download this NOW and start employing this check list asap. What an amazing way to practice self care, self love, self respect and compassion for yourself and the world you exist in. I have noticed when I use the above tools I tend to be better to myself as well as to others. The concept of putting the oxygen mask on first during a crash, then helping others. I am in the process of creating the above into my core. It is so critical to maintain all of the above mentioned tools for us busy people buzzing around our hives. It’s almost if you don’t do it, it could all crumble, I have seen this happen often. I am grateful for this generous reminder to simply take care of myself. Thank you.

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason October 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

      Self care, self love, self respect, compassion. Yes, Narine, all of the above!

  6. Marion October 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Sue Ann!

    This is one of those posts that I’ll print and paste into my journal. So many great nuggets, and as I was reading through each one if them I had a resounding Yes! come up. I especially loved that no is a complete sentence. I can have a tendency to try to justify. So, that will be my challenge for the week. Say no and just let it dangle out there without explanation or justification!


    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason October 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

      That’s my favorite one too, Marion, though admittedly it’s the most difficult to accomplish consistently. I have, at the very least, stopped making (up) excuses, MOST of the time. I sleep so much more soundly when I say, “Let me get back to you on that.”

  7. Tracey Ceurvels October 17, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    What a wonderful list! And I agree with Kathleen–this would make a great poster. But I am going to print it out so I can look at it daily. I need reminders like these all the time, the magical nuggets serving as reminders to take care of myself. Perhaps this is an outline for a book, Sue Ann? Each nugget could be an entire chapter.

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason November 1, 2011 at 3:27 am #

      Thank you, Tracey. This is a post that seems to get re-purposed a lot so yes, it may just become part of a future book or a deck of “living” cards. 😉

  8. Matthew Corrigan October 21, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    Sue Ann,
    This should be required reading for the entire world. I have already read it twice and I am looking forward to following the link to Byron Katie. Funny the term Energy Leaks makes me want to say Weaky Leaks. My inner comedian can’t resist. Your post is so well thought out and you have crafted a master plan for emotional and physical well being. I envy your skill with words and ideas. I admire your craft with words and your passion for your work. Inspirational!


  9. Sue Ann Gleason
    Sue Ann Gleason October 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Loving that inner comedian, Matthew.

  10. shanna trenholm November 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Wow, Sue Ann, what a rich post! You offer so many insights and actionable items. And yes, “People become “programmed” to give. Eventually, they find themselves profoundly drained and, in some cases, physically ill.” Those “people” are usually women. We give at the expense of self-care because we misconstrue that as love. As a reformed frequent-giver, I have found that the more one does this, often the recipient of the gift pulls away, or just doesn’t appreciate it. It becomes a standard–one too high to maintain–it’s just not sustainable.

    I have divorced worry, as best as I can, and when I find myself pulling in past garbage or projecting way out into the future, I ask myself, “where am I?” And if the answer is not right here, in the NOW, my little question serves as a way to pull me back into the present.

    Always looking forward to more of your wisdom, Sue Ann!

    • Sue Ann Gleason
      Sue Ann Gleason November 2, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

      I love the reference to being present in the moment, Shanna. I think self-care should be a curriculum. The words have become rather diluted but the need is so real.

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