For a long time I only worked at addressing one side of the energy equation – and as such my fatigue (both mild and later chronic in the case of adrenal fatigue) lingered far longer than it should have.
My understanding of the signals that my body was sending me was limited to the information that I had readily available at my fingertips – from magazines, the gym and online. At no point did I delve within to really understand what my body was telling me.
My body was tired, I thought, because I wasn’t fuelling it properly and it would be less tired if only I could find more time to fit in ‘energizing’ practices like fitness, clean eating and meditation.
The fuel framework isn’t entirely incorrect, but what I, and a lot of clients I now work with, failed to understand was that addressing fatigue requires a holistic, individualized approach based on a willingness to do some deep self discovery and make – in some cases – radical changes to the way that we do things.
The energy equation remains a useful construct in beginning this self exploration. We can view our energy levels as the sum of all the energy we gain in our lives (from activities, people, places) minus the energy we expend.
Energy = Input – Output
Most of us operate pretty permanently in energy deficit mode – that is, we take out more than we put in. We have, I believe, really lost touch with the particular things that make our bodies, minds and souls feel expansive and energized – favouring above all else productivity and work. Over time, this deficit can change the wiring in our brains and makes us over-reactive to stressors – leading, in time, to chronic fatigue and other associated physiological symptoms.
My original efforts at restoring energy – being focused only on putting more energy in, failed to understand that I also needed to plug the leaks of energy going out. In other words I was filling the proverbial leaky bucket – and wondering why I still felt so tired even though I was doing more energizing things.
So often, as women, this is the case – we want to make changes to our wellbeing and believe that we must do more to achieve an outcome. We fail to take the critical actions of letting go, surrendering, saying no and putting in place boundaries. The people pleasing, multi-tasking tendencies that we have often mean that instead of feeling more energized from taking on healthy practices, we feel less.
There is another path to wellbeing – one that is based on a really deep understanding of what serves our unique bodies, minds and souls. It’s what I teach to my clients and practice myself. Here are five ways you can utilise this approach to gain more energy.
1. The one for one rule – whenever you decide to take something else on – be it something you’re doing for your wellbeing or otherwise – let something else go. We must get in the habit of refining our sprinkler ways (reducing our need to spray energy around everywhere and then complain when we are tired or not fulfilled) by becoming discerning about what activities we are doing out of obligation or comparison and what we are doing out of genuine desire.
2. Know yourself – having a really clear list of activities, people and places that you know fill up your energetic cup requires some deeper analysis of your current lifestyle. When fatigue strikes, knowing exactly what you need to do to get back to balance and honouring yourself enough to take yourself to that place means that you’ll bounce back more quickly every time. Here’s a Energy Balance Worksheet that you can use to make a list of all the energizing and not so energizing things that are present in your life right now.
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3. It’s not what you’re doing, it’s how you’re doing it – when I quit my job and started my own business, I was convinced that I’d automatically be more energized since I was doing something that filled me up. In actual fact, I was replicating the stress cycle that kept me tired and uninspired in my old career – pushing myself, burning the candle at both ends and placing really unrealistic expectations on my success. It wasn’t until I realised that the critical part was how I was doing things – rather than what I was doing that I realised I needed to re-wire old beliefs and thinking patterns so that I could relish the process and receive the energy that work was giving me in full.
4. Receive – women are excellent at giving and to start to restore energy equilibrium it is essential to learn to receive and let go of the need to be a giver. For a long time I was fuelling my body with good rest, healthy food, meditation, yoga and exercise but it wasn’t until I did some deeper work on my beliefs that I learned to really receive that nourishment. Your body will reject the love you give yourself unless you think you are truly worthy of it. If you find yourself ducking compliments, talking down successes, over-giving advice or time or money, wanting to please people at the expense of your own needs or playing the victim card at home with your partner, chances are you could do with some practice at receiving! A quick way to start to learn this is to ask your three closest friends what they love most about you. Instead of ducking the compliments, sit there openly with your chest expanded and back upright and really breathe in what they say. Practice makes perfect.
5. Learn to say no – a great exercise to start with if you find it hard to say no is to make a list of all the polite ways that you can put in place some boundaries to prevent the energy leaking. It took me a long time to realise that I was not serving the friends who I caught up just because I felt obliged anymore than they were serving me. It took me longer to learn how to say no to professional opportunities that came along that didn’t align with my values. There is a compassionate, polite and respectful way to say no that people truly understand and the empowerment and energy that you get from learning to do so will transform your life and enable you to spend your energy where you truly want to.
Do you want to join me on a three month mindfulness coaching program? Doors for Love Yourself Well are now open and I’d love you to join the community of women searching for more fulfilment, wellbeing and energy. With weekly audio lectures, workbooks and meditations as well as group coaching calls, this program brings together heaps of wisdom on stress, fatigue, body image, purpose, mindfulness, compassion, connection and play. It’s your invitation to learn what truly lights up your body, mind and soul, so you can start aligning your outer world with your inner one. Click here to join.