How Is Your Energy Level?
How is Your Energy Level? High? Low? Irregular?
Awareness and Prevention Series: Diagnose Yourself Naturally
How’s your energy level? Do you feel you have low energy? Do you have high levels of energy that others surprisingly comment on? Are your energy levels inconsistent? Are there some days when you feel more energy than other days. Do you feel lower or higher energy levels at different parts of the day, month or year? Do you feel your energy level has changed with age?
This article is part of a collection of articles entitled: Diagnose Yourself Naturally – an Awareness and Prevention Program based on the healing principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tai Chi and Chi Kung. If you’re interested in taking control of your health naturally then you’ll want to take in the information presented here.
Qi (chee) is a concept in Traditional Chinese Medicine also talked about in health-rejuvenating practices of Tai Chi and Chi Kung. Let’s define Qi as ‘functional energy’. The meaning of words from other languages can get lost in translation. I think of Qi as something that flows to promote function and can be evaluated subjectively through feeling.
The body has many functions. Eating, digesting, sleeping, eliminating waste, thinking, moving, breathing, circulating blood, making blood, healing and so much more. All these functions require Qi (functional-energy).
Imagine that your house required 200 amps to power all electrical devices. Now image how your house would function if the electric company could only supply 100 amps of power. You begin to realize you will not be able to fully run all your appliances. The same goes for the body. Less qi can degrade or even turn off necessary body function. Poor energy levels can lead to weight gain and a buildup of toxins in the body that can lead to all kinds of trouble.
Your Qi (functional energy) needs to be sufficient and flowing to maintain body function at the best level possible for optimal health. Low energy, irregular energy, excessive energy… all can have an adverse effect on body function. Balance and consistency are the keys to regulating qi.
Regularity builds momentum – optimal body function requires momentum. The body runs on cycles. When I think of a cycle I think of a regular pattern that turns on and off or has peaks and valleys. Sleep cycle, digestive cycle, activity vs rest, inhaling/exhaling, blood circulation from contracting and relaxing heart muscles and so on.
The necessary balance required in these natural cycles are captured in the spiraling Yin Yang diagram.
This diagram depicts the harmonious integration, support and transformation of two opposing forces for optimal function.
This natural truth, captured in this ancient Chinese symbol, is also confirmed in the ancient Greek saying – everything in moderation, nothing in excess. Regularity seeks to balance both extremes through moderate cycles that gradually gain momentum. A lifestyle in the extreme lacks the supportive cycling momentum and eventually becomes unbalanced and leads to burnout.
Imagine journeying through life like riding a bicycle. You get to choose which path to ride on. One path is easy to ride, straight and smooth with very little ups and downs. The opposite path, like the roads in Rhode Island, has an uneven surface filled with pot holes, and lots of ups, downs and crazy turns.
The former path will prove to be easier because it promotes consistency, regularity and allows you to build momentum for future efforts. The latter path will drain you of energy and leave you deficient. You energy reserves are depleted. During stressful times, when you need a boost of energy, it just won’t be there.
A medical doctor explains to me once that stress is good and it makes you stronger. I say stress needs to be clarified because there are limits. Stress in short, temporary burst, like exercising at a gym 3 times a week can be strengthening. The constant drip, drip, drip of stress through everyday life is unsustainable. Your mind may convince you that everything is good but your body will show the truth.
Stress reveals itself in a multitude of chronic ailments that people struggle with today such as weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, digestive disorders, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, hormone irregularities, chronic fatigue, asthma, allergies and more. Stress creates chaos in body function. When you experience multiple signs and symptoms that don’t seem to tie together consider the possibilities that stress could be the root cause.
Low energy – tiredness can be normal when you work hard. Get a good night’s sleep and your back in the game. Chronic tiredness may start to affect how the body functions. Sore muscles and injuries may not heal completely. Toxins that seem to be everywhere nowadays cannot be eliminated properly.
Appetite is low. Your ability to take in nourishment to support your body is reduced. You may even have trouble sleeping because tiredness creates irregularities in the natural cycles of body function including the sleep cycle. Insufficient sleep leads to more tiredness, low function and imbalances in the natural cycles of the body.
High energy – feeling anxious, moving fast, talking fast, talking loud, shouting, aversion to heat, hot-headed temperament, excessive appetite, feeling nervous, difficulty falling asleep, always staying busy, can’t stop thinking, too much mental chatter and more. There are many signs of high energy to observe but subjectively high energy can make you feel anxious, hyperactive, unrealistically super-strong, overly excited or nervous. We don’t have an infinite supply of energy.
Burning a candle at both ends is not a practice in longevity. It may offer more light but not for long. Practices in conserving energy can be a better plan for longevity and optimal health.
If you want to increase vitality, experience greater health and develop practices in longevity for life you’ll need to regulate your energy.
When I ask a patient about the level of daily energy they experience and they respond, “I have lots of energy”, I put a question mark there. I wonder if that’s truly a healthy level being experienced.
If you experience a frantic pace to your daily activities you may be overdoing it. You may be excessively draining your energy and developing a bad habit. In the long run you won’t be able to maintain this pace. Your mind will say go-go-go but your body will try to slow you down when excess is present.
I’ve seen high energy people come into my clinic in their 40’s and 50’s complaining about fatigue and seemingly inexpiable and uncontrollable weight gain. This is the body’s way of slowing you down before you blow a fuse. Or it’s your body’s way of saying, “I am exhausted and I’ve had enough”.
Your inner strength needs to be recharged and that can take a lot of effort.
The first step is to identify any bad habits that are draining your energy. Next, get realistic as to what you are capable of accomplishing. I see many lifestyles that are excessively busy and overwhelming. Just when this busy body gets an extra 30 minutes in their day they pile on another thing to do instead of taking a break.
Pacing yourself and knowing when to relax (restore) will better promote natural cycles and gain momentum for upcoming efforts.
Is your mind constantly in go-mode? Do you worry a lot? Do you ruminate often? Do you have difficulty trying to get to sleep at night because you can’t shut your mind down? Do you have digestive problems? In the practice of Tai Chi we say the Mind leads the qi. Is your mind writing checks your body can’t cash? Is your mind spending qi your body can’t supply?
Activity and rest compliment and balance each other. Mental activity needs to be balance with the opposite – rest. One type of meditative practice is to try not to think or at least quiet the mind and think less. This is a practice in turning off your mind. Some have difficulty with this because they are not use to stillness but stillness is the exact medicine that needs to be applied here.
Activity without awareness in relaxation is like mastering only 1 side of the equation. You have mastered a busy mind and have lost the ability to relax, rejuvenate and restore. Regulating your mind means becoming comfortable in stillness. A calm and focused mind will manifest into healthy body function.
I’ve heard patients say they find it difficult to relax. Relaxing is a practice in stillness. Developing a habit requires practice. Spend time feeling comfortable in stillness can restore balance. This is not about being lazy or doing less. This is about being smarter and building momentum to naturally support cycles in body function. Your natural level of energy should support your daily activities without leaving you exhausted.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ruminating thoughts and constant worry drain the qi (functional energy) specifically needed for digestion. Chew on that for a while. Now isn’t that an interesting expression? The energy pattern used for thinking and eating correspond to each other. Overeating and overthinking will lead to imbalances in health.
The mind needs to be regulated. Mental activity needs to be organized. Meditation and stress relief techniques, particularly in breathing, are essential for the busy mind. Herbal formulas can nourish the body, clear heat and bring about a healthy sense of calmness but practices that are excessive will always lead to exhaustion. Regulating the mind gets to the root of the problem.
Irregular energy – consistency is the key to optimal health. Consistency builds momentum. Less energy is used when continuous cycles are built and supported by regularity and momentum.
Imagine your body burning fuel like an automobile. Everyone knows you get better gas mileage on the highway compared to city driving. Why? Powering up from a low speed to a high speed requires more power and burns more energy than the power required to maintain a constant speed. “Stop and go” is irregular and more rapidly depletes energy.
Daily routines that are well organized and seemingly flow without much effort will conserve energy. A day full of poorly organized routines, unknown or high expectations, and irregularities is a day of frustration, tension and unnecessary stress that will exhaust energy and will manifest into irregular body function.
Consistent energy – The goal is to promote regular consistent energy to support body function and daily routines. Take note of these words – regular, consistent, routines vs irregular, inconsistent, chaos. Consistency builds momentum. Consistency allows you to be more focused. When trouble comes along you can handle it better. When you’re stressed out and your daily habits are chaotic you will struggle. Stress and chaos will drain your energy and leave you in a survival state that dysregulates body function and leads to all sorts of confusing health issues that are hard to figure out and unravel.
Do you have a plan for longevity? Do you have self-care practices to support your health? Are there natural therapies you count on for help?
If you are interested in this topic and are looking for tools to support your energy consider the following topics to explore for therapy or self-care:
- Tai chi / chi kung / exercise
- Stress management / stress relief / meditation
- Improving diet and sleep habits
Prevention starts with awareness. If you are interested in an in-depth class that teaches you how to optimize your energy use the contact form to let me know.
Contact my office, I’d be glad to help!