Updated: Jan 16
I want to talk about energy today in a little more traditional sense. We often talk about “having energy” to do what we want to do in our day. So I might say to someone, “I just have no energy today.” Or we might choose not to do something and say, “I just don’t have the energy for that right now.” So in this sense, we define energy as “the power and ability to be physically and mentally active” (Cambridge Dictionary). Everyone wants to have enough energy to be physically and mentally active. Nothing makes you feel old and sick quite like dragging yourself through the day wishing you could lie down and go back to sleep.
So from this viewpoint, we see our energy as a simple input/output equation. Inputs give us energy and make us feel full of life. Outputs require that you expend energy in some way. Put in the right amounts of food, sleep, friends, family, and relaxation and get out enough energy to support your work, household chores, family responsibilities, exercise, and commitments. (In the image below, you will see that I put friends and family on both sides of the equation because they can both give us energy and deplete it, depending on the situation.) So your input/output formula might look like this:
This equation makes problems easy to diagnose. If you don’t have enough energy to do what you want (or need) to do then you're either not getting enough energy input or something is sucking away your output. Figure out which side of the equation you need to fix and everything is balanced out again. Easy!
We see this underlying assumption in so many places. Feeling low energy? Take some vitamins! Get out in the sun! Go to bed earlier! Cut back on your stress. Ditch that needy person in your life. You can regain balance!
I’m not saying this is wrong. These are all really good suggestions and they are great places to start when your energy seems out of whack. Start making some of these basic changes in your life and see if your energy levels respond.
But what if nothing you try really makes any difference? What if you wake up after 10 hours of solid sleep and still feel exhausted? What if you take all the supplements you think will help and still feel run down? What if you edit your diet to ONLY include healthy high-energy foods and still spend every day feeling drained? This was me. I spent YEARS dragging myself through life. Every day of my last year of teaching was a monumental effort just to get out of bed and get through work. If this is you, then you need to take the simple input/output method of energy accounting to a new level.
Let’s take a look at a few scenarios and get an idea of how the input/output method can be complicated if we take a more nuanced look at the energy flowing in and out of your system.
So, just for the sake of example, let’s think about introverts and their energy. Most people think that introverts gain energy from being alone and lose it during social engagements. It is actually a little more nuanced than this, because some introverts get energy from hanging out with one or two close friends, or at a quiet party outside, etc. Whatever works for that particular introvert doesn’t matter, what we want to look at is the balance of energy in and energy out. For an introvert there is not a balanced input/output when it comes to social engagements. The equation might look like this:
So spending time with one really close friend and alone is energy input, but spending time in a group party in a noisy restaurant will take a whole lot more energy out. This introvert is going to have to spend a LOT more time pulling energy in to counteract the energy drain of that party. If you are an extrovert, just flip that equation around and you’ll get just about the same imbalance. In this scenario, the input/output model still works pretty well, you just assume that some things add or subtract more energy than others, and adjust as needed. This requires knowing a bit about yourself and how you operate. If you aren’t very self-aware, then a good place to start is to learn about your personality type and pay attention to what pulls you down or boosts you up. Maybe removing one HUGE energy drain will help balance that equation.
I have another idea here. Let’s talk about exercise. This is an item that for many people falls on both sides of the input/output equation. Exercise is stimulating. It makes us feel like we accomplished something. It helps us feel healthy and more energized. On the other hand, it also requires some output. You have to pay for a gym membership (or buy equipment). You have to make time in your day for it. You have to spend time going there and coming back (or kicking your kids out of your at-home workout space). If you take group classes, you have to consider your personality. Take a look at this equation for exercise:
In this image, satisfaction, socialization, feeling healthy, and the sense of accomplishment are bringing in more energy then driving to the gym, paying for the membership, and getting up early are taking away. ,Perfect. But what if you aren't feeling energized by your routine? Then you want to make an input/output equation and think about how to tweak your plan. Could you take your membership money and invest in some equipment to do it from home? Do group workouts pull more energy from you then you receive? Are you doing the wrong type of exercise? Is the timing of your workouts especially bad? Adjust individual pieces of this exercise equation to try to get more from it. Other areas of life that have split input/output factors include seeing friends and family, work functions, commitments (can we all say PTA/PTO?), church, and volunteer work. Do some analysis and see what changes you can make.
OK, let’s try a new scenario. Let’s say that you are stuck in a job you hate. You spend every day doing stupid work that doesn’t give you any satisfaction at all. You feel stressed, dissatisfied, miserable, grumpy, etc. More importantly, you feel this way all the time. The job is a constant drain on your energy system, as noted by the looping arrows on the output side in the equation below:
So we have one tiny little arrow coming in of all the energy from your life and four giant looping arrows sending energy to your job. This is because it is almost impossible to counteract the energy output of a job you hate with anything else in your life. There is just too much energy going into getting through your day. If it is a job you tolerate because it gives you freedom to do other things you love, then maybe you can make it balance. However, a job you really, truly despise can never be counteracted by any other energy you bring into your life. Instead of a job you can also think about “marriage,” “home,” “church,” “family,” “health,” or other major elements of your life and get the same equation. There are just some basics that can’t stay in the equation because they can never be balanced. If you are trying to figure out why you are exhausted, check in on these big-ticket items and see if there are any energy sinkholes. If so, start there and ignore all the little stuff.
Which brings us to another big topic: emotions. Emotions such as love, joy, and satisfaction are energizers. Others such as anxiety, grief, or frustration are energy drains. This probably seems obvious. Here is what a lot of people ignore, though. Some emotions aren’t just draining when you feel them, they are draining all the time. Take stress for example. A moment of stress over narrowly avoiding an accident isn't a big deal. It’s there and then it is gone. Chronic stress, however, is a constant energy drain even when you aren’t feeling particularly stressed at the moment. People who have very busy lives, are trying to juggle the schedules of six members of the family, and have a very demanding job are under chronic stress. It’s likely that they’ll tell you they don’t feel stressed, but if you were to look at their energy input/output equation, it would look something like this:
Yes, there are energy inputs, some of them significant and recurring such as love. But there are some constant energy outputs as well. Emotions such as chronic stress, anxiety, anger, and fear and always sucking energy, even if you don’t feel them in the moment. Grief that was never fully processed is another huge energy drain that many ignore. If you are feeling constantly drained, then sit down (alone or with a counselor) and get real about some of the emotional drains that might be sucking away your energy.
Now here is where things get really fun. Sometimes your energy is out of whack because of stuff that is hidden so deep you don’t even realize it is there. In other posts we’ve talked a little about energy cords holding you back. These cords are essentially energy drains siphoning off tiny bits of your daily energy. Energy cords can be all kinds of things such as old situations, traumas (major or minor), fights, breakups, mistakes, needy friends, failures, embarrassments, and more. Sometimes it is family stuff you (thought you) left behind when you left home. It can even be old patterns of thinking and believing that are draining your energy. This old, hidden stuff looks like this:
You’ll notice that there is no “input” here. Every single of these cords is an output. Some are bigger and some are smaller. Some take just a little energy now and then when you think about them, others are always sucking energy out of you no matter what. If you struggle with low energy on a consistent basis despite working hard to balance your input/output, this is one huge area I’d encourage you to dig into. You cannot balance out this type of energy drag. You simply have to cut those cords and let all that old stuff go. Anything that wasn’t completely resolved, forgiven, or assimilated could be an energy cord taking your energy. Things can be forgotten and still be affecting your energy. This is where the deep energy work comes in, to find and heal this old stuff keeping you stuck.
So now that you know some of the various scenarios that could be disrupting your day-to-day energy balance, it’s time to start calling your energy back. I listed a bunch of ideas above to get you started. Some of them are little “life hack” things while others are big soul-searching things. Pick a place that makes sense to you and get started. Find your energy drains and remove them.
If you don't want to hack at this but want to go deep fast, then energy work is what you want (you knew I’d get here at some point, right?). All energy work is about getting rid of this old stuff holding you back. Here are some great ways to get started:
There are tons of meditations out there that will help you let go of energy cords holding you back. I have one you can download at the end of this blog post Are You Stuck?
EFT works to release unresolved connections to the past. If you’ve had a bad breakup or a failed business, then EFT is a great way to talk through any emotional/mental links with that. Read this blog post to download a PDF guide to get you started. I also do stand-alone EFT sessions via videochat to help you use it effectively.
IET® is an energy system specifically designed to let go of the past and get you unstuck. Reiki works primarily with balancing your energy system, and part of that balance is locating and removing energy drains. You can find practitioners who just work with one or the other. I combine both in my energy sessions so that you get everything you need to remove those old energy cords and fully heal your energy system.
I always recommend yoga as a way to get in touch with your body. If you have an exercise routine that doesn’t work, or if you want to start one, do yoga! The time to slow down and listen to your body will not be wasted. You’ll be surprised at what comes up during and after a session. It may seem slow and subtle, but yoga can go deep fast if you are intentional about listening to your body and allowing the causes of energy drain to rise to the surface.
If some of this rings true to you but you have no idea where to start, then let’s talk! I provide coaching and energy sessions that help you get clear on what you need and provide all the energetic support needed to get unstuck. Contact me and we’ll set up a time to chat!
Not quite ready to dive in yet? No problem! Check out the links I posted above. I also have tons of other information and free resources on my blog for you to try out. Don’t be like me and spend years feeling drained and lifeless! Step up and give yourself the chance to balance your energy and feel better!