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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, January 15, 2009

MONITORING YOUR ENERGY

By Debra Holland

Everyone I know has a busy, busy life. The temptation for most people is to go and do, trying to fit everything in. And when you’re an author, you always have writing hanging over your head—it doesn’t matter whether you’re published or unpublished.

About fifteen years ago, I found out the hard way what happens if I push myself past my energy limits. I was in graduate school at the time, in addition to working and everything else I was doing. I remember feeling stressed and fatigued, but I had a few projects to finish. My intuition kept saying, “Rest.” I’d answer that I’d rest once I’d completed everything, just a few more days….

Then I heard the message, “If you don’t stop, I’m going to force you to stop.”

I gave the same answer, so, sure enough; my body forced me to stop by making me sick. What a lesson!

Ever since that time, I’ve paid attention to what my body tells me about the stress I’m feeling, what my energy levels are, and if my immune system feels compromised. I’ve learned the little signals, personal to me, that tell me what I need to do to help myself. Consequently, I’m rarely ill.

In my work, both as a therapist and as a crisis counselor, I give a lot of my energy to help others heal. Therefore, I need to make sure I replenish my energy.

One of the best ways to take care of your energy is to know if you are an introvert or an extrovert. The way to determine if you’re an introvert or an extrovert is to ask yourself how you replenish your energy. “Do I replenish my energy through solitary activities (reading, writing, gardening, playing on the computer) or through people-oriented activities (going to parties or events, participating in clubs or organizations, or hanging with a group of friends)?

Most people make the mistake of thinking an extrovert is someone with an outgoing personality. Yet, you can be (like me) an outgoing introvert. Or (like most writers) you can be an introvert who’s not comfortable around a lot of people.

Once you know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you’ll know what to do to restore your energy. If you’re an introvert, and your extrovert spouse wants you to go to a party, you know that won’t help your energy levels, and in fact might actually deplete them more, even if you enjoy yourself.

As an introvert, it’s important for me to balance my people-oriented work and social activities with solitary time for myself. Otherwise, I’ll drain my energy too much.

What else do I do to keep my energy up?

1. I exercise semi-regularly. I say “semi” because crisis jobs tend to drop into my schedule, disrupting my routine. Also some times in my life, I’m more self-disciplined than others. I keep hand weights at home because on busy days it’s easier to take 20 minutes doing weights at home then to drive to the gym. Other days I do complete weight and cardio workouts at the gym.

2. I try to eat healthy. I say try because I’m too fond of chocolate, cheese, and pizza to be completely healthy. I keep healthy snacks handy that I can grab and eat in the car, such as hard-boiled eggs, apples, yogurts, protein bars, nuts, turkey hot dogs, string cheese. I love salads, but don’t like to make them, so I go to the salad bar at the grocery store and buy a big enough one that lasts for several meals. For each meal, I add avocado and cottage cheese to the salad.

3. I prioritize sleep. I need a LOT of sleep—more than normal. I take naps to make up for not enough sleep at night. I love long naps. Today (Sunday) I sent my boyfriend off by himself to see a “boy” movie, so I could nap without feeling guilty for not spending time with him. Once awake, I had enough energy to write and catch up on some of the tasks I’ve put off this week from fatigue and working long hours.

I’ve also found catnaps to be helpful. In the afternoon, if I doze for a few (two to five) minutes in my chair between clients, I’ll feel refreshed for the rest of the day and long into the evening.

4. I take a novel everywhere I go, so I can read every chance that I have. During a difficult consulting job, I make sure to close the door, take a lunch and read, if only for a few minutes. Another way to refresh.

5. I take vitamins, minerals, Co-Q 10, and salmon oil. On days I feel my immune system dropping, I add a fizzy Airborne tablet to water or green tea, take extra vitamin C, and suck on Zinc lozenges.

6. I try to say no to people or opportunities that I don’t want to do, or that I know will take too much of my energy.

My life still gets away from me sometimes, but by focusing on “self-care,” I manage to maintain my energy level (most of the time) and stay healthy.

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10 Comments:

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Great post, Debra! I hope all your dreams come true because you deserve it! You are so compassionate and helpful to others.

Getting enough sleep and exercising at least three days a week has made all the difference for me. It's hard to go to sleep early or on time because we all have so much to do and there are only so many hours in a day but if we don't take care of our bodies and mind...it's all a big waste! A woman was asking me the other day at the gym where I got my energy and the first thing I said was "I get 8 hours of sleep almost every night." I've learned to make it a priority because it's easier to "live in the moment" when you're not exhausted.

Great post! Have a great day!

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Saying "no" is the simple best way to keep tabs on my energy, as long as I refuse to feel guilty about it. (Guilt, as Delle's awesome post earlier this week stated, is a huge energy sapper)

Fitting in fruits and vegetables is pretty necessary. The smell of citrus is so important to me--my kids are used to me inhaling the delicious aroma of the orange peels before the eat them. I always throw them in a pot with a bit of cinnamon and boil them just for the fragrance, too.

I have to clean this weekend. Clutter saps my energy.

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I love having the house smell good, Gillian! Great idea.

And say NO to guilt! :)

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Great post, Debra! Like you, I also need more sleep than normal. A sleep disorder that wakes me many times a night is behind that, although it is lessening a lot as I get older. It doesn't bother me- I just think of some boring plot twist and bore myself to sleep. But doctors go crazy trying to medicate me for it. Meds do make me sleep through the night, but I can't function the next day.

If I don't get my sleep, I get sick. If I push beyond my endurance, I get sick. But if I pay attention and manage my body's abilities well, I get more done in the long run.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger Ladyhawk said...

Great post, Debra! I like the idea of TRYING. Growing up it was only DO IT, and any "failure" was noted and discussed as to how not to make the "mistake" again. Perfectionism is a cruel master.

I do need to work on the sleep, as I've used exhaustion as a tranquilizer all my life.

What a great idea! I love the orange fragrance and have done slices with cinnamon in a small pot of water, but never thought to simply use the peel that way.
~Judy

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger Christine said...

I also suffer from a sleep problem, but it is getting better as I change my diet. More fruits and vegetable help.

Clutter also saps me... as does my life hijacking me... with clutter of the brain.

I find that if I am spread too thin, I am pouring out my frustration onto the people I love. And that is not acceptable. I tell them the nag queen is going to reel it back in... and work on that ...

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Oh, Debra, I so need to do better with getting enough sleep. I don't need lots but I need to do better.

 
At 12:29 AM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Loved your post, Debra :-)! Your quiet reading-during-lunch break reminds me I used to do that when I was teaching. I think I need to start doing that again. I take too many "breaks" on the Internet at my work space. I should walk away from my computer more often and take a brief reading break somewhere else.

 
At 8:37 AM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

You really nail it, Debra. We just don't take the time we should and have to put more effort into taking care of ourselves. Thanks for a great list of suggestions.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger Lee McKenzie said...

For years I was one of those people who skipped breakfast, and my energy levels reflected that bad habit.

Now I start most mornings with a breakfast smoothie - a banana or some frozen berries, plain yogurt, milk and half a scoop of whey powder all whirred together in the blender. I only use half a scoop of whey powder because more than that gives a gritty texture that doesn't work for me.

Amazing how something so simple and basic sets the tone for my whole day. Too bad it took me so long to figure it out :)

 

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