4 reasons why you never have enough energy and what to do about it

Energy is not merely physical

Every one of us feels tired every now and then. This is normal. It’s a safety mechanism built in to ensure that we don’t wear our bodies out. Feeling chronically tired, day in and day out, is not normal. Energy is more than just a physical issue. Mental, emotional and spiritual factors can impact on our energy levels. There are four common causes for chronic energy deficit. Each can be remedied with careful introspection and change of habits.

4 kinds of energy

“I start the day feeling like a wet wash rag. I like what I am doing but I still dread having to drag myself to work every day. I feel so tired and lacking in energy. It’s reached the stage where my performance at work is being affected.”

Common lament from mid-career doctors

Let’s stop for a minute or two and dissect out what “energy” is all about. It’s the sum total of 4 elements.

The 4 energies

1. Physical energy

This is the element that emanates from our bodies. It is what gives us the capacity to carry out physical tasks, In today’s world, the demand for physical energy is small. Most of us do work at a desk or, at best. minimal amounts of moving around. We no longer need to put in 8 to 10 hours of hard, manual labour at a farm; toil at a construction site or haul loads over large distances. We are well fed and sheltered from natures inclemencies. It’s only during times of illness that there is any direct diminution of physical energy. Access to adequate, balanced meals and shelter from common ailments is taken as given.

2. Cognitive energy

Much, if not all, of the work we do is carried out through mental efforts. Physical labour has been replaced by intellectual. The key fuel is cognitive energy. It’s is not always readily available., It can be altered or diminished by outside forces that impinge on our daily activities, over many of which we have no direct control.

3. Emotional energy

It hardly needs saying that our physical and mental processes are constantly affected by emotions. When we feel good — are on a high — we can do things with great physical and cognitive ease, Complex problems can be solved smoothly. Feeling down can convert the simplest tasks to Herculean efforts. Emotional energy is even more fickle and unreliable than the previous two.

4. Spiritual energy

Human beings are uniquely endowed with consciousness. We can observe ourselves from a detached perspective and look for elements that the rest of creation can’t: beauty, truth, morality and, most of all, an ineffable entity called “purpose” — an energy source that can render all our actions deeply inspiring or tragically meaningless. Spiritual energy fuels these activities. It is the most intangible, yet the most crucial of the 4 energies.

Filling the personal energy tank

All 4 elements have to be nurtured if the human machine is to perform at peak efficiency. There is no quick fix, however. Many little things have to be done right, now and forever. Here’s the {P}rescription.

1. Physical energy

  • Food is the most essential aspect of physical energy. The problem, for most of us, at the present time, is one of excess. At no other point in human history has there been so many choices, mostly unhealthy. We are falling prey to the downside of over eating. The best advice regarding nutritional sense is given by the internationally renowned food writer, Michael Pollan:

Eat food, mostly plants, in small quantities

Michael Pollan
    • By “food”, Pollan is referring to meals and snacks that are as close to the natural state as possible: minimally processed, freshly cooked, without too many additives and garnishing. Practically speaking, Pollan advises us not to eat anything that our grandmothers would not recognise or acknowledge as food. The key portion of the sentence lies in the third component: small quantities. We eat way too much.
    • We are bombarded by dietary plans, regimens and fads. It is safe to say that most, if not all, are not supported by scientific evidence. Common sense, that rare commodity, prevails.
  • Exercise and activity: We eat too much and compound the problem by exercising too little. As our needs for physical activity have rapidly declined, we are now paying the price for a sedentary life style: a serious physical energy shortage. Once again, advice on this matter is everywhere but can be summarised as: “Good quality exercise, (anywhere, anyhow) for 150 minutes or more a week.
    • We sit too much. Devices like standing desks are very popular but there is no solid evidence in support of their effectiveness. If your job involves prolonged sitting, take breaks every hour or so for a few minutes, to walk around or do some chair-bound stretches and exercises. Use the stairs, not the elevator. Refrain from driving short distances, walk instead.

Sitting is the new smoking

Popular slogan in medical periodicals
  • Say “No!” to:
    • Tobacco in any form.
    • Uppers, downers and all in between. (Coffee, up to 2 -3 cups a day is OK. )
    • Sugary drinks.
    • Alcohol in large quantities, on a regular basis. There is a strong, recent study that indicates that all alcohol is bad. The jury is still out on this (and I hope, will return a “not guilty” verdict).

2. Cognitive energy

Mental activity is dependent on cognitive energy. Mental blocks are common occurrences. The video that follows gives you a simple, effective solution

Take a walk

3. Emotional energy

Our emotions are seldom under our control. Both physical and cognitive energy can be sapped to great extent by powerful emotions like anxiety, anger and fear. Emotions cannot be tamed by direct confrontation; they may worsen when we try. The breath is, under most circumstances, an activity that is under our control. Breathing exercises can be simple, effective methods of controlling powerful, negative emotions and restoring a sense of calm.

Here’s a short video that shows you how to perform a simple breathing exercise that has profound effects in bringing powerful negative emotions under control.

Breathing exercise

4. Spiritual energy

Spiritual energy is elusive. The best way to harness it is the practice of mindfulness — living in the present moment. Once again, there is a ton of information available on the subject. Here’s an infographic that outlines a 5-step approach to mindfulness.

It’s not an easy road to walk but the rewards are huge. Our lives are short and can be lived meaningfully only when we reach and tap the energy source that drives the engine of our selves.

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