Being busy seems to be the newest symbol of status and importance. If you’re not juggling your phone, laptop, dozens of projects at work, and multiple volunteer commitments at your kids’ school, you’re somehow not keeping up. This constant, high level of activity causes non-stop stimuli to flood our system, affecting us both physically and mentally in positive and negative ways.
Unfortunately, we often consign our bodies to auto-pilot, only paying attention when the altitude button starts flashing. Our bodies send us signals all the time, and ignoring all but the red alerts doesn’t do us any favors. Ideally, our bodies should act as a fine mesh, allowing stimuli in and out. Finding ways to manage the flow can lead to a more fluid, energized life.
Cultivating Awareness: Physical and Mental
Americans are doers, thinkers, and problem solvers which doesn’t leave a lot of time for paying attention to your body and the space it occupies. Or, the patterns you’ve created or habits you have formed that may not be beneficial. Maybe you have less than perfect habits around food, work, relationships, or your body. Perhaps you have worked hard to exercise, eat right, and be kind, but continue to feel stressed and low on energy. You can only change what you are aware of so being attune to your body and hearing the signals it may be sending is a good place to begin.
You’re clocking extra hours at night doing freelance work so you’re not getting enough sleep. You’re tired and don’t want to cook so you eat a hamburger which gives you no added energy boost and only makes you feel worse. BREAK THE CYCLE: One good thing can help break the cycle. A good night’s sleep. A decent, healthy meal. Then, you can address the cycle head-on from a better place.
Tracking your diet or exercise and measuring pounds or miles is straightforward, but being attentive to your thoughts, feelings, and actions can be a little more difficult. You’re not just adding up numbers, but being cognizant of how that piece of chocolate cake you’ve saved your calories for all week tastes. Or the expanding breath you need to sprint up the last hill during your regular fitness routine.
Eleven foods that can help balance your energy throughout the day.
Looking for Balance.
Think of it like this. Your body is a moderator of stimuli—what’s coming in like food, work stress, or the guy who cut you off in traffic—and, what’s going out like your fist shaking and maybe *?!*. Often, too much coming in and not enough flowing out can be overwhelming to both body and mind.
The answer is not to shut the gates–or to never drive a car again–but to create a better balancing act. With balance comes more energy that allows for more efficient use of thoughts, actions, and feelings. That sounds lovely, you may think, but how are you supposed to achieve it? And, what if you sort of like yelling in the car?
An average adult breathes in about 13 pints of air every minute.
Some Tips that Aren’t Too Hard.
Making things difficult never helps. Too many rules can turn simple into aggravating. So here are some general tips to get you started. And of course, you really need a nice balance of all of them!
Move:Your body needs it. Whether you’re into running, yoga, walking, or simply chasing after your dog, it all counts. Even if you’re stuck at a desk all day, there are ways to sneak it in.
Release: Manage all that stimuli for a few minutes each day. You don’t have to be silent or retreat to an inner sanctum. Listen to music, write in a journal, read poetry, or learn to meditate. Giving your mind an active break, which is different than sleep, can provide a boost of energy, too.
Give Your Brain a Rest.
For some of us, simply relaxing is challenging, let alone actively resting our mind. Contrary to popular opinion, bingeing on Netflix is not giving your mind a break. Why? Because meditation is about quieting the noisy brain. Think about your 15-year-old who’s studying for a history exam while texting her friend at school and watching a YouTube video about Mesopotamia. You get the picture.
Today, experts argue we are less physically tired than mentally. We can keep ourselves high on caffeine, but that’s not necessarily helping us function at a high level. Nor does it reduce the high levels of cortisol floating around our systems, which often leads to stress from an overload of stimuli.
Meditation cultivates and promotes the alertness of the mind, boosts memory, reduces anxiety, and lowers blood pressure, among many other health benefits.
There are numerous schools of meditation, but most incorporate focusing or clearing your mind to reach a calm, clear state. Depending on your method, it’s possible to meditate while you’re brushing your teeth, riding in a car, or even at work. You don’t need a meditation room, although they are becoming a popular home addition. Click the links below for a few quick ways to dip your toe into the water.
Taking even five minutes out of your day to unplug, figuratively and literally, can help you reach a greater sense of balance in your life.
I have been meditating twice a day for 20 minutes for the past 8 months. It’s been a challenge finding the time and really instilling the habit, but it has been worth it. I practice transcendental meditation which required personalized instruction from a certified teacher over four sessions. I have experienced better focus, more creativity, less anxiety, and higher energy levels. The technique is not difficult, but the discipline is. After just a few missed sessions I can tell the difference, which helps get me back on track. I view meditation as part of a healthy routine just like diet and exercise.
Relax for a More Energized Life.
Even if you sit at a desk all day or it’s cold outside in the middle of January, it is possible to take a break and re-energize. Recognizing the connection between your mind and body and finding ways to tend to both will create healthy habits for a balanced lifetime. If all else fails, do a little yogic yawning–push your yawn all the way up thru your fingertips or down through your toes. It’s okay to let out a strong breath or a low hum (mine is usually a loud sigh that scares my co-workers) to release pent-up emotions. You’ll feel better. Really.
How do you give your mind a break? Share your experience.
This article is for informational purposes only.
“Meditation For Increased Energy: How & Why It Works – 5 Reasons.” EOC Institute, 2018.
“Recharge Your Mind.” Mindful by Sodexo, 22 August 2018.
Personal interview with Lisa Nelson Raabe, certified yoga therapist and instructor, art therapist, and clinical licensed counselor, Lisa McSherry, 9 November 2017.