Last week I wrote that Being Healthy is Not Cool. I talked about the prevalence of fatigue and how brag-worthy it can be. Fatigue is the standard, our norm. Only a minority of people live their lives energized every day. Even though fatigue is not what we want to feel, not understanding how our energy works keeps us from being able to live energized every day. Fatigue is the absence of physical, intellectual and emotional energy. I will add spiritual energy here too, which isn’t about how much you believe in God or have faith. Spiritual energy comes from living in line with your deepest values, fulfilling your purpose in life, unearthing your gifts and talents, creating value for others and having a strong intuition.
We’re better at spending energy or depleting it rather than knowing how to create it or sustain it.
So let’s delve deeper into principles of energy and fatigue.
Fatigue is a funny thing because it can be the result of doing too much or too little. The ‘too much’ side is more evident to most of us.
Too much physical exertion (e.g. carrying groceries up 10 flights of stairs) = fatigue
Too much emotional exertion (e.g. frustration with your boss) = fatigue
Too much mental exertion (e.g. cramming for an exam) = fatigue
Too much spiritual exertion (e.g. creating a free educational workshop for 100 people by yourself) = fatigue
What about too little…
Too little physical exertion (e.g. sitting and looking at a screen for hours) = fatigue
Too little emotional exertion (e.g. being a people pleaser) = fatigue
Too little mental exertion (e.g. not learning anything new) = fatigue
Too little spiritual exertion (e.g. only doing other people’s work/living up to their expectations) = fatigue
Overuse causes breakage.
Underuse cause atrophy (shrinkage).
Both result in weakness.
Weakness = pain and fatigue.
The solution to overuse is to take breaks and have adequate recovery. I’ll dedicate a future newsletter to this.
The solution to underuse is to use. I want to talk more about this today because the solution is so counterintuitive. When we feel weak, tired and pain, we automatically want to do less. But if the cause is underuse, this leads to MORE weakness, fatigue and pain.
This is a horrible cycle.
At this point it may begin to seem that fatigue is a constant state for you.
When I started my career in healthcare, I found this concept really difficult to communicate to my physiotherapy and rehabilitation clients. They needed to move their bodies to heal, but all they would say is “I feel pain. Give me something for the pain.” Many clients would do less and less, become more and more weak, and some permanently became physically limited and live in chronic pain. What they didn’t understand is that pain is a messenger, not the thing you treat. The pain is trying to communicate what action you need to take. Pain from underuse feels different from pain from overuse. If you’re not in tune with your body’s signals, the difference may not be as clear right now.
My time at the clinic was really unsettling for me. I didn’t understand human behavior, psychological barriers, habit formation, how people actually learn or change back then. I was overwhelmed with everyone’s pain and not knowing how to make it magically disappear.
From an energy perspective, whatever you don’t use will shrink and cause pain—the range of your physical body, your range of emotions, your range of mental capacity, even your range of spiritual capacity.
So if you’re not using all of your capacity (your potential), you will feel tired, weak and pain.
I actually think it’s amazing. What a great consequence, reminder, and messenger that you are so much more.
Reaching your potential is not icing on the cake or a ‘nice to have’. It is the key to living exactly the life you want.
I will delve deeper into physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy and spiritual energy in the weeks to come. If you want to dive in now I highly recommend The Power of Full Engagement.