I am always seeking more energy. I need it to be patient and active with my kids. I need it to get through the tasks and responsibilities of the day. I want it to be enthusiastic and warm with my friends. I want it to be fun, flirty and present with my partner.
Energy is elusive.
I get frustrated thinking about my energy levels being tied to my introversion and sensitivity. It is difficult to remedy something that is innate.
But that does not stop me from trying.
Over the years, I have figured out what drains my energy. Armed with that knowledge, I put together a health regimen (that I constantly tweak) that fills in the cracks where the energy leaks out.
The routines I follow include elements that boost both my mental and physical energy.
I have a hypothesis that energy is more mentally based for introverts and more physically based for extroverts but I have no official data on that. Both temperaments expend mental and physical energy but for me, as an introvert, I feel I use way more mental energy. I am most lifeless if my mental energy is flagging. If my mental energy wanes so does my physical energy. It seems extroverts expend more energy interacting with their outside environment. So much of my day is deeply processed in my head, even human interactions.
The effect they have on me: I get a certain level of energy from people right up until I reach the tipping point of interaction when their presence becomes intrusive and effortful rather than enjoyable and meaningful. Depending on the person, this could take five minutes or five days. At some point, I will need to go internal rather than engaging with them externally.
The remedy:Being alone for hours. I’ve tried recovering by running errands by myself or spending time with friends but nothing rejuvenates me like being alone doing a quiet activity like reading, writing, watching a movie, meditating or cooking.
The effect it has on me: Constant doing without breaks between activities is hell after about activity three. My head starts to buzz. My patience dwindles. I want to sit down.
The remedy: Limit activities that require non-stop motion. The only exception I have found is dancing. I can dance for a long time without getting tired. I believe this is because I get mentally lost in the music and the rhythmic movements. It is soothing, sensual, energizing and expansive at the same time.
I also intentionally put time buffers around every activity possible. In other words, I am not afraid to have a busy calendar but all the events need to be properly spaced out. One busy weekend day, one completely open weekend day. During the week, one social evening is enough. I do not over-schedule my kids either. We are all happier people if we have downtime in between events.
The effects: Negative emotions caused by conflict, sadness, stress or deep empathy are the biggest stealers of energy in my world. My mind will not let them go and tends to drown in their torrents. On the upside, positive emotions are equally powerful in the opposite direction. In their waters I float, rather than drown.
The remedies: Negative emotions are the energy consumer on which I have focused the most attention. Their causes are many, therefore they require multiple solutions. Here are few of the big emotion sources and the solutions I have tried:
Relationships: Every single person I interact with regularly has the potential to hurt or stress me out as well as delight and engage me. It is the risk we take when we form bonds with people. When the going gets tough and I am emotionally distraught over a rough spot in a relationship, I do my best to communicate positively with that person and if that does not work I take a break from them. I realize some people (like family) are not leavable. You have to stick it out. In those cases, even small times of separation can do wonders. If I can make time to visit my inner world, do something that fills me up and find clarity, then my communication abilities and personal confidence soar. I have more patience, perspective and understanding. It is easier to be empathetic rather than pissed off or hurt.
Monthly cycle: Post ovulation I am moodier. It’s the truth. It’s PMS. I do not sleep as well, I crave (and eat) less nutritious food and I get more emotional. The changes in hormones (namely the decrease in progesterone and fluctuation of estrogen) caused by perimenopause (I am 44) also play a part in irritability and weepiness. For aid regarding these emotional waves I sought professional help in the form of a nutritionist.
She recommended a diet rich in protein and good fats in order to maintain steady blood sugar levels. This way my energy won’t rise and fall with insulin spikes and sugar crashes. She suggested snacks of nuts, yogurt, lean protein and complex carbohydrates between meals. Eggs in the morning (cereal bad, protein good), a very green salad with a chicken breast, goat cheese and beets for lunch and a lean meat, sizable vegetable side, low-carb dinner are my go-to menu items.
She addressed the poor sleep issue with a recommendation to take Magnesium ( a known muscle relaxer and nervous system soother) and 5 HTP (a chemical by-product of the building protein, L-tryptophan which increases the production of stress reducing neurotransmitter, serotonin) at bedtime. Combined they promote a calm muscular and nervous system state ideal for sleeping.
Energy supplements for that extra spark
I have done plenty of research to find supplements, magic bullets and miracles that could keep me smiling, focused and enthusiastic throughout the day. I do not want to merely slog through life, I want to be alert, bright and alive.
I am not endorsing or pushing any of supplements or methods mentioned in this post. I am simply telling you what I use and what has worked for me. Please check with a physician or dietician before introducing new chemicals to your body, especially if you are taking any other medications.
The following three supplements definitely require careful consideration before adding to your regimen but they have been effective for me.
1. L-Theanine:I take this amino acid in the afternoon during the post-lunch slump. The bottle says it promotes focused relaxation. It gives me a sustained alert feeling I love. I either take it in capsule form or drink it in Yogi tea – Vanilla Spice Perfect Energy flavor. The tea also includes caffeine, which I ingest sparingly, so it depends on how big of a boost I am looking for.
2. L-Tyrosine: This amino acid is converted in the body to key biological compounds: epinephrine, dopamine, adrenaline, CoQ10, thyroid hormone and melanin. The Mood Cure author, Julia Ross, calls it nature’s energizer. It has been used to treat depression and attention deficit. I sometimes take it in the morning to increase my vitality and focus.
3. DLPA: This is my latest supplemental experiment. I have taken it for the last four days. It, again, is an amino acid known to support balanced endorphin levels. So far, my spirits are elevated but that could be because life is going well right now. I first read about it in The Mood Cure. When I looked it up online, one of the customer reviews said it was an ideal supplement for HSPs (Highly Sensitive Persons).
Two other simple and natural energy boosts I readily recommend are fitness and dark chocolate. Both delicious!
Now you know all of my energy increasing secrets. I know as an introvert, energy is precious. May you consistently find ways to create or conserve it.
Do you have any energy creating secrets of your own? How willing are you to experiment with your body and mind? Did you enjoy learning more ways to have energy?
** Update: Feb. 4, 2015 – I only used the DLPA supplement for 5-6 days and stopped. I started to feel a bit anxious and over-stimulated on it. It could have just been my life situation at the time or my hormonal state but I discontinued use and felt better. I still stand strongly behind L-Theanine, either in capsule form or in the Yogi tea. It gives me the perfect amount of energy and focus without feeling wired.