The stereotype of a disheveled, sleep-deprived mom unable to find the energy to brush her teeth or find two matching shoes, has evolved over the years to represent more than just a person who is tired because their kid has been crying through the night. It’s evolved to encompass a woman who is not holding up her end of the bargain. She’s not superwoman.
What if I told you that it was possible to have enough energy to face your daily responsibilities AND even crave intimacy at the end of the day instead of the sofa and Netflix? The truth is that we all desperately want the type of energy that’s gonna blast us through the morning, get the kids out the door and help us whizz through our over-stuffed to-do list, all whilst smiling happily of course. Okay, this is an exaggeration, but the reality is that mothers are consistently expected, on some level, to make it a reality. And yet, when it comes to energy, most medical doctors rarely look directly at stress for diagnostic cues, nor do we give much thought to our own stress levels when we’re fatigued, but the two are heavily intertwined.
I’m not talking about the kind of stress that you encounter when you’re in the final sprint working towards a deadline, or the sort you experience if you have a loved one that is terminally sick. These types of stressors are isolated events and limited in duration. ’m referring to the type of stress that never seems to go away; the stress that keeps a person in a perpetually heightened state like they must make critical financial decisions that could make or break the bank, every single day. This is a unique breed of stress that causes our body’s endocrine system to go haywire and can totally wipe us out. Stress of this sort is the leading cause of ongoing fatigue, inflammation, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and other rampant symptoms we see, particularly amongst women going through menopause. This kind of stress is called toxic stress.
Here’s the good news, even if we can’t magically turn off stressors, we have everything we need right now to change our response to toxic stress. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for homeostasis and “rest and digest” while the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for “fight or flight”. Interestingly, both can’t be on at the same time, meaning we can’t have optimal digestion and be in fight or flight at once. One turns on, the other shuts down. There’s great evolutionary brilliance to the system. The potential to change our energy production, brain, and mitochondria by de-stressing over time is profound but it requires practicing NOT switching into the sympathetic reactivity mode to begin with.
So, what can you do?
One of my all-time favorite tools (very effective) is to track information. Use a system to demarcate points in time, throughout the day, where stress levels peak. Slowing down to write a note in a journal or in an app allows pause in the day to do what is effectively self-care, and has the potential to disarm stress. Tracking stress empowers an individual by giving clarity on what the actual events are that caused the stress response. An example, it’s estimated the average person checks their cell phone 150-300 times every day, causing a stress response every single time we look at that screen, each time giving us a hit of stress hormones.
2. Ritual and Boundaries
I live by a motto I heard from my mentor, Marie Forleo: if it isn’t scheduled, it’s not real. Schedule a walk around your neighborhood after dinner every time you have dinner at home, dab essential oils on your temples and breathe for five minutes every night before bed, read your favorite inspiring passage every day when you wake up. The concern is less how you destress than it is how often you destress. When it’s in a calendar, there is a daily reminder and a stronger tendency to honor that time and space. This invitation is to spend more moments in the day reclaiming your time.
3. Resourcing and Mindfulness
As of late, modern medicine is singing the praises of meditation. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t meditate, resourcing in other ways might help slow your roll. In moments of exhaustion, look around the room and name the colors that you see. Name the objects that you see. Run your hands along the surface of objects and connect to the texture beneath your fingers. Take a deep, lung capacity breath and use your sense of smell to connect to your environment. Smell a flower. Look in the eyes of the person in front of you. These sensory experiences bring you back into the present and curb the stress response, potentiating big results over weeks, months, and years.
Make a call to a friend or relative and listen to their problems for a minute or two, without talking about your own problems. Do an esteemable act on the street without telling anyone about it – like paying for someone’s parking meter or donating a book to a tiny library on the street. This will keep your intentions and ego in check. Consistent action in the service of others tends to spread joy and gratitude. Check in with yourself at the end of thirty days to see how the mental, spiritual, and physical landscape of your days has shifted.
5. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)/Tapping
Dr. Dawson Church, the creator of The Stress Project — which teaches tapping to war veterans suffering with PTSD — and his team, performed a randomized controlled study analyzing the effect of an hour-long tapping session on 82 subjects and the stress hormone cortisol was then measured. The average level of cortisol reduction was 24% but was as much as 50% in some subjects! Subjects who underwent traditional talk therapy experienced no cortisol reduction. The science shows that tapping works.
The simple truth is that having more energy is life-changing, and reducing your stress levels is a vital step towards achieving this. Do you have a stress reduction practice that you KNOW helps with your energy? Post below, I’d love to meet you!