How we maintain our energy – with Energize author Simon Ong

The human body converts the food it consumes into energy in order to function and stay alive. This energy supply enables the body to do a number of things vital to its survival. But it’s not just food that you need to live day-to-day. Stress, poor diet, and living a meaningless life can actually make our energy wane as well.

So how do we keep our energy up?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Simon Alexander Ong is a personal development entrepreneur, coach and public speaker. His work has seen him invited on to Sky News, BBC Radio London and LBC Radio, and in 2018, Barclays UK featured him in a nationwide campaign asking him questions on how families can embrace better lifestyle habits. His insights have been featured in the HuffPost, Forbes and the Guardian. Simon regularly speaks for organizations, public events, and conferences, including for the Peter Jones Foundation, the World Business and Executive Coach Summit and the London School of Economics. In Energize: Make the Most of Every Moment, we are introduced to the art and science of energy management.

Communications specialist Zipporah Gene.

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Dr Amy Shah uses the latest science to help explain how to transform your life by changing.

Books looked at this week:

Simon Alexander Ong: Energize: Make the Most of Every Moment

Dr Amy Shah: I’m So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Life

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

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Transcription

Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to season 2 episode 63 of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky topics and skills by reading through the best books out there.

Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough energy to do anything. You wake up after a solid 8 hour sleep, and yet you’re still exhausted? Well, energy is one of those things that everyone has to deal with and it can fluctuate depending on what is happening in your life. 

So how do we manage our energy?

Here is Zipporah Gene on managing her energy.

ZIPPORAH GENE: The way that I keep up my energy and harness my full potential is by being kind to myself. That includes both my physical and my mental well-being. I’ve since learnt through unnecessary stress and burnout that I just need to slow down sometimes. It doesn’t mean I can’t reach my aims or achieve my goals, but it also means that I might need to have a tea break to stretch in the morning, and need to do yoga before a busy day. My mental and physical well being are all intertwined. And so being kind to them and recognizing where I’m at and not trying to gloss over it and see that as a weakness has been my strength and it’s telling me a world of good. So I hope that you take some time to breathe, take some time to lie down or walk around barefoot and grass. These things are just as important as your deadlines and the awards and the accolades

(Back to host)

Our first book is from Simon Alexander Ong, who is a personal development entrepreneur, coach and public speaker. His work has seen him invited on to Sky News, BBC Radio London and LBC Radio, and in 2018, Barclays UK featured him in a nationwide campaign asking him questions on how families can embrace better lifestyle habits. His insights have been featured in the HuffPost, Forbes and the Guardian. Ong regularly speaks for organizations, public events, and conferences, including for the Peter Jones Foundation, the World Business and Executive Coach Summit and the London School of Economics. In Energize: Make the Most of Every Moment, we are introduced to the art and science of energy management. I was honoured to speak to Ong, hence here is a snippet but find the full interview on http://www.howtobe247.com or on the YouTube channel. 

SIMON ONG: I think there were a couple of things that contributed to writing this book. The first was my own journey. I started my career in the financial services industry, which is not particularly known for having great work life balance. And so I went for periods in which I felt burnt out physically, mentally, emotionally and also spiritually. And so I, uh, wanted to lean into a little of that journey, what it was like to have no energy, to be exhausted, to be drained, but also the flip side, what it was like to actually be doing something meaningful, something that made you feel alive and that brought you joy, but also starting to prioritize your own health. And the other contributing factor was when I looked at some of the most successful individuals across any industry, what I noticed is that they weren’t necessarily the fastest, the strongest, or the smartest, but they were the best when it came to managing their energy. Because they understand that you cannot show up as your best self if you are always beginning every day feeling exhausted and drained. And so those were the key contributing factors to writing about energy. But also, it was a question that I have been asked a lot. Every time I was speaking on stage, I would come down and people would come up to me and they would say, simon, your energy on stage was infectious. And if I could have just a small percentage of your energy, I could go on and accomplish so much in my life. I mean, a lot of the things that I share in the book fundamentally, uh, are simple practices that we can all embrace on a daily basis, but for whatever reason, we don’t. It’s like the English proverb, an ample a day keeps the doctor away. And it’s a saying that has been repeated through history. But yet, how many of us, for example, he does words? Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have an apple a day, but the message that comes from the anecdote and the proverb is that we have to have fruit as part of our diet. Now, many people that I speak to, yes, they’ll have fruit, but it’s more of an after fault.  It’s something they think about once they’ve had their sort of junk food or their takeaway, and then they think about having a little bit of food, but it’s not really a priority when it comes to their daily routine and lifestyle. So for me, I think the reason why we don’t put these things into action is because we put them off in the belief that our future self, whether our future self is tomorrow, next week or next year, that future self will pick that habit up at some point. The reality is, if we don’t actually embrace it today, we’re never going to embrace it in the future because we keep putting things off all the pressure being put on this future self when in fact, our future self is a result of our present self. And so we’ve got to make those choices now that determine where we will arrive tomorrow. We can’t assume that that future self will take on those habits and choices that the present us isn’t taking. And if there’s anything that the last couple of years has shown us, we’ve gone through this pandemic which has affected every man, woman and child across the planet. And what that has reminded us very clearly is that health is the first wealth. When I’m often asked what has been one of the nonnegotiable habits that you have embraced that has helped you arrive at where you are today? For me, it is movement. It is my nonnegotiable. Every single day, I make it a priority to move my body. Now, it doesn’t have to be in the gym. It can also be swimming, cycling, walking, rowing. You can choose whatever activity resonates with you. Uh, but the key is you have to be moving your body. Because what I found is that you may not always want to work out, but after every workout you do, I don’t know anybody who has regretted it. Because what happens is you feel a level of energy you simply don’t get when you don’t move your body. The second is gratitude. Now, when we think about energy, the moment you really tap into the feeling of gratitude, not only do you open the pathway to abundance, but it elevates your mood because it shows you that you have much more resources at your disposal than you give yourself credit for. And the third thing for me is aligning your actions with who you truly are. Now, when you do that, you create the opportunity to experience energetic flow. The reason many of us don’t get to experience this is because what we do is at odds with what we really want to do. So, for example, if you do a job or a career that does not give you the opportunity to express your potential or utilize your skills and your talents, what happens is you create some tension in your life. Now, that tension can be in the form of stress or frustration or anger, these sort of emotional feelings that lies because your true self is being suffocated by something that simply is not aligned to who you are. And so once you look at these three areas, these will be three of the points I would take out. What happens is your experience of how you see yourself and what you see as possible transforms for the better. But I agree, uh, with you. I think we are still in a place in which we equate business to productivity. And the reality couldn’t be further from that concept or ideology, because we have grown up. And this is probably something that’s been passed down from generation to generation, that the more busy you look and the longer the hours you work, the more productive you are. But I personally know that isn’t true. I was in a job in finance in which the hours were long, I had to work hard, I was very busy, but I wasn’t really going anywhere. And I think that is a situation that many of us find ourselves in, which is we are busy doing lots and lots of different things. But the irony is we’re doing lots of things for other people, but not for ourselves. And so what happens is that actually when we slow down, that in today’s world is a superpower. Because when we slow down, what happens is that not only do we put ourselves in a position to evaluate where we are and where we want to be, but also we begin to understand what is it we really want to do and access our creative potential. And so many of us rush through life getting caught up in this business, living as if we are never going to die and then dying having never really lived. And so to live is to really be aware of your circumstances, to be aware of what, uh, is it you’re working towards, and to be aware that actually, once we begin living with intention, we realize how important it is to live rather than to be busy. I mean, put it this way when you get to the end of your life, people aren’t going to celebrate how busy you are. They’re going, uh, to celebrate the story that you created, the impact that you had on other people’s lives, and how you showed up in the world. And the thing is, you can’t do those things if you’re always busy and distracted, caught up in things that simply aren’t meant for you, or trying to impress others, seeking validation from others, when the real voice that matters is your heart. It’s what’s inside it’s that spiritual guide. It’s why the longest journey we make as humans are the inches from our heads to our hearts. Never an easy journey, but the most important and fulfilling. And if we’re too busy to listen to follow these curiosities, then it is something we will come to regret as we get older.

(Back to host)

Ong says energy is a universal language that communicates without words yet is still understood and felt by all – it knows when you’re walking down the wrong path, when you’re in a toxic relationship or when you’re betraying your core values.

He says energy is contagious. It can spread rapidly to infect all areas of your life and those that come into close contact with you, regardless of whether the quality of that energy is positive or negative. It has the potential to create ripples of inspiration or tidal waves of chaos. Think of energy as a form of power that we need to live and to thrive.

When it comes to productivity, energy really is everything. Without it, you can’t get much done. Without it, you lack focus and discipline. Without it, a better life will remain just a distant dream. Your energy levels determine your state, who you attract into your life and how you do what you do. If you are to take advantage of the opportunities that arise in life, you must have the energy to do so. Your focus must therefore shift from time management to energy management.

Firstly, Ong says, is to invest in our health. Stop treating your health as a side hustle. If we take a look at the people around us, it’s easy to observe just how common these feelings are. It’s the result, in part, of the explosion and glorification of busyness. Our society is addicted to stress. It’s no surprise that we’re completely overwhelmed by the frenetic pace of modern life. 

We need to flip the narrative so that rather than being seen as a badge of honour or a status symbol, we must recognize these responses as the health warning that they are and change our behaviour before our energy reservoir sinks too low. Investing in a healthier lifestyle is a wise strategy not just because it will contribute to a longer lifespan, but because it will also build your confidence, elevate your mood and unleash your creativity. 

The cornerstone habits of good health are habits that have provided Ong with the platform to transform his life for the better: 

-Sleep 

-Exercise 

-Diet

Sleep, it seems, tends to be one of the first things we sacrifice, on the assumption that by doing so we will become more accomplished. The reality is that our most productive days always begin with getting high-quality sleep, as it is this that sets the stage for better decisions, for waking up with greater energy and increased levels of emotional intelligence. Sleep is the foundation of our physical energy and contributes to our ability to live up to our potential by providing us with the fuel and focus that we need. We are like a battery, and sleep is how we get to recharge that battery.

The best way to judge whether you need more is to reflect on this question: do you regularly feel tired and exhausted when you wake up in the morning? If the answer is yes, then it’s a good sign that you must get more sleep. The goal for us, here, is to make bedtime something to look forward to and the environment as conducive to sleep as possible. Because how well you sleep is determined by what you do before going to bed. Here are some tips he recommends.

1. The 3–2–1 rule

Three hours before bed, log off from all work-related activities and use this time to review your day and to plan the next day’s priorities. Two hours before bed, say no to any more eating and use this time to wind down. One hour before bed, escort any digital devices out of the bedroom and use this time for relaxing activities.

2. Stop being a dayist – Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends, will dramatically improve the quality of your sleep.

3. Check into a hotel room every night ie. The relaxing environment that is clean and clutter-free, the quality of the bedding used and that feeling of fresh sheets. The environment of the rooms has been optimized for the purpose of quality sleep.

As Dr Thomas Roth, Director of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit since 1978, put it: ‘The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without impairment, and rounded to a whole number, is zero.’

Next is exercise. That feeling of euphoria that is so often felt after a session of exercise is driven by the release of endorphins that wake our body up from the inside. These endorphins make us happy, and being happy gives us energy. To illustrate the influence that exercise has on our energy, University of Georgia researchers published a study in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2008 that found inactive people who normally complained about fatigue could experience an energy jump of up to 20% and a fall in fatigue of as much as 65% by simply participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.

Here are three ways to help you get up, get moving and get energized: 

 1. If you’re exercising to lose weight or to achieve a certain look, you might lose the motivation easily. Instead, ask yourself how good you would like to feel today and focus on the benefits that you’ll experience whilst moving your body.

 2. Design an exercise menu and select from it daily to fit your mood. Keeping things varied makes things exciting and interesting.

 3. Introduce some friendly competition to the exercise. It can inspire you to improve each time you show up.

Food must be something that serves you and provides you with the energy you need. The habit of meal planning can have positive impact on your energy. Instead of following extreme diet plans or trends, Ong recommends 3 fundamental food principles that can help you maintain a high level of energy:

        1. Always have a bottle of water within your reach.

        2. Build your meals around moderation, variety and balance, with a bias towards foods that provide a natural source of energy.

        3. Include a wide variety of fruit to your daily meal plan. They deliver an immediate boost of energy and contain nutrients that can lift your mood.

The author then gives you the tools to reach a higher level of consciousness and energetic awareness through means of journaling, gratitude and wonder. He sets out the tasks:

    1. Write a letter to your younger self. Writing creates a magical place and allows you to know yourself better. With greater self-awareness, you’ll be able to make more intentional choices each day.

    2. Journal about your energy levels. What depletes you? What do you spend too much energy on? What is working well for you? When you are open and honest about where you are now, you can plan better for the future and move towards your goals.

Next is gratitude. Dr Martin Seligman, one of the most influential psychologists in the field of happiness noted that when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them. Gratitude is one of the fastest ways towards feeling energized when we’re feeling low. Expressing gratitude on a regular basis not only impacts your mental state in a positive way, it also elevates the quality of your relationships and deepens those feelings of joy and wonder.

– Take a moment right now to think of someone you feel particularly grateful for. Write down in as much detail as you can why this person came to your mind. Drop them a call or send them a message.

By acknowledging the shortness of life, you are able to channel your energy into truly living and to embrace the magic of being alive. Nothing lasts forever. We only have this one life, and the tragedy is that we wait so long to begin living it. Hence we need to appreciate the ordinary as extraordinary. 

Negative visualisation is an extremely powerful exercise that can teach us to value what we already have and help us realise that we are doing far better than we think we are.

    1. Think of something or someone you can’t live without. 

    2. Imagine how your life would be having lost the above.

    3. Pay attention to the impact this visualisation is having on you.

    4. Bring your focus back to the present and notice your gratitude.

 In many cases, the reason we are exhausted is because we are caught up in trying to run someone else’s race and live up to someone else’s definition of success. To overcome that, we need to take responsibility for where we are and where we want to be.

– Try to distil what matters to you. Write down your answers to these questions:

    1. What does success mean to you?

    2. What does fulfilment look like to you?

    3. What sort of impact do you want your life to have?

    4. What would you do if money were no object?

Try to think about your life purpose from the perspective of your inner child.

– Write down what your dream life would look like in five years’ time. When you possess a clear and compelling vision of what you desire, you begin to notice opportunities to make it a reality around you.

– If you want to avoid living life by default, you have to be strategic with how you use your time. Your ability to reflect, make plans and then actually follow through on them will become one of the greatest skills that you have.

1. Write down the most important skills you have to learn in order to achieve your goals. 

2. What are your strengths and how can you apply them?

3. What challenges ahead do you foresee and how do you plan to overcome them?

We often think of energy in terms of just the physical, but our mental energy also plays an important role when it comes to our energetic state. When we think about our state of being, energetic blocks are mental obstructions to being in flow – a closed mind, a fixed belief system and a lack of faith in our abilities.

Ong says when you operate at a higher frequency and an energetic state of positivity, however, you are able to thrive regardless of external circumstances – turning setbacks into strength and obstacles into opportunities – and are open to new experiences that help you grow.

Without the right mindset, you simply won’t see the abundance of opportunities and possibilities that surround you. Here’s a powerful exercise the author recommends to his clients when he wants them to bring awareness to their blocks:

    1. Write down a belief that’s currently blocking you from making the progress you’d like to make.

    2. What has this belief cost you in the past, what is it costing you now and what could it cost you in the future?

    3. Would would happen if the opposite is true? Write down three pieces of evidence in support of it.

    4. Visualise what your life looks like operating from this belief.

Self-compassion, not self-criticism, can give you the energy to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. With daily affirmations, you can create your own placebo effect – a belief that becomes so potent, it has an extraordinary ability to become true. By believing in and being emotionally connected to a thought, your heightened mental state has the power to uplift your physiology and energy.

When you focus on what you can’t control, you can easily become paralysed by overthinking and negativity. When you focus on what you can control, you feel energised and become empowered to take action. Take a moment to reflect on the obstacles that you may be currently facing. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when you encounter setbacks:

1. What else could this mean?

2. What is the lesson here?

3. What could I do differently if this were to happen again?

Too many of us grow up being taught how success and failure are polar opposites: you either succeed or you fail. In reality, there is no success without failures. We have to embrace them, learn from them and use them as a fuel to move forward.

When faced with obstacles, we can choose to be defeated by them or respond with creativity and resourcefulness. Ong uses a 4-step approach, that he calls RISE, when he faces failures:

    1. Reframe the setback. In reality, failure is feedback, an education and a step to something better.

    2. Immerse yourself in inspiration. 

    3. Self-compassion. Be kind and forgive yourself for failing.

    4. Energy switching. Change your negative energy into positive action.

Think about the challenges you already overcame in the past. They should act as important reminders of just how far you have come since then.

Once you realise what you want to do, acting upon it will be one of the biggest challenges you can face, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate to the world what you are committed to. If you don’t do the things that are scary, you won’t have the opportunity to build your confidence.

At a deeper level, one of the most common fears that drains our energy reserves and prevents us from moving forward is the fear of judgement, but we shouldn’t wait until others give us the permission to go after our goals. To act despite our fears and from the belief that we will be OK, is to be courageous.

Ask yourself – are you interested in or committed to achieving your goals? The fastest way to move from being simply interested to being committed is to know why what you want matters. Our reasons may at first start at a superficial layer, but as we dig deeper layer by layer, we become more and more motivated.

Focus on consistency over intensity. Consistency grows out of your ability to be patient with the process of taking small steps forward each day. Use the months and years ahead to arrive at a place that will make you proud.

And remember to manage your energy and not your time. Without setting a few boundaries, you can never experience true freedom and fulfilment. In order to live better and achieve more, you have to carve out and protect some time in your calendar to recharge and to nurture your creativity.

Start planning out your days by scheduling them around your energy fluctuations. Start out by observing and tracking when your high and low energy periods occur. 

1. High energy periods – Protect them for important tasks or activities that demand more energy and remove unnecessary energy drains.

2. Low energy periods – Use these periods to plan and prepare for the next day, or use them for routine activities such as admin tasks, emails and social media.

Whilst some of us find it easy to say no, most of us are consumed with worry when we decline an invitation or set a boundary with family or friends. But saying yes to things just to please others is a fast-track ticket to burnout and exhaustion. Saying no to meaningless work and draining activities is what creates the space for living with passion and purpose. Write down your not-to-do list – all of the non-negotiable activities you don’t want to do.

Deal with your past by learning to let go, to accept and to forgive. Once we have released the baggage of our past, our focus sharpens and we can think about tomorrow. The future can inspire us and keep us motivated, but we should never forget to live in the present. Manage your anxiety by nurturing two habits:

    1. Practice digital detox 

    2. Meditate

It is important that you are as intentional with your rest periods as you are with your work periods. Make sure that you take some time for purposeful meals, hobbies, exploring and discovering. Slowing down to play can allow your brain to become more productive and reach the creative breakthroughs you desire.

People are like sponges. We soak up the energies that we’re surrounded with. Because the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your input, you must make sure that you are regularly reviewing, optimising and electrifying your environment. Here is a few steps that can help you to achieve that:

1. Bring together an imaginary boardroom of advisers comprised of those people who inspire you. They may be people you know or someone famous.

2. Test-drive your vision board. Experiencing your vision board in real life can inspire a belief that your bold visions are achievable.

3. Seek out people, groups and communities that remind you of what you’re working towards.

4. Spend some time in nature.

5. Embrace minimalist lifestyle and declutter your real life and digital spaces.

6. Create a playlist with tunes that will impact your mood and prepare you for your day.

Choosing to become a loving person and choosing our significant other are both important steps in creating the life we desire. Romantic partners can help us thrive and encourage us to embrace life opportunities. 

And get money to work for you. The value of money is in its ability to be a source of energy: to give you the time to work on whatever it is you want or the ability to wake up each morning without worrying about whether your bank balance will be impacted by the uncertainties of life.

Financial wealth is less about how much you earn and more about how much you get to keep after you have accounted for everything that you have spent your money on. Ong – suggests you list down following things:

    1. A list of assets that you own. This will help you determine your net worth today.

    2. A list of all your expenses in a typical month.

    3. Decide what your split between needs, wants and savings/investments is.

    4. Build a system that will promote financial discipline.

Developing a sound financial plan for your life not only improves your relationship and confidence with money, but it also contributes to thinking creatively about the ways of making more of it.

Improving your relationship with money requires you to address your attitude towards it. Answering these three questions can help you to get to the root of your beliefs around money:

    1. What feelings come to mind when you think about money?

    2. How has your relationship with money impacted your life?

    3. What do you feel has influenced your thoughts about and relationship with money?

Now, supercharge your impact by embracing the life of an eternal student, cultivating curiosity and reflecting on your legacy. Just as your body needs nutrition, your mind also needs food for thought. The information that you feed your mind today plays a significant role in determining who you become tomorrow. To become strategic in your learning, you can employ what Simon calls the LARS process:

1. Learn. Reflect on what skills you must develop in order to make significant progress from where you are today.

2. Apply. It’s where the real power of learning is.

3. Reflect. Take some time to think through what went well and what could be improved.

4. Share. The ultimate test of what you think you know is in your ability to transfer it to someone else.

Curiosity is the energy behind lifelong learning, because you never get bored when you’re constantly questioning, exploring and investigating. But following your curiosity doesn’t guarantee that what you learn will be useful ahead of time. You just have to trust in the wisdom of your curiosities.

And remember, one of the greatest gifts that you can give someone is the feeling that they’ve been heard, understood and appreciated. Be the listener in the room, encourage others to talk and listen to understand, not to reply.

You are contributing to your own legacy every single day. Take a moment to consider how would you want to be remembered. By being of value to others, you bring greater meaning into your existence and in your own unique way, you’re making the world a better place. Be proud of the person you are becoming.

Our final book is from Amy Shah, MD who is a double board-certified medical doctor and nutrition expert with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard. I’m So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Life is her first book, which shows how you can help chronic exhaustion by tapping into the interconnected relationship between your gut, your immune system  and your hormones known as the energy trifecta. Here she is speaking to Mind Lull with Sharon T McLaughlin MD.

AMY SHAH: I was a nutrition major in college, and I was always interested in how, um, food affects our bodies. And then when I went through training, like so many people, I kind of lost my nutritional skills. I just was trying to survive. I, um, was eating a ton of fast food things that would just keep me awake. Caffeine, fast food. And I found myself in a place about ten years later,  right after I finished fellowship, where I thought, uh, I had completed the path of medicine, where I graduated. I was attending, and, uh, I was about to become a partner. And the problem was, I felt like crap. I just couldn’t believe that I had worked so hard for so many years and I didn’t feel good. And I didn’t know if it was something in my work that I need to fix or myself that I need to fix. But I was just finding myself really cranky, really tired. I couldn’t sleep at night. And I knew it was a combination, uh, of things I knew that I hadn’t been able to take any time off and really think about what I wanted to do for my career. And I was on this fast track to somewhere that I had thought I arrived, um, to, but it wasn’t the place I wanted to be. So at first, I looked into my own health because I thought, maybe I’m missing something. So I had a few blood tests drawn. Why am I tired? Is there some iron deficiency? Thyroid issue, autoimmune problem? Something, um, i, uh, can’t see? And lo and behold, my colleague said, you’re fine. You know, you’re just busy. You’re a new mom, you have two little kids, you have this practice, but I knew there was more than that. I knew there was something that I wasn’t doing right. And so it was kind of both a mind and body burnout. Um, but I was too busy to stop and even think because I had this new practice. I still had to pass my second boards. I had two little kids. And then I talk about it in the book. I had this huge moment. And in retrospect, I can see it now. At the time, it just felt, um, like everything was falling apart. So I was staying up super late to study for my board. I had this practice that was all on me to make successful. And then my kids were young, very young. And one day I was rushing to pick them up after an impromptu work meeting. And on my way to pick them up, I felt so embarrassed for rushing out of my meeting because I was like, what will they think of me? I’m a new partner. I’m a woman. I’m a mom. What will they think? I didn’t have the guts to even tell them why I had to leave or what the explanation was. And then at the same time, I was really embarrassed to go pick up my children late because of the meeting and thinking of how they would judge me as a mom, uh, being late. And on the way, uh, I got into this huge car accident. And the biggest I’ve never, ever been in a car accident where every single airbag is deployed, including the side, the back, all of it. Thank God, all my injuries were, um, minor in the long term sense. No broken anything. And the first thing I did was I opened the door and there was glass everywhere. I opened the door and I said, I need to get my kids because I was running late. And they looked at me like, she has gone crazy. There’s something wrong with this woman. Because everybody else was just stunned. It was a multi car accident. So anyways, that one week forced me to kind of pause and try to look into what was going on. And that really started my wellness journey.

(Back to host)

Before we begin, please remember to consult your medical physician ahead of trying anything new. I am not a doctor, so please be sensible! 

On that note, if you’re utterly sapped by life’s daily demands, you’re not alone. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of women and 10 percent of men regularly feel drained of energy. Boosting your energy requires balancing your hormone levels, immune system, and gut health.

When you feel drained, it’s usually because the energy trifecta is out of balance. Women tend to be more susceptible, in large part because of periods. Periods cause hormonal fluctuations, which, in turn, result in low energy levels. You may be familiar with hormones like oestrogen or cortisol, but there are many more, and each performs an important role in how good and energetic you feel.

When faced with constant exhaustion and stress, the resources that enable your hormonal system to function at full capacity become depleted, and this makes you more susceptible to getting sick – a fact that underlines the connection between hormonal inflammation, disease, and energy. 

Meanwhile, there are 100 trillion microbes in your body, the bulk of which live in your gut; these constitute your microbiome. When your microbiome is in balance, your hormone and immunity levels also improve. Everything is connected, so fixing one system benefits the others, and your energy levels shoot up. 

The author used research around hormones, inflammation, and the gut to put together a two-week strategy designed to combat fatigue by rebalancing the energy trifecta. It’s known as the WTF plan – as in “Why the eff am I so tired?!” – and the most important element involves a change to your diet.

Hormones are the body’s signal system; they regulate most of its basic functions. In addition to being complex, the hormonal system is also incredibly delicate. Even the smallest wobble of what’s called the hormonal axis – which can be caused by anything from poor diet to insufficient sleep – can throw your body out of whack. If left untreated, hormonal imbalance can lead to a range of unpleasant symptoms, from mood instability to weight gain to chronic disease.

Yet, unfortunately, there is currently no reliable testing for hormone imbalance. While tests for checking hormone levels exist, the complex nature of the hormonal system means it remains impossible to make an accurate diagnosis. So the best way of testing whether your hormonal axis is in order is simply to see how your energy levels are doing. For instance, when your hormones are not in balance, you may feel drained, distracted, or constantly stressed. 

As difficult as it is to diagnose hormonal imbalances, it is possible to correct them. According to the author, all you have to do is adopt some simple lifestyle changes. First and foremost, you need to watch what you eat. For many people, certain foods can increase inflammation. 

Are you familiar with the PREDIMED trial? It lasted for five years and involved more than 7,000 participants. All were between the ages of 55 and 80 and had a high risk of heart disease. Some of these participants followed a special diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fibre, and natural sugars; they didn’t consume any processed foods like refined sugar or red meat. 

At the end of the study, the researchers reassessed the participants’ health. The results were impressive. Those who’d followed the food plan were 30 percent less at risk of heart attacks and strokes compared to those who hadn’t. 

Much like this food plan, the WTF plan recommends a “plant-based” diet, which is proven to both reduce risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol, while also boosting your energy. The plan suggests eating lots of vegetables – between 6 and 8 servings per day. Why? Well, for one, vegetables contain hundreds of phytonutrients, or plant hormones. These have a hormone-balancing effect in the human body. Plants are also the best source of fibre, which has been shown to decrease heart disease and lower cholesterol. 

Indeed, the WTF plan recommends integrating as many fibrous foods into your daily diet as possible. Fibre is full of prebiotics that are crucial for gut health, yet most Americans only get 10–15 grams of fibre a day. That’s much less than the 25 grams needed for a woman and 35 grams for a man. Vegetables that are high in fibre include broccoli, asparagus bottoms, kale stems, sweet potatoes, leeks, and legumes.

The plan also calls for reducing – or cutting out – inflammatory foods like dairy products, meat, and processed sugar. If you don’t want to stop eating these entirely, at least limit them to 10–15 percent of your overall food intake. By changing your diet from high sugar to high fibre, the author says you’ll quickly start to see improvements in your energy and sleep patterns. 

You may have heard about intermittent fasting. One of the most popular diet trends of the decade, it involves limiting all your daily food intake to a specific span of time – often an eight- or ten-hour window, such as 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Inspired by intermittent fasting, the author suggests a variation called circadian fasting, which follows your natural rhythms.

Every cell in your body runs according to its natural circadian rhythm. Problems arise when we mess with this natural rhythm through irregular eating schedules and sleeping patterns. Fasting has been proven to effectively reset the body’s natural clock to healthier rhythms – partly because it allows your gut a much-needed break each day, which improves its ability to fend off stress and disease.

But what works for the author may not suit your rhythm. Remember, the key to circadian fasting is to do what works for you. 

Exercise is a crucial part of keeping your body functioning. In fact, it can be hugely beneficial to exercise before you break your fast in the morning, as working out flicks on the metabolic switch that turns fuel sources into fat-burning molecules. But, as important as it is to exercise, you should never underestimate the role of rest. 

Each time you exercise, you are making your body stronger for the next workout. In other words, you are training your body’s ability to handle more stress – but there must be recovery time. In fact, it’s during recovery that your muscles get stronger. If you don’t take the time to recover, it prevents your body from benefiting from the exercise; at worst, it can lead to injury and exhaustion. 

During the rest of the week, walking 8,000–12,000 steps a day is a really simple way to incorporate exercise into your routine. Especially when you’re doing long fasts, avoid workouts longer than an hour, and go for low-intensity activities like gentle yoga instead. When trying to regulate any type of hormonal imbalance, it’s always best to go easy on your body. As someone with mobility issues I try and do as much as I can without burning out even if it isn’t always 8,000 steps.

Managing stress is key to keeping your system functioning properly. Excessive stress, on the other hand, releases too much cortisol, which ultimately drains you of energy. Even if you’re doing everything else right, chronically elevated cortisol could be the hormone sabotaging your energy levels. 

Getting out in nature and breathing in fresh air is not only good for the soul; it has been shown to counteract cortisol. In other words, it can alleviate stress and improve sleep. Creative outlets like writing, volunteering, and teaching can also help you tap into those “feel-good chemicals” that regulate cortisol.

Finally, to optimise the energy trifecta, you’ve got to get enough sleep. Getting at least eight hours of sleep per night has been shown to significantly calm hormonal blockage and imbalance. In fact, a 2010 study from the Emory School of Medicine found that individuals who reported getting fewer than six hours of sleep had the highest levels of inflammatory hormones. 

Think of your new diet and exercise plan as a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix.

So to sum up:

Ong says in Energise that awakening our innate power means that we should stop treating our body and health as a side hustle. When we’re able to embrace our failures, we can turn obstacles into a source of energy. And by managing our energy, not our time, we can learn when to push and when to recoup. As a result, we’re able to enjoy more purposeful days.

Dr Shah says in I’m So Effing Tired that boosting your energy requires balancing your hormone levels, your immune system, and your gut health – what’s known as your “energy trifecta.” You can tap into your energy trifecta by combining a plant-based diet with intermittent fasting. To ward off exhaustion and infection, make sure you exercise mindfully, reduce stress, and sleep at least eight hours a night. She suggests meditating a little each day. Incorporate a short, simple meditation into your day. Start by taking three long, deep breaths – six counts in, six counts out. Try not to think about anything but the breath coming in, and then going back out. Do this micro breathing meditation three times a day, every day. This way, you’ll practise cultivating inner calm, which in turn will positively influence your energy trifecta.

Energy is so important in our lives, and you definitely notice it considerably when you live with chronic conditions. We call it spoons, pints, coins or even a draining battery, where there’s less energy to begin with. Please join in on the conversation by following @howtobe247 on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and subscribe on the podcast, which can be found via http://www.howtobe247.com. 

Please do leave a review if you found this helpful! Thank you to Lisa for your lovely comments saying the podcast is “Informative, uplifting, and a positive message to help with overall mental health.”

See you in two week’s time!  

Published by suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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