Energize Your Success – Decrease Distress

by Stephen Mills on May 26, 2009

Stress

You need to energy to be successful.  Your brain and the rest of your body run on energy.  What happens in one part of you body impacts the rest of it.  Mental exhaustion is really just physical exhaustion occurring in one part of your body.  It saps the strength and energy from other parts.  You might not think physical energy matters that much, especially if you are more intellectually oriented.  But it matters and I think it matters a great deal.

This article is the first in a series that will be dedicated to helping you improve your energy.  You will not escape the rat race or enjoy life if you are energy deficient.  Energy level is a fundamental key to thriving and not just surviving.  Take it from someone who knows.  I have been chronically fatigued for much of my adult life.  I’m turning it around big time, but I’m not all the way there yet.

You may know what to do to increase your success, but don’t feel you have the “time” or the energy to do it.  This is pervasive in our modern fast-paced culture.  Often people who don’t think they have time, really just don’t have the energy because lack of energy slows down their rate of action.  Energetic people can get more done in a given amount of time.  Increased energy then can in one sense give you more time to do the things you want to do.

I have a friend who we refer to as the Energizer Bunny.  She is full of energy and she moves at least twice the speed of most people.  She actually lives more life in her day than other people.  You can take this too far and I’m a big believer in slowing down and living in the present (see Problems are Memories: How to Become Present, 10 Ways to Slow Down and Still Get Things Done, How To Relax And Why It’s So Important), but the two are not incompatible.  When you want to act and when intense action is called for, having the energy to perform is critical.

While the impact your physical energy has on your overall success might be more obvious to those of us who have had or do have a significant deficits, we shouldn’t ignore the potential impact of increased energy to those who already have normal or even above normal levels of energy.  Unless you are already super-energized, I think you would benefit greatly from increased energy no matter what your current level.

This series will focus on ways to increase your energy levels that I think are fairly universal and non-controversial.  Keep in mind that when you use energy for one thing, such as digesting a big meal, you have less energy left for other activities.

Decrease Distress

This is the bad stress and includes any physical or mental stress that is bad for you.  The best way to decrease distress is to avoid it.  Here are some common sources of distress that you can reduce in order to increase your energy levels:

Fat

This is simple physics.  Carrying around extra fat simply uses up more energy.  If you don’t believe me just pick up a 50 pound weight and carry it around all day and see what happens to your energy levels.  You wouldn’t do that so why do you carry extra body fat?  Fat doesn’t do work.  Lose fat, not muscle, and you will use less energy.  Lose fat and gain energy to do those things that are important to you and your loved ones.

Eating Too Much at Once

Eating a lot of carbohydrates at once will cause blood sugar to spike and that will cause insulin to spike.  Insulin causes a lot of damage to your body if it is chronically raised.  Further the subsequent drop in blood sugar will make you feel tired and sluggish.  Finally digesting a lot of food uses a lot of energy.

Not Eating Often Enough

Eating smaller meals more frequently will give your body a constant supply of nutrients, especially blood sugar, and allow you to maintain a much more constant source of energy.

Eating Refined Carbohydrates

These foods are killing you.  I’m not just talking about refined sugar.  Once your body turns any carbohydrate to glucose, it really doesn’t matter what it’s source.  The important part is how much glucose it contains and how fast it is released into your blood stream.  High GI foods like white flour, white rice, white potatoes, or other refined carbohydrates are just bad for you.  You might as well be eating poison.  When you restrict the candy your child can eat, but then give them a sandwich on white bread you are accomplishing nothing.  In fact white bread may be worse than table sugar.  If you want to know what the white deaths are doing to your and your family, read Vin’s excellent articles: How Sugar Can Ruin Your Life and How to Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet.

Lack of Sleep

When you sleep your body repairs itself and does a lot of other things.  Sleep deprivation creates distress on your body by not allowing time for recovery.  I have recently written a fairly long article on sleep that you can read: Sleep Your Way to Success.  You can also check out Jonathan’s article: What is Your Brain Doing While You Are Sleeping?

Mental Stress

I don’t think I need to spend much time on this one because we all know what stresses us, but I want to mention a couple of things.

  • Negativity from others – Eliminate these people from your life or walk away from them when they get negative.
  • Negativity from yourself – I’ve written about this in the following article and it is a huge factor:  Positivity Leads to a Flourishing Life.

When you eliminate your own negative reactions you save tons of stress and thus energy.  When I get mad I feel physically sick or drained.  I simply can’t emphasize the importance of this enough.

Relax

The other topics in this article focused on avoiding or eliminating specific sources of stress.  Aside from that, you can reduce overall stress by taking time to relax and practicing specific techniques of relaxation such as meditation or yoga.

I don’t have a source for yoga yet so if you know any good ones please add them in the comments.  For meditation, Roger has a good series going: Meditation for Beginners (Week 1) – Introduction

Other Resources

This article from the Mayo Clinic contains tons of stress management information.  I highly recommend it:  Mayo Clinic Stress Management

Check out these other articles:

10 Ways to Remain Calm in a Stressful Situation

One Dozen Simple Stress Busters

Stress Is A Myth

The Second Step To Happiness

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How to Increase Your Energy With Exercise — The Rat Race Trap
May 31, 2009 at 6:54 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 26, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Stephen, what a great article and what an important topic. This is something that has a direct impact on every aspect of our life. As we get older that inexhaustible source of boundless energy has a way of tapering off. I am always looking for sound, practical ways to fuel the furnace. So now I find myself looking forward to part 2.

Reply

Lisis | Quest For Balance May 26, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Hey, Stephen! I really need this list, and a million more like them. I’m the queen of fatigue. In fact, my favorite technique from your list is “Sleep Your Way To Success” (I love a good night’s sleep!). Still, I seriously need to work on the refined carbs issue. I do well about keeping whole grain stuff in my pantry, but then splurge on ice cream and pizza. Not the most effective technique, I grant you.

Anyway, like Jonathan, I’m looking forward to part 2! (And thanks for the link love.)

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Jay Schryer May 26, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Last year, when I started losing weight, I drastically reduced the amount of carbs and fat coming into my system. Not only did I lose weight rapidly, I also drastically reduced my blood sugar levels and reversed some of the damage insulin had done to my body. And yes, there were AMAZING increases in my energy levels! More than anything else on your list, I really think this is the key for most people. All of your tips are great, but the diet ones are especially good.

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Mark Lewis May 26, 2009 at 8:07 pm

I love the point you make about people feeling overwhelmed and like they don’t have any time in their lives to do anything. I know a couple people like this and feel they have plenty of time.

Great tips! I can definitely relate to the tips with regards to diet. Since I live a sedentary lifestyle, diet plays a huge role. Overeating and too many carbohydrates make me sleepy and shut down my body. I always find I have more energy when I consume less and eat fewer carbohydrates.

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Robin Easton May 26, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Although most of these things I am aware of and watch for in my life, there are some that I’m not as good at. Reading this really made it all the more tangible for me. I needed that. I think I am going to print the list part out and put near my desk. It really does help to actually see it right before my eyes.

This is an excellent list of do(s) and don’t(s) that are so easy to live, I just have to remember them…hence the printed list. Thank you for this Stephen. See? All your past experience, although it was probably hard on you, is now preventing others from making the same mistakes. This is REALLY good timing for me. Fabulous my friend. Just fabulous!! :)

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Giovanna Garcia May 27, 2009 at 12:20 am

Thank you for the reminder, it came to me at the right time. I am going to take some time to relax a little. Thank you for that my friend :-)
Great post, I really enjoyed it.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

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Vin | NaturalBias.com May 27, 2009 at 7:05 am

Hi Stephen, great article! Now I know why you follow healthy habits and know so much about them! I’m in the same situation as you regarding fatigue. In fact, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome a few years ago. Like you, I’ve made tremendous improvements but still have more to accomplish. For people who aren’t feeling their best, this article is great guidance on how to get started on a healthy lifestyle and feel better.

It’s so true that your potential to enjoy life practically disappears when you’re tired, and at least for me, fatigue is a gateway to becoming irritable and depressed. I know this all to well from experience and it’s obviously not a nice way to live which is why I made some major changes.

As you said, you need energy to escape the rat race. In fact, it takes tremendous energy. I know because I’m trying to do it! It usually involves the equivalent of two full time jobs and the need to be very careful with your lifestyle habits to avoid running yourself down (which I’ve made the mistake of coming close to doing a few times).

Thanks for recommending my sugar articles! :)

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Roger | A Content Life May 27, 2009 at 7:07 am

Stephen,

I would like more energy so your article resonated with me! I look forward to the rest of the series.

Mindful eating has helped me reduce how much I eat at one time and I do eat a lower GI foods than I used to. However, there’s still more room for improvement.

I also would like to lose an additional 10 lbs. There are times when I’ve been 10 lbs lighter and I definitely had more energy. Thanks for reminding me of this.

Also, thanks for linking to my article on meditation!

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Stephen Mills May 27, 2009 at 9:12 pm

@Jonathan, yes it is very important. Unfortunately I was too busy to consider it for too many years.

@Lsis, if you are the queen, I was the king! :-)

@Jay, great for you! I was on a good diet for a while many years ago when I lost a bunch of weight but I slowly fell off the wagon and into horrible habits. About 6 months ago I decided to go straight again. Then about 3 months ago, I went really healthy and eliminated the refined carbs almost completely.

@Mark, thanks for stopping by. I just read your blog today and so I think I understand. I am trying to change my sedentary life style because I have zero excuse not to. I walk and even stand up and wander around the house when I’m reading. I’m going to start running and lifting weights.

@Robin, I’m glad you watch your health. I wish I would have started years ago.

@Giovanna, I used to NEVER relax. I finally woke up to the fact that stress was killing me and making me ineffective. I don’t know how I could have been so stupid for so long!

@Vin, I’m surprised you have been fatigued. It sucks big time. I feel so much better now, but I’m not complacent. I think I may just be “normal”. I want to go much further.

@Roger, I’ve decided to eat good permanently and start lifting weights soon. I assume as long as I eat healthy and exercise the body fat will disappear. I find that even though I eat a lot of fat in the form of nuts I am still losing weight. I think I’ve lost 30 pounds in six months. I’m eating so good it seems I can’t help but lose weight.

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Dragos Roua May 28, 2009 at 7:40 am

Nice list, Stephen, thanks for sharing.

I would put laughing and exercising here too, there are 2 very important factors for eliminating stress. At least for me :-)

Dragos Roua´s last blog post..The Productivity Map

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