Alternative Medicine
Wellness Assessment for Optimal Energy

Last month we began to explore Wellness Assessment, and how examining each of your Life Arenas will show you where your strengths are and where you might want to make some changes. One of the big issues in life has to do with energy. Do you have enough energy to do everything you want to, or just enough energy to get by? Do you have such low energy that your life now revolves around coping with fatigue?

Most people consult with me for help with 1 or 2 issues or symptoms. Their main hope is that we will work on the nutritional/metabolic side of things to get a full picture. It is important to know that for many problems, dealing with a symptom or two won't be life transforming. Looking at the other 12 Life Arenas will shed more light on a symptom, like fatigue, and will provide more ways to understand energy, many ways of treating fatigue, and will help transform an entire life.

Life's 13 Arenas

1. Work

2. Play and Entertainment – Passive Fun

3. Creativity – Active Fun

4. Mental/Emotional Well-Being

5. Physical Health and Well-Being

6. Eating

7. Meaning and Purpose

8. Social Connection and Support

9. Intimacy

10. Movement and Exercise

11. Spiritual Connection to Self, God and Nature

12. Rest, both Mental and Physical

13. Environment and Surroundings

Let's use Wellness Assessment to understand energy and fatigue. Mental/emotional and physical problems will directly cause fatigue. Every Life Arena plays a role in understanding your total energy picture.

Work

Do you love your work? Is it your passion? Do you like your work? Do you barely tolerate your work, or do you really dislike it? If your work is your passion, you are likely to have plenty of energy, because work will energize you. If you hate your work, it will drain you. While taking responsibility for one's life is important as is getting clear about your passions and purpose and working to manifest your purpose, we have certain economic realities. Nearly 14% of African Americans are unemployed, and a little under 7% of Caucasians are unemployed with Hispanics somewhere in between those two, and Asians having the lowest unemployment rate. Work stress is real, but you can make an effort to identify who and what depletes you at work. Due to fear of losing a job, many people don't express frustration or conflict in the workplace. If you say how you feel in a non-blaming way, you will be surprised how well most people will receive your comments.

There are situations you cannot change, a boss who is extremely difficult to be around, a person who creates fear, lacks gratitude and most of the words you hear from him are about what you do wrong. That boss can zap your energy. However, we all deal with stress and conflict in different ways. One person's “good” stress is another person's painful stress.

Your satisfaction at work, your rewards and acknowledgments or lack thereof will affect your energy. People's energy tends to crash at work around 3 pm , which is due to adrenal stress. At 3 pm people rush for coffee and a candy bar. I won't offer a pat answer for whatever issues you might have at work, but virtually anything that increases work happiness and decreases work stress will increase energy.

In situations of no escape, you are required to change your attitude, to evolve more quickly than you had planned. Even in a conflicted, unpleasant workplace, you can shift how you feel, and how much energy you lose, by consciously looking for the positive. You can choose to feel grateful that you are lucky to have a job. You can choose to find several good qualities about your boss and be grateful for those, and strive to find inner peace when he or she is annoying you. Determine if you feel trapped. If so, if you can leave, do so. If not, come to grips with the fact that you are the one who must change, and that you are capable of change. Your critical boss could turn out to be the blessing in disguise that caused you to turn inward, to find ways to remain calm in the middle of the storm.

If you take 15 to 30 second breaks every 15 minutes, throughout the day, your energy will increase. These mini-vacations can include: 1) taking two slow, deep breaths, 2) doing a quick mental imagery technique picturing yourself in your favorite place in nature, 3) using any of a number of meditation techniques. I am not talking about 10 or 20-minute “mental breaks.” It is easy and practical to take a mini-vacation every 15 minutes. You will require as little as 30 seconds to let the stress go, and let the energy back in.

Fun and Creativity

You can get your batteries recharged by planning for some passive fun (play and entertainment) or active fun (creativity). Fun activities help you let go of stress, and rejuvenate you. They help take your mind off of stress in your life. You always feel energized after having fun, right? Consider how you can bring more play, fun, entertainment, and creative activity into your life.

Eating

Start your day with a balanced meal. Your energy will be much better than if you grab coffee and a donut, then wait until noon to have something you would call “food.” The zone approach to eating has proven to be what our bodies like the most. A zone diet is 40% health carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fats and essential fatty acids. Eat three meals a day, and have a couple of healthy snacks in between. A healthy power bar at 3 pm will ward off the hypoglycemia that is part of adrenal exhaustion. Caffeine jacks up your adrenals, which might make you feel better today, but over time, caffeine stresses your adrenals and can lead to adrenal exhaustion.

Eat live foods. Sprouted seeds have six times the life force as unsprouted seeds. Super green products, including wheat grass bring you “prana” or life force energy. Dead food, as animal protein, are lacking in living energy. I'm not telling you to become a vegetarian or vegan, but eat fruits and vegetables if you're not, and remember that the closer your food is to the earth, the higher the energy value. Your body may do well with fish or poultry as your protein source.

Through nutritional/metabolic lab work, I find that a large percentage of the population, and not just people with an illness, are protein deficient. Among people with any chronic health problem, more than 50% of them are protein deficient. Protein is made up of amino acids. When you digest protein, your digestive tract breaks protein down into individual amino acids, and it is the individual amino acids that get absorbed. Amino acids are the building blocks of all protein, hormones, neurotransmitters, and body tissues.

Carbohydrates break down into healthy sugars like glucose. Glucose is our body's main source of energy and it is our brain's only source of energy. Junk food has lots of carbohydrates, but it is junk. The biochemical reaction of energy is called the “Kreb's Cycle.” The Kreb's cycle produces ATP, the molecule of energy. This reaction is so important that 80% of the oxygen we breathe is burned in this one reaction. What is the main fuel for the Kreb's Cycle? Glucose. Amino acids from protein as well as fatty acids provide some fuel for the Kreb's Cycle, but these are secondary sources of fuel.

Social Connection — Identify Your Cling-Ons

Who you spend your time with, whether in person or on the phone, affects your energy. List your friends, family, and acquaintances.

Who are your real friends? How can you identify them?

1. They love and accept you as you are, and

2. Are willing to lovingly share a painful truth.

Who are not your friends? How do you identify them?

1. You tense up when they call or when you're around them.

2. You feel guilty for stating your needs, boundaries, and how much time you have to share.

3. Your energy drops when you're interacting with them.

A problem saying, “No” and in setting boundaries is your problem and not theirs. When you get clear about your needs, abilities, and energy requirements and begin to state who you are and what you want, your friends will understand and accept your requests far more easily than you imagined. Those who are not your friends – won't. Practicing saying, “No” takes a bit of effort. At first many people feel guilty, as if they are harming the other person, or are afraid that someone is going to get angry. You have the right, and the duty to yourself, to state your wants and needs. If you can say, “No” without any emotional charge to it, your life will change, and your energy will go way up. Many people spend their lives being walked all over and feeling victimized because of what other people “Do to them.” They don't realize that they have allowed others to abuse them.

Movement

Lack of enough movement, of exercise, will dramatically decrease energy. Many people are afraid to add movement and exercise to their life because they think it will take too much time, or that they won't be able to follow through. Consider going for 20-minute walks every other day as a starting point. Has yoga been on your “to-do list” for a long time? Maybe this is the time to start going to yoga class. People who are inactive tend to stay inactive. That inertia has to be broken. You don't have to begin moving by deciding to train for a marathon. Start going for 20-minute walks every other day, and then every day. Slowly build up the duration. The point of talking about “20 minutes” is that it is a very small amount of time. Almost everyone can start exercising in this way. With any exercise you choose, make an effort to move in a way that is fun. Consider starting dance classes—salsa, ballroom, African, belly dancing, country swing. Dancing is fun. It's social, so you get your “connecting” needs met through dance. I'm not going to start a discussion about movement and energy by asking you to do cardio-aerobic workouts, non-cardio, and stretching. But move if you want to feel good and have great energy.

Connection and Energy

When you feel spiritually connected and strongly connected to a social group, you are energized. Lack of connection to Self, God, Nature, and Others will deplete energy.

Rest

One of the best prescriptions doctors used to give was, “Rest and drink lots of fluid.” Doctors don't say that anymore. They feel an obligation to “do something” and that something is almost always to write a prescription for medication. Likewise, almost everyone visiting a doctor expects him to “do” something. The idea of paying a doctor to tell you to rest could be the best thing you could invest in. Only through rest can we rejuvenate our energy. Sometimes rest needs to come through mini-rests during the day, whether it's 5 minutes three times a day to put on your headphones to listen to relaxing music, or brief periods to close your eyes and meditate or pray.

Environment

How might your home affect your energy? There are a couple of key items to address. First of all, is your house clean or is it dirty and moldy? A dirty, moldy house will weaken you, and possibly contribute to a generalized mold infection in your body. An often overlooked aspect of our environment is clutter. Is your house relatively organized or is it seriously cluttered, papers all over the place, bookshelves so packed you don't really know what is on them? Clutter decreases your energy. We take in our environment through what we see, hear, feel, sense, smell, and taste. Those living in a cluttered house take in that clutter, through the sense of sight, filling their minds in a way they are totally unconscious of. Those who have had cluttered houses and who went through a process of de-cluttering will understand the impact that clutter has on energy.

Physical Health and Well-Being

This Life Arena is medical school. Libraries are filled with books about how to treat and heal our physical health. In terms of this Life Arena, here are some things to consider related to energy.

1. Almost all chronic health challenges decrease energy.

2. Parasites live on some of our nutrients and deplete energy.

3. Sleep problems leave people exhausted. During sleep, the body is allowed to rest and rejuvenate.

4. Infections require a lot of energy to fight them.

5. Poor digestion prevents complete absorption of nutrients. We must digest and absorb all the key nutrients if we are to have optimal energy.

6. Hypothyroid. If the thyroid gland is not making enough thyroxine, we will be very exhausted.

7. Low blood sugar leaves us tired and weak.

8. Environmental toxicity causes our body's detoxification system to work overtime, diverting our energy from healthy metabolism.

9. Energy Illnesses like CFS/ME and FM (fibromyalgia) are quite complex. They are the true “energy illnesses.”

10. Cancer that has spread is a massive energy drain.

There are countless ways of approaching the Physical Arena. It must be dealt with. Do not ignore this Life Arena when dealing with an energy problem. But, do not ignore the other 12 arenas either. Do not get stuck on the idea that an energy problem is caused only by the Physical Arena.

By looking at life's 13 arenas and choosing to make changes in “some” of those areas, you will end stagnation. Our lives are like a river. If our lives are stagnant and unchanging, we are like a lifeless pond. When you make changes in a variety of life arenas, that stagnant pond opens up. The energies of life pour through us, like a river that has just burst through the pond.

David Gersten, M.D. practices Nutritional Medicine and Integrative Psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at www.aminoacidpower.com.

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Transformational Talk:
Caught in a Relationship Triangle?

Are you caught in a triangle? Everyone is familiar with two people having an affair without the knowledge of a spouse or significant other. What you may not know is that other triangles also cause problems ––parent and child against the other parent –– friends, couples/in-laws, co-workers siding with one another in shifting alliances. Extricating yourself from any of these tangles can be a challenge because they're typically a smokescreen for deeper issues.

Here's the tip: Check if you're prepared to dig for feelings you've been avoiding. Guaranteed, if you're in a troublesome triangle, you are sad, mad, or scared about things you've been unable to discuss with those involved. If ready, see if you're afraid of hurting feelings or incurring wrath. Ask yourself, “What would help me feel safe enough to speak openly about my feelings to each person involved.

You may need to let go of the belief that conflict should be avoided. If this seems scary, take a breath. The reality is communicating about feelings strengthens bonds – especially if it's done without blaming. Drop into your heart. Plan to speak tenderly and courageously about what you feel and what you need. Stop all secrets. Let the truth do its job. While this may initially bruise egos, it usually leads to healing connections in all directions. You'll no longer be an agitated hub of shaky geometry, but a strong, steady spoke in a circle of healthy communication. ©

Penelope Young Andrade, LCSW www.penelopetalk.com Call: 858-481-5752 fax: 858-484-8374 email: penart@abac.com

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