Energy, not stress, fuels your life: do you know the difference?
Photo © Albert Bedward
This is Part 4 of a 4-part blog to help you reduce stress in your life. You can read the previous parts before this one, or read Part 4 first – there is no special order, just go with what feels right for you.
Stress doesn’t fuel or support life. Instead, it uses up life energy to deal quickly with a perceived threat – and this threat can be real or imagined, so whether the grizzly bear is real or imaginary, you’ll have the same reaction.
Energy is a large and complex topic to tackle, so let’s start by addressing how stress differs from energy, and how to use this information to start fuelling up your life energy, which supports your physical and mental health – and your life.
In the Big Picture of life, energy is what keeps you alive. The difference between you alive and you dead is energy. Quick and simple. And whereas you receive the gift of life at birth, you are responsible for refuelling your life with energy. Think of a car: you get it from the dealership, but you are responsible for fuelling it. Owning a car is both a privilege and a responsibility – owning a life is, too. In the same way your car needs enough fuel to get you where you want to go, you need fuel, too. A few occasional drops won’t fill up your tank: you need more than a healthy meal or a good night’s sleep a week, or a real day off once in a blue moon. You need regular, adequate, plentiful energy fuelling, so you can show up at your best in your life. And you can’t buy a new life like you can buy a new car: this is the only one you ever get.
Life energy comes in five distinct types, each essential to life and health: physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and relational. You are aware of some of them, but probably not all, and you are likely not clear on how to fuel them up – most people don’t. Three of these energies (emotional, cognitive and spiritual) are usually put together under the heading of “mental health”, but they are distinct – and so are listed separately below:
- Physical energy: what keeps your body alive, functional and in good repair – sleep, fresh air and natural light, nutrient-rich food, water and movement.
- Emotional energy: what makes you feel alive – mood, emotions, feelings
- Cognitive energy: your ability to think, learn, make decisions and connect the dots
- Spiritual energy: your motivation and inspiration; what gives your life purpose and meaning
- Relational energy: what makes you feel like you belong; you matter
You need physical energy to stay alive; you need emotional, cognitive, spiritual and relational energy to feel alive. Each one of these energies is essential to human life; even your dog uses those five energies to be his/her own dog self. But we humans often feel so much above the rest that we forget who we are: dependent on energy to function and to be alive. You wouldn’t forget to fuel your car or to feed your dog responsibly, but we tend to forget ourselves, and this is encouraged by cultural norms that make us believe that self-care is selfish. Not so – adequate self-care is about life sustenance and support – your privilege, your responsibility.
How can you refuel each one of these energies? More about this in my next blog series: the five energies that fuel your life and keep you alive.