Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Four Primary Energy States

By Dr. Robert E. Thayer, Author of Two Books: "The Origin Of Everyday Moods: Managing Energy, Tension, and Stress" And "Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood With Food And Exercise", is a Professor at California State University (Long Beach).

Calm-Energy (High Energy/Low Tension) is predominantly beneficial, strenghtens our Emotional Intelligence, provides Problem-Solving Clarity, and promotes a general sense of well-being. This is a mood state that few of us experience often enough. Calm energy feels remarkably serene and under control. Your mental and physical reserves are high and, when in you are in a calm energy state, you have optimistic presence of mind, peaceful and pleasurable body feelings, and deep sense of physical stamina and well-being. You might think of calm energy as an extra gear that allows you do as much, or even more, but with less struggle, less wear and tear.

Tense-Energy (High Energy/High Tension) is a stress-driven mood characterized by an almost pleasant sense of excitement and power. You physical energy feels high, even thought you may face a high level of stresses and strains from long hours on a hectic schedule. Without realizing it, by allowing this tense-energy state to persist, you blunt your ability to pay deep, genuine attention to your own needs, other people, or projects and suddenly wake up to find yourself at the edge of burnout and exhaustion.

Calm-Tiredness (Low Energy/Low Tension) is generally a pleasant state characterized by the sensation of letting go and winding down. You are comfortably awake and at ease, perhaps reading a book or listening to music, and your thoughts are generally free from the major, and even minor, problems of work and life. According to Dr. Thayer, calm-tiredness is the healthy state for winding down from a challenging work deadline or at the end of the day, yet for many of us the last time we felt calm-tiredness might have been our favorite vacation years ago.

Tense-Tiredness (Low Energy/High Tension) is a mood state characterized by feeling tired all over. When you collapse in the chair or on the sofa at night after dinner you are genuinely tired. TV can make the daze worse, or the fatigue is mixed with nervousness, tension, or anxiety. During the afternoon, a stretch of tense-tiredness may be manageable, with a work break, a light snack, some physical activity, but, if you toss and turn at night, you’re familiar with how hard it can be to shake a state of tense-tiredness. “Much evidence,” says Dr. Thayer, “indicates that tense-tiredness helps create the most undesirable moods and probably underlies depression, low self-esteem, negative thoughts of all sorts, and many kinds of dysfunctional behavior, including drugs and alcohol to alter mood.”

According to Martin Moore-Ede, M.D., PhD., professor of physiology at Harvard Medical School, “Fatigued people make errors, which create an enormous detrimental effect. Fatigued people also work more slowly and less effectively. They do things the long and routine way, and fail to see efficient shortcuts…Without alertness, there can be no attentiveness, and without attentiveness, no performance. All the willpower, training, and motivation in the world does no good unless the human brain is, rested and attentive.”

When someone is in a prolonged state of tense-energy, or tense tiredness, their emotional intelligence suffers—and obstacles and difficulties in your life and work may seem overwhelming, even though the same problems would appear much more manageable when you are feeling calm and alert. Chronically low levels of energy appear to increase one’s vulnerability to tension, anxiety, fearfulness, and disease.

The main point to remember is that, in general, when you feel highly energetic, and at the same time relatively calm, your perception of both yourself and the world are distinctly different from when you are tired and at the same time tense.

What follows are practical tips for achieving Calm Energy:

10 to 60-Second Strategic Pauses

Laboratory experiments show that if you pause after working too long at mental tasks, your problem-solving time can increase by up to 500 percent. A strategic pause is a brief conscious disengagement from work every 20 to 30 minutes for a chance to change your mental focus, shift your gaze (look outside, for example, if you’ve been doing close-up work,) loosen up the muscles in your neck and shoulders, and invite a few moments of creative lightheartedness.

When pauses are not taken, the human brain unplugs anyway by taking what physiologists call “spontaneous pauses”. From sheer fatigue, we space out, doze off, or fail to pay attention to our task, listen, or link with others.

Nutrient-Rich Meals and Snacks

Eating five or six times daily—three moderate meals plus mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and evening snacks—is highly recommended for both health and work efficency. Research suggests that moderate-size meals plus small snacks may help lower cholesterol levels and increase your energy and metabolism.

Skip fat and sugar-loaded snack foods. If you take sugar with your coffee, gradually decrease it.

Frequent Physical Activity Throughout the Day

Light physical activity is one of the best ways to raise energy and reduce tension, increases creativity, and promotes hardiness — the ability to stay healthy while embracing hectic schedules.

Get up and get moving again, for a brief walk, step outside, stretch, take a flight of stairs. The foundation of mental ad emotional fitness is grounded in the physical.

Deep Sleep

On any given day 25 percent of people with no clinical sleep problems did not get enough sleep the night before and are not alert. How many times have you been in a meeting and noticed someone dozing off? Research shows that negative mood states are inevitable consequences of sleep deficits.

Here are several key actions:

- Keep business out of the bedroom.
- Get some light evening exercise and/or take a hot bath or shower before bed.
- Create a more relaxing and restful bedroom environment (preferably dark, has good ventilation and fresh air, with a comfortable bed and temperature.)
- Wake up at approxiamately the same time each day.

Barbie's note:

The reason I'm sharing this article is because it hit home when I read it. I have experienced all states as described. I had just been thinking yesterday that I needed to get up and move briskly every hour or so when I'm having a day of working in front of the computer most of the day. And this article was just the confirmation I needed to start making that a new habit in my life.

The idea taking hold is to set a timer to go off every hour that I'm working which will prevent me from getting so engrossed in what I'm doing that I lose track of time (which happens all the time!). In fact, I'm going to go get it now, AFTER I stretch and run my steps a few times!

Have an energetic day!



At Thu Dec 28, 03:10:00 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Andra said...

Hi Barbie,

Ditto! I am working on me as well. I must set aside the exercise part for a while though as I am preparing for knee replacement surgery, but as I type, my upper back and shoulder muscles have tightened up. That's not as bad as when I had a slipped disk! Talk about painful!


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