If you get overwhelmed, forgetful, or scattered in your life, then you may be leaking energy.
What is human energy? It is your own precious life force.
Human energy is the strength and vitality required for day-to-day physical and mental activity. We might also think of it as our liveliness, spirit, vibrancy, and sparkle. It’s where you bring your focus to create and visualize. It’s where you redirect your thoughts. And, it’s where you find gratitude.
What is an energy leak?
Have you ever been to a workshop or a retreat that was so inspiring, restoring, or empowering that your life radically changed? Then, over time, you began losing that enthusiasm and going back to default patterns? I’ve heard people describe returning from a wonderful vacation and within a week, feeling like “it never happened”.
This is a very common experience because energy leaks.
An energy leak can cause you to feel tired and foggy. You might notice that you’re having memory gaps. It might be a worry that is running in the background of your mind that you keep trying to ignore.
Let's look at just a few of the common energy leaks
The list below is accumulated from my coaching clients, my yoga and energy teachers, and my own personal experiences with energy leaks.
- Exhaustion due to overdoing/multi-tasking
Easily the most common energy leak today is overdoing. This means having a plate that is too full, leaving little time for the relaxation, play, and social bonding that humans evolved with for most of their history. By contrast, an exhausted body-mind is riddled with 'holes' out of which that energy drains away. Your conditioned mind might be convinced that you can't afford to do less; but really, you can't afford not to. (And by the way, if you need caffeine every day, you are exhausted, though you might not feel it.)
However proud you are of your ability to multi-task, it's now been proven that multitasking decreases your effectiveness at all tasks (see the work of John Medina). When I first began in the training industry, Ben Franklin (the creator of the Franklin Time Management System) talked about multi-tasking in a very specific way. It was the ability to track your work on something, put it aside while you waited for input from another source, and work on another something while you were waiting.
So how much downtime do you think you need to not be over-doing? It's probably a lot more than you'd imagine.
Let's look at what the yoga tradition suggests. Yoga tells us that to be healthy and sane one needs to have at least four hours off a day, at least one full day off a week, at least one full weekend off a month, and at least three full weeks off a year. When I say “off”, I don’t just mean not being in the office but working from home. I mean unscheduled time, unless it is the agenda to connect with yourself, your loved ones, nature, and/or art.
- Dis-ease of the physical body
The second energy leak is intimately related to the first. When we're overdoing, we tend to not eat well, not exercise, sleep less or have restless sleep, and overall stress our bodies. It’s at this point that we become vulnerable to getting sick. Several years ago, I visited an Ayurvedic physician. She told me how the conditions for disease were settling into my body and she introduced me to a whole new way of eating and repairing the those conditions.
- Excess emotional reactivity
As a cognitive neuroscientist recently wrote, "The ability to emotionally regulate one’s response is highly adaptive: It stops us from investing too much energy into [certain] things."
Many of our emotions are generated or amplified by believing in a mentally-constructed ‘story’ about a situation. We begin to get into a drama triangle creating persecutors, victims, and rescuers. When you buy into a story with a strong emotional response, you usually end up blaming the other person for your feelings.
When your assumptions seem like indisputable facts and you're filled with self-righteous indignation, that's emotional reactivity. When you're curious about where these intense emotions are coming from and can laugh at yourself in wonder, that's the opposite.
When you buy right into a disparaging comment from a peer and enter a world of hurt, plagued by repetitive painful thoughts ('How could they?' 'What a jerk!' 'I can't believe s/he hates me!' etc.), that's emotional reactivity. When you keep your heart open and let yourself feel the pain in the other person and in yourself, without buying that person's story and perhaps even seeing beauty and opportunity in the pain, that's the opposite.
The opposite of emotional reactivity, then, is just natural human presence. Strong emotions can arise without the emotional reactivity that harms you and others. I also talk about this in my article "Why Aren't More Women Supporting Other Women at Work?".
- Strongly held beliefs or opinions
It can be hard to believe this is an energy leak until you experience for yourself the influx of life-force that comes from finally, deeply admitting the truth that you really don't know anything for sure. That just about all your strongly held beliefs and opinions are either wishful thinking, fearful thinking, or someone else's thinking that was installed in you "as truth" when you were at a very young age. The world is far, far too complex, and the variables far too numerous, for our little brains to justifiably hold a fixed opinion about anything (apart from your own inner experience, perhaps).
Note that having beliefs/opinions is not an energy leak; it's gripping tightly to those opinions, unyielding and being hard in your attitude rather than soft and open, and being so convinced you're right and you know how things really are (as opposed to the other guy) that is the energy leak. There's a lot more to reality than what any one of us can see; acknowledging that helps you be softer, more open, and therefore better at connecting with others. Our beliefs can often cause us to be resistant to change. I wrote about this in my article "Change Your Approach to Change".
- Unclear relationships / unclear boundaries
Since the entire range of social norms pertaining to all kinds of intimate relationships is in flux in the 21st century, this is a pretty big one. I hear this quite about from my clients who are dating. There are all levels and kinds of relationships and not having clarity can lead to big energy leaks.
Of course, when you're just getting to know someone, it's normal for the nature of the relationship to be undefined. However, hanging out too long in limbo where you're not exactly sure what the other person wants, needs, or feels, but you're hoping they'll come around to your way of seeing the relationship, is a powerful energy drain.
Conversely, being clear about where you're at but keeping the other person in limbo by not committing to a specific form of relationship with clear agreements or boundaries is also an energy leak (because using other people depletes you).
Obviously, the solution is communication, but few of us know how to communicate our feelings and needs without framing them in the form of a narrative about what the other person is doing wrong (or what you're doing wrong, for that matter). Which doesn't help. Ongoing clarifying dialogue (which doesn't descend into nitpicking, pseudo-psychoanalysis, or finger-pointing) about what you want and what you're okay with, and what your loved one wants and is okay with, is crucial to create the firm foundation for relationships that aren't energy leaks.
Except sometimes the solution isn't communication; sometimes you hang on to a relationship that is past it's 'expiration date' out of fear or attachment. This is a huge energy leak. The solution is to let go and walk away. If you need support for that, check out Conscious Uncoupling or work with a therapist or coach.
- Unconscious speech / excessive speech / gossip / harmful speech
This is another very common energy leak in our society, which is particularly difficult to shift because of the huge social pressure to conform to how others around us use language. I see this all the time on social media where someone dives into insulting, offensive, and disparaging comments. I believe that we need to be passionate about our beliefs. But when we attack others about their beliefs or worse become abusive in our language, we create harm for the other and ourselves. (Are you seeing the pattern? We can't do harm to others without doing harm to ourselves.)
A yoga teacher once said, "The power of your words increases in direct proportion to the silence that you keep."
In yoga teachings, before opening a topic of conversation we ask ourselves four questions, or the Four Gates of Speech:
- Is it true, this thing I want to say?
- Is it necessary or helpful to speak it?
- Have I found a loving way to say it?
- Is it the right time?
Or in the wise words of my own mother "Sometimes it's wise to bite your tongue until you're sure that what you want to say should be said".
Plugging Your Energy Leaks
Once you know where your energy is leaking, you can begin plugging them. When you've plugged a leak, you will notice a higher energy level and a deeper sense of your own power. You will also have more clarity and peace. But it takes a little time and effort to figure out what is leaking your energy, so let’s get started. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Decide who you want to Be.
- Begin each day consciously.
- Monitor your thoughts.
- Watch your language.
- Stop complaining and blaming.
- Get support from a therapist or coach.
Learn more about plugging your energy leaks in my new FREE online program "10 Days to Relieve Stress and Anxiety".
Terri Altschul is an ICF Professional Certified Coach and the Founder of WomenConnected.net. She has learned through trial and error the importance of taking care of ourselves and our energy. Learn more about Terri's background here.