Ever find yourself wandering around the house getting little done? Or sitting and glancing through the newspaper though you have a huge amount to do at work? There must be some purpose for this. Why wouldn’t we simply crank through the day getting our work done, paying little attention to taking breaks or to eating lunch? Turns out that our high energy states, the energy we rely on to stay focused on our tasks can only go for so long before our energy cycles. Recent evidence is revealing that just as our sleep goes through cycles of superficial and deep sleep or REM cycles, so to does our daily energy cycles. Our health depends on both high energy states and low energy states. The term ’states’ in this context, is generally associated with states of consciousness, the most common being waking, dreaming or sleeping. Other familiar states are altered states , having to do with taking a drug or the healthier version, peak experiences in which we successfully scale a mountain or find a gem of a moment with a loved one. We do shift through different states throughout the day, including strong emotional states of anger or fright for example. We experience illness as a state- with its physical and mental challenges to our experience. A simple but useful state polarity is the contrast between high energy and low energy states.
Most of us have healthy experiences of high energy states—those times during the day we are fully focused at work, exercising at the gym, or working together with others on a project. These performance states are characteristically invigorating. Our experience can be full of challenge or surprise, with times of joy and feelings of connection. One might say these are high energy resourceful states. Low energy resourceful states, on the other hand, are characterized by relaxation. Do you have peaceful moments at home, times of tranquility and serenity? Low energy resourceful states seem to be a bit underrated in modern times, particularly in the workplace. The push to get work done as well as to fill up our lives with fun activities seems to leave little left for low energy resourceful states. Much of the natural health interventions we read about recommend more low energy states, the most common practice being meditation.
Interestingly, too much of one state or the other leads to unresourceful states. You might recognize which of these happens to you. High energy unresourceful states come with much negative emotion—anger, irritability, resentment, jealously, and worry for example. Low energy unresourceful states are characterized by exhaustion, apathy, sadness and depression. It’s common for many, who overly rely on high energy states to find themselves shifting from high energy resourceful to high energy unresourceful. It’s not to hard to see how this pattern plays itself out for parents, professionals, and executives the like. Stimulants might keep us going, but too many holiday parties are likely to set off a high energy unresourceful state. Acute illness’s might also be an expression of both high and low energy unresourceful, when characterized by fever, body aches or vomiting. Unless, if we really overdo things, we find ourselves in a low energy unresourceful state, which, can come from burning the candle at “both ends”. One may see this pattern in persons who have lived with chronic stress over long periods of time. As well, persons who spend too much time in low energy resourceful states can slip into unresourceful, not wanting to get out of bed to meet the day—real depression.
For folks I work with, the most common imbalance is the over reliance on high energy resourceful states with the associated lack of reliance on low energy resourceful time. For many, it’s not easy to believe that making time to relax fully, through a power nap, or a regular meditation practice, will actually make you more productive. Even if it doesn’t, it will certainly help you feel better, more present and more relaxed. Look at how you spend your time each day for a week, considering the balance of high and low energy states and when you shift from resourceful to unresourceful. You may find a clear pattern. Now, adding one regular practice can have a huge impact. If you need more low energy resourceful, try meditation, relaxation, or reading a book regularly. Cultivating states impacts both your health and your performance at work. If you need more high energy, exercise is primary, put a 30 minute walk into your day, join the gym, or find a team to play on. Either way, balancing high and low energy states will keep you from falling into the toils of unresourceful challenges.