What to do with Time and Energy

Are your time and energy limited? When discussing a troubling or unwanted behavior with one of my clients, I often ask, "How much time and energy do you spend in that activity?" If time and energy are limited in life, then the choices you make about how to live are critical. If this is so, can we maximize what we have?

I know we have a limited amount of time in life. There are only so many hours in a day. I can do my best to maximize my sleep quality. And, I can find a balance between optimal percentages of sleep and quality wakefulness. Eventually, to avoid psychosis, I do need to sleep. In the end, time availability is finite.

The actual amount of personal energy I have is perhaps more uncertain. A law of thermodynamics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. I don't think you can "think" more energy into your body. You can only physically add it or subtract it from the system in which it is maintained. Essentially then, energy levels are dependent on consumption and expenditure.

It takes energy to run your body. This energy comes from consumption - plenty of healthy liquids, and whole foods that are nutrient dense. Expenditures of energy occur on two levels: physical and psychological.

On a physical level, I would be wise to balance a minimal amount of body weight while having enough muscle to manage the tasks of my life. I don't want to waste my energy carrying excess weight. Over a lifetime that can add up to a reduction of my time on this planet.

When I have built a healthy body and have maximized the quality of my sustenance, I move on to another factor of physical expenditure -- "How much am I moving my body every day?" Again, there is a balance to achieve here. Having virtually no physical movement is not good and would bring on obvious consequences. On the other hand, running a marathon or wrestling alligators every day would age the body more quickly and most likely result in physical disabilities over time. So what is the optimal amount of exercise for your body then? Most health experts suggest some kind of aerobic activity three to four times a week for thirty to sixty minutes. This keeps your cardiovascular system in good shape. There are untold amounts of emotional, psychological and physical benefits that come along with this plan. Also, to maintain muscle and bone density, weight-bearing exercise is essential on a regular basis.

This brings me to the last expenditure: psychological. There is no doubt that stress can drain you of energy. The big stressors in life cause you to feel emotional pain. In my book, Why Good People Make Bad Choices, I assert that there are four primary types of painful emotion: anger, sadness, guilt, and fear. If you experience intensity with any of these, you will feel your energy being used. Why? As you experience stress, your body is subconsciously told to prepare for "bad things to come." If you are stressing -- where is your energy going? Perhaps you are bleeding psychological energy while being consumed with the notion of, "what will I do with this problem?" There can be much energy expenditure in problem solving; the bigger the problem, the more taxing of your energy. Either consciously or subconsciously you are processing the following information, "There is a problem/danger ahead, and I must deal with that."

A question remains, "Do I have a limited amount of energy available to me? Or, is the amount of energy available to me unlimited? And, is there something I need to do to get more?"

My answer is this: "I have a finite amount of energy available to me, but I can do much to maximize my energy potential, and use it more efficiently." Here's my plan for doing so:

My brain runs on the energy that is produced by my body. I will maximize my potential for making energy available to my brain and use it for adaptive processes. I will manage my time well.
I will be an efficient problem solver. I will be able to experience the problems inherent in living, effectively resolve them with integrity, and move on.
With a limited amount of energy available to me, and a limited amount of time in my life, I want to spend it wisely. I will spend it on what brings integrity to my life. I will take the time to clearly establish what is important to me, and then live my life accordingly.
I will direct my attention to positive things in life.
Finally, to maximize my personal energy I will: create quality sleep, engage in meditation, exercise regularly, eat appropriate amounts of good food, drink water, resolve emotional stress efficiently (anger, sadness, guilt, fear/worry), create joy, and experience gladness.

By Charles Lawrence Allen, MSW

Charles Lawrence Allen is a practicing psychotherapist and the author of "Why Good People Make Bad Choices: How You Can Develop Peace of Mind through Integrity." He makes his home in sunny Riverview, Florida, with his vegetarian yoga instructor wife Colleen, where they enjoy lots of healthy outdoors activities. www.CharlesLawrenceAllen.com

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