True wellness is about much more than simply the foods we’re eating. Or not eating.
Much of wellness also consists of identifying and overcoming stress triggers. Many of the daily stressors we face come to us in for the form of “energy drains.” That is, situations—and people—that force us into a state of fight or flight (sympathetic) nervous system response, leaving us feeling depleted and weakened both physically and emotionally.
In both the short and long term, this can lead to immune dysregulation, nutrient deficiencies, blood pressure issues (and resultant heart or kidney problems), erratic blood sugar (dysglycemia), and hormonal imbalances. It’s so important to learn to recognize, work through, and overcome any energy drains to break these cycles.
Inevitably, we’re all faced with difficult situations in life. Too often, we view these circumstances as outside of our control, but in my work with clients, I’ve seen how we can reclaim our own personal power, no matter what arises in life.
Instead of feeling small and victimized, we can feel successful and purposeful.
Here’s how to stop energy drains from affecting you:
1. Put a voice to it
That which goes unsaid festers. For example, someone is acting out in coercive, passive aggressive, and catty ways in your relationship. It’s common to internalize these issues instead of speaking out against them. When you internalize, it can lead to continued ill health and symptoms: your blood pressure begins to rise, your heart beats faster, your adrenal glands release cortisol and adrenaline, your muscles tense, you start to sweat and lose minerals, and so on.
But when you speak up, people are forced to recognize the ways their behavior has been unfitting, unhelpful, and inappropriate. Hopefully, it forces them to think before they act given that you’re no longer allowing them to get away with it.
If we never put a voice to what’s draining our energy, it will just keep happening—nothing will change. Only when we speak and use the energy from our fifth chakra (our expressive chakra, where the thyroid lives) can we affect change and make our lives more functional and healthy—as well as help others and the world.
Not everyone possesses the same level of emotional intelligence. What is obvious to you as inappropriate may not be obvious to someone else. Once we speak out against the drains, we (again, hopefully) force others to examine the things they have been acting out.
Maybe they’ll change and maybe they won’t, but no matter—putting a voice to the source of the drain will affirm your experiences, prevent you from quietly enduring it any longer, and perhaps shift others’ consciousness so that they can make a change for the better.
2. Identify the tactics and patterns
People who drain energy from others (“energy vampires,” as Dr. Christiane Northrup calls them) do this for a few reasons. First, they fear loss of control and loss of power or position. They also do this because perhaps they’re not aware they’re doing these things, or because they get off on others’ pain and hardships.
Feel good peptides (bonded amino acids) are released in the bodies of people who have trained themselves to thrive on and enjoy someone else’s pain, so they literally get a chemical “high” from you—and this cycle can be difficult for them to break because it feels so good.
Without recognizing the tactics people who drain our energy use, we’ll keep repeating these situations because they have no incentive to break the pattern (remember, they feel good doing this).
For example, your supervisor won’t communicate her needs or expectations clearly but then punishes you when you don’t do what she secretly wanted. So you’re always in the “wrong” and worry when you’ll face serious repercussions at your job. Or there’s an unspoken understanding between you and your spouse that their needs come first and only after you’ve met them, can you do anything for yourself. Either way, you’ll end up stressed and burnt out.
If the pattern is unspoken expectations, break this cycle by asking for and getting clear information about what these people need or expect from you. They may try to deflect and avoid the conversation, but the conversation needs to happen nonetheless.
Or, if the pattern is lack of reciprocation in relationships, make sure you begin communicating what you need so you aren’t walked all over—and if your needs continue to not be reciprocated, you’re able to make the tough but necessary decision to stay or go. You’ll see it’s not about you but rather about this person who may not be capable of changing their tactics.
3. To become empowered, recognize the lesson
I believe that no matter one’s spiritual or religious beliefs, we can use the difficult circumstances in our lives as guides and teachers. This doesn’t mean every bad thing happens for a reason, but it can mean that no matter what has happened, we can work through it to become empowered versus feeling frustrated, angry, disappointed, sad, or victimized by it the rest of our lives. It’s a way to reclaim ourselves despite the pain.
With clients in Energy Reading sessions, I like to point out patterns and lessons that I see they’re being presented with to help break the cycles. The exact circumstances will differ but the themes are usually the same: you aren’t appreciated and feel resentful or overworked as a result; you get punished for not doing what others want; you get quieted often and talked over, and so on.
Recognizing the themes that accompany the energy drains helps us to break the cycle because we no longer wander through life waiting for the next “bad” thing to happen—the next shoe to drop. Instead, we can take a step back and see the larger spider web, if you will, and detach ourselves instead of getting caught up in it.
4. Enforce your boundaries
You deserve a happy, healthy life, bottom line.
Anything or anyone that infringes on this should be examined and ultimately worked through. If others don’t want to work through such issues with you, or if there’s no way to improve the overall environment in a situation, you have to begin standing up for yourself—because no one else will.
We try to give people the benefit of the doubt, expect they’ll do the right thing, and even hope someone will come to our rescue. In many cases, though, this isn’t realistic. The only one who can save you from the energy drains is yourself. This may not be fair, but it’s necessary.
This will require you to stand up for what you believe is right. This may mean you need to cut ties with commitments that no longer fulfill you, or choose a new career path, or have a serious talk with the people closest to you. Many women have been subdued and talked out of this essential skill, but it’s necessary to relearn it and begin enforcing it.
Whatever it is, remember: you can do it, and if not now, when? What you resist persists.
You absolutely can overcome energy drains, or simply learn to detach rather than being caught off guard by the next one. Once you do, you’ll reclaim an essential part of you that has likely long been tucked away and your physical health will begin to improve—dramatically—for the better.
“Stressed” isn’t just a mental state—it’s also a physical state.
Every time we have a stressful thought or are in a stressful situation, a sudden cascade of physiological responses sweep over us: blood pressure changes, muscle tension, sweating, a release of inflammatory compounds such as cytokines, and heavy or shallow breathing.
The sympathetic (fight or flight) stress response is a major cue from our nervous system that something isn’t right and we should heed its wisdom.
Remember, humans are mammals with a complex, instinctive operating system. If we choose to disregard this inner wisdom, we won’t be able to stop the nervous system responses that:
Keep us chronically fatigued and drained
Keep our immune system in overdrive
Leave us living in a chronic state of inflammation
Keep our sex and stress hormones out of balance
Prevent us from tapping into our own higher wisdom about which direction to take with our health and lives
To combat stress, people commonly rely on yoga, meditation, prayer, other forms of gentle exercise, and modalities such as the Emotional Freedom Technique.
While I think these are great compliments, I also know that unless you get to the cause of the stressor and extract it by its roots, so to speak, you’ll continue the stress response cycle.
Such modalities will only act as a bandaid.
This is where energy work comes in because it helps you identify the root of problems to start untangling yourself.
Energy is the sum total of your intentions and experiences as well as the intentions others have for you and have acted out on you. If you have been through exceptionally difficult experiences in your life (and really, who hasn’t?), you’re likely holding onto a dysfunctional energy pattern that needs to be released for you to reach optimal health.
Energetic patterns take root through our subconscious mind, which is the gatekeeper of the truth of our life experiences. The egoic or conscious mind is what tries to gloss over the subconscious mind in the form of downplaying, gaslighting, denial, and ignoring the subconscious clues.
Tapping into the subconscious mind is a way for us to start living out the truth rather than living the cover story, like:
“You’re not that sick; other people have it worse.”
“It’s genetic, there’s nothing you can do to improve this illness.”
“There’s something wrong with me; I’m inadequate.”
When it comes to your health, this is critical to address. I’ve seen clients improve greatly once they:
Acknowledge what has been done to them
Talk about how they felt powerless and stressed as a result
Release the internalized tension patterns
When we do this, we dramatically alter our nervous system for the better, allowing us to access the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” response that’s a healing requirement.
For example, growing up, perhaps family dinners at your home were seemingly uneventful but still rather stressful: everyone ate in a rush or panic, some complained about the food, or your parents and siblings tried to hide the underlying relationship tensions. You inevitably felt there were problems no one wanted to resolve so you suffered chronic stomach aches, felt food just sitting in your stomach, or you had little desire to eat.
Or maybe, like one client told me, she had a fear of eating alone despite living alone, so she often put off meals. For this woman, eating alone was a form of childhood punishment—being put in the corner with her food until she ate it all. So every time she ate alone, she was triggered back to a stress response that involved getting nauseous, losing her appetite, becoming anxious, or choosing to eat with the TV on or speaking with someone on the phone out of sheer panic.
Though she was no longer a small child who could be punished, her subconscious mind was still obeying the orders she had received so long ago. As a result, she suffered constant heartburn, hormonal fluctuations, irregular blood sugar, underwent extreme dieting, and had a fear of being alone which was keeping her in an abusive relationship that she knew wasn’t healthy for her.
The #metoo movement is a prime example of subconsciousness prevailing: victims are coming forward, often after many years, to acknowledge the stirring of their souls and situations that left them feeling violated, used up, and discarded, despite others in their lives telling them it wasn’t a big deal, they were making it up, or it’s something to ignore and move on from.
For the first time in a long time, instinctual memories are coming up to the surface in order to be reckoned with rather than suppressed.
It’s an awakening of the subconscious mind to acknowledge that which isn’t right and needs resolution. The longer we ignore such feelings and experiences—whether it be tied to abuses or other unhealthy situations—the longer we’ll deal with sickness that we just can’t put our finger on.
In my Energy Reading sessions with clients, I like to walk them through a simple visualization to begin deconstructing and unraveling the layers of subconscious energy or tension patterns they’re currently bound to.
[My Energy Reading services do not replace any medical or psychiatric treatment. If you believe you have a medical condition, please seek qualified professional care. I’m not acting in the capacity of a licensed or unlicensed therapist. My role is to support, encourage, motivate, and provide information and guidance.]
Bring your awareness to your chest. Imagine you can see inside of your body—your nerves, blood vessels, organs, muscles, and bones. Now also imagine you can peer outside of yourself to your external appearance so that you have awareness of both the internal and external of your body. Go to each energy center or chakra of your body, starting at the base of your pelvis and working your way up to your belly button, your stomach, your heart, your thyroid, your forehead, and the top of your head.
In each area, ask yourself how many layers of tension you’re holding, tuning into any physical pain. The tension may feel like an unspecified blob so imagine each layer of tension is a sheet of paper.
How many pieces of paper are covering each area? Go inside of yourself and once you see what’s written on each sheet of paper, make the connection between the words and how your body feels due to those words.
Each answer represents one sheet of paper. You may start to have thoughts come to mind. For example, the tension over your thyroid area could read, “chronic ear/nose/throat problems as a child,” “frequent antibiotic use,” “voicelessness,” “shame,” or “hiding.”
Or the sheets over your stomach may say “restriction,” “food allergies,” “rushing to eat,” “eating when angry,” “lack of trust,” or “body armor.”
Once you acknowledge the feeling, imagine flicking away the paper, one piece at a time, and releasing the feeling from your body. There are no right or wrong answers, This is simply a way for you to begin deconstructing the many layers of dysfunctional tension that’s keeping your body in an altered stasis.
Tying the feeling to the word is important because the acknowledgement is what helps you release the tension and trigger for good. It may happen immediately or it may take longer. Either way, it’s worth it to keep working through.
Once you begin to get a handle on which energy center of your body isn’t functioning optimally, you can begin to work backwards to greatly improve your health.
This week, I met with a lovely client who has been seeing me for the last 4 or so years on and off for nutritional support for Hashimoto’s disease. As life goes on, our nutritional needs change and so she’s been sure to meet with me to adjust her diet accordingly.
Food intolerances can come and go as you work to heal your leaky gut or methylation problems, so many people don’t need to eat a restricted diet the rest of their lives, thankfully. Or, sometimes you need to go on emergency antibiotics and afterwards you develop new food intolerances or symptoms that you didn’t have before. And so we need to adjust then too.
This time though, my client came to me for mind-body support. She’s was at an apex of stress in her professional and personal life and her body was beginning to show lots of signs of distress. She even had to be hospitalized for the anxiety and irregular heartbeat she had experienced. She was scared of eating because any food seemed to cause more heart palpitations. On top of that she was not happy in her relationship or job and wasn’t sure which direction to take.
A sensitive and creative woman, I knew she had trouble expressing herself and standing up for herself. She said she often felt the need to metaphorically “hide” because the people around her were so abrasive and insensitive.
Although she had come to talk about her boyfriend and job, I asked her to begin to deconstruct the patterns she learned in childhood. Namely, how her parents interacted with one another. She explained that although she loved her parents and knew they had tried their best, her dad was emotionally callous, cruel, and relied solely on anger to communicate. Her mom on the other hand had been sick for years and retreated into crying and solitude every time her dad got this way or things became difficult.
My client said because of witnessing this as a kid she learned to either hide and be totally quiet or to explode in unhealthy ways when things reached a breaking point. I explained to her that it was understandable for her to act this way because she had only ever learned extremes from her parents. She had never learned a way to communicate reasonably, moderately, or find a middle ground. And she went into every interaction expecting to not be heard.
I told her that while it was understandable for her to adapt in this way, it also wasn’t healthy or helping her.
In the holistic health world, we know that tension and unresolved emotions can “build up” in certain areas of your body and lead to unhealthy patterns both emotionally and physically. In this case, she had never learned how to appropriately regulate her voice, also sometimes called the “fifth chakra”.
You don’t have to believe in eastern religions to benefit from understanding the fifth chakra. Think of it as how you express yourself, and coincidentally this is right at your voice box aka thyroid gland area.
After years and years of withholding your voice, you create palpable tension which can cause a buildup of unhealthy soft tissue called Fascial adhesions. It’s like you literally begin to calcify that area from improper use.
Once she realized she had been operating in these extremes (anger on one side of the spectrum and hiding on the other), she had an “aha” moment. She said she wanted to begin speaking, expressing herself and standing up for herself when she needed to, instead of internalizing all of the frustration and tension.
I also encouraged her to begin practicing myofascial release on her neck and clavicle area where she held all of her stress and that flared whenever she was upset. Myofascial release is a technique you can do at home or find a trained practitioner to help you with which releases the unhealthy build-up of the soft tissue that keeps you restricted. This prevents blood flow to the area, which can mean nutrients and immune cells can’t do their job properly. It can also mean you feel like you are “choking” on food, can’t breathe properly, or get sinus blockages easily.
If you have a thyroid disease, chances are you also have some degree of fifth chakra problems due to how you learned to communicate or express yourself early on. Even if you had an ideal childhood, you can develop such problems later in life due to stress.
While I consider nutrition to be the number one priority when clients are working to improve their symptoms and lab work, the mind-body connection is also something you need to seriously consider. If you have a thyroid disease, start working through your fifth chakra imbalances.
Have you heard of the term “highly sensitive person” or do you consider yourself one? Highly sensitive people are extra sensitive to external stimuli, and often experience a greater depth of cognitive processing and emotional understanding.
In other words, you “feel it all”. Highly sensitive people take in more stimuli than the average person and may often feel drained, overwhelmed, overworked, tired, and need to take time away to “shut off” their brain from the heavy task of processing so much that is going on around them. If your brain and senses are working extra hard, you probably feel like you need more time off than others — and rightfully so!
Being extra sensitive will also affect your physical health. Many highly sensitive people end up coming to me for help with complaints such as headaches, stomach troubles, allergies, muscle tightness, brain fog, adrenal and thyroid problems, but mostly — chronic fatigue.
Chronic fatigue syndrome, now medically known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is being studied by researchers who hope to find medical solutions for the symptoms. In my practice where I teach clients how to use evidence-based nutrition, however, I know there are already many tools available to naturally raise your energy levels without relying on medications or risky procedures.
If you deal with feelings of constant fatigue, first consider that you may be a highly sensitive person. How many from this list describe your personality?
- You are overwhelmed by strong or chaotic sensory input.
- You are aware of subtleties in your environment that others overlook.
- Other people’s moods affect you.
- You are extra sensitive to pain or like to rely on natural, over-the-counter or prescribed painkillers whenever possible.
- You like to withdraw after busy days so you can have privacy and relief from stimulation.
- You are sensitive to stimulants, such as caffeine.
- Bright lights, strong scents, and loud noises upset you.
- You have a rich, complex inner life that you share only with a few chosen friends or family members.
- Your nervous system is prone to feeling over-worked or you have a poor stress response.
- You get frequent colds or infections.
- You are considerate of other people’s needs and often place them above your own.
- Sudden noises or changes startle you.
- Being rushed or having too many expectations on a timeline make you feel anxious.
- You aim for perfection to avoid being judged by others.
- You don’t like violent movies or TV shows.
- You get symptoms of low blood sugar, such as weakness, shakiness, frustration, nausea easily if you do not eat as soon as you feel hungry.
- You do not like sudden life changes and go out of your way to feel comfortable.
- People may often ask you “what’s wrong” even when nothing is wrong.
If you feel many of the above describe you, you could be a highly sensitive person. Highly sensitive people can experience more health challenges than the average person because your nervous system tends to be more reactive than others’, which creates a cascade of health concerns after years of living a stressed-out life. Chronic fatigue is a chief complaint among sensitive souls, but there are solutions to help stop the cycles of tiredness associated with processing more of the world than other people.
4 ways highly sensitive people can defeat chronic fatigue:
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine. Instead choose natural options to boost your energy, including:
- Methyl, Adenosyl, or Hydroxy B12. These are “active” forms of vitamin B12 and easily get into the cells for use. Avoid synthetic B12, also called cyanocobalamin. B12 shots are likely to be synthetic as well. Believe it or not, synthetic B vitamins can actually prevent the nutrient from getting into your cells due to common gene mutations that affect a large portion of humans.
- DLPA: This is a natural stimulant that raises catecholamine levels which keep you feeling energized. It is very different from caffeine, however and won’t give you the same highs and lows.
- Eliminate your unique food intolerances. Gluten and dairy are the big two food intolerances that can cause fatigue for many people because they inhibit thyroid function, but also because they require lots of digestive energy for breaking them down in the gut. Ever eaten a meal and felt so tired afterwards? It could be that you’re reacting to a food in the meal you just ate. There are other food intolerances, though, that you may not have heard of that can also make you feel very tired — even disoriented after a meal. These include oxalates, salicylates, histamine, sulfur, and ammonia. A leaky gut (which is where the tight junctions in your intestines become permeable and allow food particles into the bloodstream) as well as common gene mutations can cause people to not break down or eliminate these food compounds properly which can end up making you feel tired after eating them.
- Begin breathing properly. This one sounds simple but many tired, stressed people are simply not breathing well. They take shallow breaths, or quicken their breathing when feeling anxious. Breathing properly involves long, deep inhalations and exhalations. Inadequate airflow to the brain and muscles will make you feel tired. As soon as you feel fatigued, start deep breathing for a few minutes at a time.
- Let go of unhealthy people in your life. From a young age, many highly sensitive people adapt by becoming people-pleasers. This helps to prevent some of the chaos and tension that stimulates you beyond a comfortable capacity. Unfortunately this can make you feel more tired in the long run because while you are looking out for others, there is no one to care for you and ensure you are happy and healthy. Also, often highly sensitive people find themselves in relationships in which there are lots of rules you have to follow to avoid the punishment of others. Being scared of others’ judgments and punishments can leave you feeling extremely drained because you never truly get a break and the flow of love is one-sided. Let go of relationships where you have to please others or are constantly walking on eggshells. If you can’t get these people out of your inner circle, at least put up boundaries and begin asserting your needs and caring for yourself first. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Watch how your energy levels soar once you start caring about what is best for you.
As always, find a natural health practitioner to help you determine which diet changes and supplements are necessary for you. Being tired the rest of your life isn’t worth it and there are tons of solutions to the problem.
In my work with women over the years, I’ve noticed a few trends. Even though clients come to me for nutritional needs, they inevitably start talking about the stressors in their lives. I can’t tell you how many women have sat in my office, and upon me merely asking how they’re doing that day (and REALLY listening to their answer), they start crying, start divulging their stresses, fears, insecurities, and after a few minutes of being truly heard, take a big breath, a deep sigh of relief and apologize for crying or “talking too much”. I always make sure to tell them “it’s okay. Crying is good” because usually when someone cries, they get shushed and “comforted” by people telling them, “it’s okay, don’t cry!”. In truth, they get told to stop crying so the observers aren’t uncomfortable or have to process emotions. Crying is a better medicine than learning to not cry.
What I see in my clients is similar to what I have also noticed and experienced through out my life — very often, women have been taught to trivialize their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, because it makes other people uncomfortable when they express their true thoughts. Other people may not know how to process their own emotions so they feel very uncomfortable being asked to experience someone else’s. We are expected to be stoic or appear to have it all together because it makes people uncomfortable at the thought that we could be “dependent” or “needy” or “hysterical”. So we learn to suppress. And suppress and suppress and suppress because we definitely don’t want our mental health to be in question — ever.
Think of stress like a body of water. The sand, shore and blue-green water are a beautiful scene but take a closer look and you’ll notice that every now and then the surface current picks up. We’re suddenly aware of the passing temperament of the water. We often judge our stress level by the “surface current” in our lives — those major stresses like finances, relationships, work, children, an uncleaned house, making sure to get to important meetings on time, unexpected circumstances like a broke down car or water heater, or the unexpected environmental events we can’t control like fires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. And addressing those fears and anxieties is important. But the work I prefer to do with my clients is the work of beginning to recognize and address the UNDERCURRENT.
The “undercurrent” in our lives is the subconscious behaviors and thoughts we have been taught and that cause us intense stress by trying to live up to certain standards, or meet certain expectations, or be a certain way to keep towing the line and being what others demand. The undercurrent is the power play in our relationships that we are scared to upset. It is the way we get subconsciously punished when we don’t stay inside another person’s expectations. It is the pressure we put on ourselves to look and act a certain way in order to get the affirmation we desire. It is the way we walk, hold ourselves, speak, and dress to get positive feedback. Most of the time, we do not even think about doing these things — it is all subconscious choices that we have become accustomed to. It is an inauthentic way to live. And the undercurrent is ultimately what hurts people the most.
Here are “undercurrent” themes I see affecting my clients:
- feeling pressure to look a certain way to keep their spouse’s attention and getting hurt feelings when they don’t receive their husband’s full sexual attention visually
- fears that their spouse will leave — for various reasons — all because of false perceptions of ourselves — “If only I did this better”, “If only I looked more like that”, “He’s going to find someone better”, “I’ll never be good enough”.
- letting others (often a father figure or other strong figure, like a stern mother or grandmother) take the lead on decisions and daily activities, suppressing your natural desire to lead
- diluting your opinions so you don’t rock the boat; minimizing and sugarcoating how you really feel so you don’t face consequences, or straight-up lying so you don’t get “in trouble”.
- agonizing over your wardrobe choices so you don’t upset anyone or receive unsolicited comments — both sexual attention from strangers or disapproval from friends/family
- feeling ashamed of certain body parts
- feeling ashamed of eating in front of people, no matter what you are eating or how much
- trying to hyper-feminize your voice to appear less aggressive or assertive
- speaking in passive sentences or writing in passive sentences to appear less assertive
- apologizing and saying sorry for normal requests so you are not perceived as aggressive or rude
- over-thinking your choice of specific clothing or make-up colors so you will be taken seriously in business encounters
- feminizing ourselves so we don’t emasculate fathers, spouses, and friends because of the anger we anticipate
- and so many more!
Now here’s how those undercurrent themes stress you out physically:
- shallow breathing, which can lead to dizziness, panic attacks, and acidosis
- resentment that causes adrenaline rushes and high cortisol
- tensed stomach which causes improper digestion, gas, bloating, heavy full feeling, ulcers, stomach acid problems. Inhibitory responses also cause low thyroid function.
- painful lump in throat when suppressing tears or words
- strained vocal cords and muscles
- tense neck, shoulder, and back muscles
- tense jaw muscles and TMJ
- racing thoughts, fear, anger, resentment, and shame
- inability to fall asleep due to racing anxious thoughts and unexpressed desires
- low thyroid function. A lifetime of inhibitory responses can cause this. When we inhibit normal breathing, muscle function, and digestive function, it slows thyroid hormone release.
- adrenal fatigue — low or high cortisol problems
- and more!
Once you begin to identify and work through these stressors, your health will improve. The goal is to identify every single stressor and work through it so that it no longer has power over you.