Energy in = Energy out?

Under stress it makes sense to pull back on all non-essential activities. Whether we’re recovering from illness or dealing with trauma, we have limited resources. Spending energy on something that is pure recreation might seem frivolous, or even selfish. This relies on a solely physical equation: Energy in = energy out. It’s logical to try to cut out anything that uses up energy.

Recently I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress, both physical and emotional. I have (mostly) responded sensibly – curtailing my cycling, skipping choir practice to rest, and going to bed early rather than going out with friends.

As the stress increased, I found myself itching to get back on my bike. One day, only a little over 4 weeks after major surgery, I couldn’t rest because I was twitchy from the day’s traumas. I was exhausted and wanted nothing more to sleep, but I was buzzing from all the adrenalin and stress toxins screaming through my system.

“Stuff it!” I thought, “I’m going to do the school run on the bike.” BOOM. Instant energy boost. Wait. What? Physically unwell, lacking energy, feeling miserable, so I spent energy. And I got back more than I spent. Intuitively that feels a little like handing over $20 and getting $50 change. It doesn’t happen. It must have been a mistake. It certainly doesn’t happen twice!

Insanity laughs under pressure we’re breaking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance
Why can’t we give love that one more  chance
Why can’t we give love
Give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love
Love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

But it turns out that the human mind is a peculiar beast. So is the human body, come to that. Sometimes you need to take it out of itself and distract it in order to break the cycle of stress and fatigue. If you are weak and have no energy, you need to build your muscles by working out at a sustainable level. And if you are stressed and have no energy, you need to build your coping muscles, by doing things that make you feel good.

In some ways it’s like providing your body and mind with a blueprint for happiness. You get stuck in a cycle of trauma and misery, so you tell your body: “Feel that? Good, isn’t it? That’s what feeling happy is like. Want some more?”

This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure

Queen – Under Pressure

So this week I’ve done a whole lot more cycling. I took time out to go to choir practice. I organised coffee with a friend today when I really should have been getting stuff done. And it was all 100% worth it. I am calmer and more in control. I can laugh at the annoying things my kids do, instead of exploding. I can move past the stress and get on with my life, even though the cause hasn’t disappeared.

It’s really easy, when things get challenging, to say “I can’t make time to look after myself. I have to look after everyone else.” It may sound terribly altruistic and brave, but in reality it’s a road to nowhere. If your own heart and soul aren’t intact, how can you support anyone else? You wind up making mistakes, and causing more suffering to the people around you, than if you’d taken that hour to sit by the pond, ride your bike, or go to choir practice.

It turns out that you have to spend energy to make energy. It’s not only sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care.


8 thoughts on “Energy in = Energy out?

  1. Joe

    And here I was googling “type A” + “how to take a break”.

    My manager has a phrase: “There IS no ‘other side of the hill’ ”

    But some of us can’t (successfully) “rest” when there’s “stuff that needs doing”. I suspect the trick is to get the good stuff firmly onto the list of “stuff that *needs* doing”.

    1. lindamciver

      Too true, Joe. That’s what I was getting at – we need to prioritise that stuff, and not think of it as expendable. The stuff that keeps us sane should not be first against the wall when the revolution comes! So to speak. :)

  2. John Hurst

    “ravelled” When a word of more than one syllable ends in a single vowel followed by a consonant, you double the final consonant when a suffix is added IF the stress falls on the final syllable.

    If Bolero’s composed were to be suffixed, he would be Raveling in it.

    1. lindamciver

      Logical rules in English spelling, John? That hardly seems very plausible. I was actually trying to be accurate to the shakespearean spelling. Should have used an apostrophe rather than that last ‘e’.

      1. Joe

        My “William Shakespeare” (copyright The Cambridge text of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Cambridge University Press variously 1921 to 1966) has it written thus:

        MACBETH. Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
        Macbeth does murder sleep’ – the innocent sleep,
        Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,
        The death of each day’s life, sore of labour’s bath,
        Balm of hurt minds, great Nature’s second course,
        Chief nourisher in life’s feast, –
        LADY M. What do you mean?
        MACBETH. Still it cried ‘Sleep no more!’ to all the house:

        (Google Chrome inline spell checking tells me it should be “raveled”, “sleeve”, and “labor”)

      2. lindamciver

        I had an interesting discussion with my year 11 IT kids about using google for spelling – taking the most popular spelling (highest number of hits) as correct. And that fits with the descriptivist view of language. Languages are evolving creatures, and even their spelling can’t really be nailed down. Correct spelling is most useful to make it easier for people to understand, so to complain about errors that don’t impact on readability, eg independent vs independant is really pointlessly pedantic. Which I say as a lifelong, card carrying member of Pedants Are We.

        Language will, and does change, dictionaries notwithstanding. New words are created. New meanings arise out of existing words. Evolution is a fascinating thing, and with language we get to watch it happening. Embrace it, I say.

      3. Joe

        Er. Wasn’t complaining, as such. Just following up on the “Shakespearean spelling” concept, though I have no idea how far removed an “Octopus Press” publication of a Cambridge University Press copyright version of Shakespearean text may be. It’s likely they only hold copyrights at all because these particular rendering of the various texts date only as far back as the year 7BMM, and they may be yet far removed from how Shakespeare would have actually written anything.

        I suppose… in quoting I would generally spell as originally written unless the language style had moved so far as to void any expectation that my audience should be able to decypher (or decipher) the original.

        The only argument I can think of in favour (or in favor) of preserving spelling standards as long as possible is to correspondingly increase the accessibility of aging written works for as long as possible. But there’s plenty of argument in favor (ahem) of having common ways that words are spelt (or spelled) that we share in the present, and thence the question is “how can standards change at all if they have to be the same this year as they were last year”. (Gradually? And / or through gazetting? The people who “own” such official processes would rarely see any reason to change a word that “they already know”.)

        But. Still not complaining. Just chipping in info and thoughts.

      4. lindamciver

        I didn’t for a moment think you were complaining – if anything you were defending my spelling, I thought! It just started a hare of language thought that has been floating in my head for a while. Sorry if I was abrupt about it! Mind was elsewhere.

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