Know Your Cycles and Preserve Your Energy
Because I’ve had autoimmune conditions since the age of 10, I haven’t always had the luxury of staying up late, eating irregularly, or pushing myself too hard. I can do those things periodically, but I really start feeling depleted and not very well if I take it too far.
Though I consider myself in excellent health now (and in fact have no active autoimmune markers from a lab test perspective), I attribute my wellbeing to knowing myself, knowing my patterns, and creating my own unique ways of doing things in life to help me feel well.
When I took my three acupuncture board exams back in 2014 to become a Licensed Acupuncturist, I took them in the exact reverse of the recommended order.
I took Biomedicine first (because it was the hardest for me, Chinese Medicine comes naturally to me, pathophysiology I can understand but it’s not as intuitive) then Acupuncture with Points (which required knowing not only Chinese Medicine diagnostics but also treatment strategies to address these disorders) then Foundations of Chinese Medicine (which is pretty much what it sounds like).
It was recommended that we take Foundations first then Points (which builds on Foundations) then Biomedicine (which isn’t even required for Pennsylvania licensure but which is required for my national certification). Against all advice, I did the exact opposite because I knew Biomed would require a heavy lift on my part and there was some vague possibility that if I saved it for last I might never quite get around to it. So I did the hard thing first even though classmates and even teachers told me that my method made no logical sense.
But it made perfect sense to me and served me well, so I persisted and I passed each exam on my first try. Slowly and progressively, I completed all the steps required for licensure.
By the time I got to that Foundations exam I was basically coasting. I had studied so much for Points that the information required to pass Foundations felt like a breeze.
More recently I applied this same strategy to my 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training which is offered in flexible modules. The studio’s intent was that I take the yogic philosophy course first but I went straight into “Advanced Methodology” as my first required module. It was the one I was definitely most scared of and the one I recently wrote about dreamily completing.
Instead of starting in the yogic philosophy course, I will end with philosophy. I love studying philosophy so it sounds like a perfect end to me. Now that I’ve completed Advanced Methodology, everything else feels like a total pleasure and the cherry on top of that really central course.
I also know that I’m a morning person, so much of my spiritual practice and my visioning work and self-care happens before or during the sun rise. This means I go to bed at a fabulously boring hour, but that also works really well for me.
As you begin to identify your own energy patterns, you too can reverse-engineer some parts of your life to avoid burnout and to use your reserves with care. Some questions you can ask yourself are:
When am I most productive, most connected, most in my thrive?
How do I want to use that time for self-care and/or to show up in the world?
When I am draggy or sloppy and what can I do during those hours instead?
What is the best hour of my day and how can I offer that in service to myself (and ultimately to others?)
This last question was one posed by a wise yoga teacher in my life. Identify your best hour and then offer it to yourself.
And yes I know that we are not all self-employed, that we have kids, that we can’t always engineer our schedules, but you can know your patterns and you can identify how to eke out a little more time for yourself and your self-care needs. In the end, this will help you be a better partner, parent, artist, worker, or friend.
As we approach winter, many of us might feel our energy drop. That’s totally normal as over the next month or so we start to transition from the gathering energy of autumn to the conservation mode of winter.
In addition to your daily energy cycles, you can take a look at your annual cycle as well and find your own slump and your peak. If you’re a person who menstruates, you might want to look at that monthly-ish cycle also.
Being in tune with our own cycles and starting to live into them is not selfish or silly but essential. By being in rhythm with nature and with our own lives, we can be better humans for each other.
If you need help plugging into maintaining and preserving your precious energy reserves, I have two sessions of my winter restorative yoga class in-person in January at Studio 34. We will talk about energy preservation and seasonal alignment from the perspective of Chinese Medicine and we will take the time to truly rest. You can register here. I do expect these to fill, so consider saving the date on your calendar now if you can.