Ebb and Flow


We are planning a trip to the beach for a few days, and I’m looking forward to losing myself to the hypnotic effect of watching the water.  There is something magical about observing each wave flow inward and out again to the sea.  The ocean is a good reminder for me that there is an ebb and flow to our mind, body, emotions, and spirit.

Now I understand the wisdom of paying attention to the ebb and flow of my system.  And I recognize that attending to my energy level rather than a clock or calendar is more in tune with the needs of my mind and body.  I remember reading an article by Tony Schwartz in which he advocated managing your energy, rather than striving to manage your time.

I began to pay attention to the time of the day when I felt I was firing on all cylinders and the time of day when it felt like I was wearing concrete shoes, trying to walk through wet sand.  The fatigue of my body typically was a warning of brain fatigue. My ability to focus and concentrate was challenged the longer I worked.

Noticing and operating within my energy ebb and flow are two different things.  In the past, when I found myself dragging, I would get another cup of coffee and tell myself to push through the fatigue.  How often do you find yourself becoming irritable, impatient, or struggling to make decisions?  Odds are your body and brain are fatigued.

The more I learn about neuroscience, the body, the brain and the mind, the more I recognize how much rhythmic fluctuations are natural and important factors in our system.  It’s how we are wired.  Circadian rhythms determine our sleep and wake cycles

Humans also experience ultradian rhythms, which are the ebb and flow of energy in cycles of 90 to 120 minutes throughout the day.  Unlike the always-on, linear world of technology and information, humans are oscillatory beings.  We experience changes in brain wave frequencies, hormonal secretions, blood flow, body temperature, heart rate, brain lobe dominance, and more.

Humans aren’t designed to operate at high effectiveness and efficiency for long periods of time.  We need breaks in the activity to allow our brain and body to rest and refresh.  I didn’t learn until much later in life that to be effective and productive, I need to provide my mind and body with a respite.

It no longer makes sense to try to muscle my way through the fatigue of my body or mind.  I recognize the signals and build in time for a quick nap (20-30 minutes), a brief meditation, or a walk, and I drink more water.  If my emotions are frayed, I sit quietly and process my feelings and consider what I can do to shift my mindset.

I still have a habit of committing to more than I can easily balance and frequently find myself over-tired with a foggy brain. At those times, I sit down with my calendar to look at what I can re-negotiate, what I need to stop doing, and when to rest.  I truly can be more productive when I pay attention to the ebb and flow of my body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

Are you aware of the ebb and flow of your energy?  Do you manage to that ebb and flow or do you try to ignore what your system is telling you?