Mamas, Stop Borrowing From Your Energy Bank Account in 2019
Women’s Health and TCM expert, Josie Bouchier, shares 5 self-care tips for the New Year.
Rather than reaching for a cup of caffeine to compensate for my five hours of sleep last night, I decided to try a more nourishing and sustainable approach—I took a nap. I feel refreshed in a way that only sleep can make you feel. My cheeks are even rosy. I feel calm, awake, focused, relaxed, and I have acquired a second wind to finish my tasks today, like writing this article!
Think of it this way. Drinking caffeine is like withdrawing from your energy bank account. If you have enough energy in your bank account to withdraw a little bit for the day—great! No harm done. However, if you’re reaching for caffeine in the first place, chances are that you don’t have a high balance in your energy bank account and you are actually borrowing energy. In other words, you are going into energy debt. We say in Chinese medicine that you are borrowing from your Original Qi (pronounced “chee”).
Unlike money, energy is more difficult to replenish once you’ve spent it. Energy is not an outside, quantifiable resource. Energy is a mysterious, invisible force within us, and most of the time we can only describe it by how little or how much of it we have at any given moment. (It’s not a coincidence that people who struggle with energy debt, also struggle with giving too much of themselves in other areas of their life, putting themselves in emotional debt, financial debt, etc.)
If you’re the kind of person that sets well-intentioned health goals as part of your New Year’s ritual, only to “fall off the wagon” a few weeks or months later and then beat yourself up for it, hear this: If you do only one thing differently in 2019, Get. More. Sleep. I know how determined, resourceful, and goal-oriented you are—apply it to sleep!
Quality sleep is a multi-purpose miracle drug. Believe it or not, getting more quality sleep will reduce stress and anxiety, balance hormones, help with weight loss, increase immunity, improve digestion, and sharpen your focus. It can even boost your fertility, if that’s what you’re after. You’ll be more productive than you would have been on the “artificial energy” of caffeine because it will be coming from a deeper, more renewable, sustainable source.
According to Chinese medicine, there are two aspects to our energy—Yin and Yang. Yin is cooling, and Yang is fiery. As women age, we lose more and more of the cooling Yin aspect of our energy, leading to hot symptoms like dryness, erratic emotions, night sweats, hot flashes, heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. (As men age, they lose their Yang aspect and develop more cold symptoms.)
An important fact in Chinese medicine is that our bodies restore Yin while we sleep, whereas coffee and stimulants (including stimulation from our screens) burn Yin and create a craving for more stimulants —see where I’m going with this?
People who continue along the path of drinking more and more caffeine, fueled by a stressful lifestyle, go further and further into energy debt and usually experience some sort of health crisis or adrenal crash—which is when they come to see me. You can break this vicious cycle in 2019 by getting more sleep instead of upping your stimulant intake.
Here are my favorite ways to catch more Zs:
- Consistent acupuncture and Chinese herbs. The beauty of Chinese medicine is that it does not utilize drugs or create any sort of dependency. Acupuncture and herbs work to bring your body and mind into balance and optimal health, it’s not a quick fix or a band-aid masking symptoms. It’s not a sleeping pill. Acupuncture releases natural opioids in the body and makes one feel calm and relaxed, as well as pain-free. Additionally, if performed by a knowledgeable practitioner, acupuncture is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Try CBD oil. Brand new to the market is the non-THC derivative of marijuana called cannabidiol (CBD). CBD oil won’t get you high, but it can help you sleep more soundly, relieve chronic pain, and reduce stress and anxiety. In most U.S. states, CBD oil is considered as innocuous as hemp, and is therefore legal. However, if there is even a small percentage of THC (the chemical that gets you high) in the CBD oil, you’ll need to check with your state’s laws and regulations. Make sure to find a reputable manufacturer and retailer of CBD oil that you can trust, and a health care provider that understands its effects.
- Throw it way back. Pretend you live in the days of old, where candlelight after sundown was the norm, and turn down all the lights in the house after dinner, including electronics. Low light signals to your brain that it’s time to start calming down to go to sleep. (This works wonders for my children, especially in the winter when it gets dark early.) Once the sun sets, I use an app called Flux on my laptop that takes out the stimulating blue light, and I reduce blue light on my phone by using the nighttime screen setting. But more ideally, turn them off.
- Just say no. Saying “no” more often can actually lead to protecting more of your time and energy, which can lead to more restful sleep. You can literally reclaim more hours in your day and night. Think of sleep as your number one priority, and everything else can fall into place around it once you’ve had your rest. Better yet, think of your energy as your number one resource—do not give it out if you don’t have any to give! Dig yourself out of energy debt by saying no.
- Take naps instead of coffee breaks. Even a 10 or 15 minute nap can work wonders for your brain. Getting more sleep does not necessarily mean consecutively. You can spread it out during your day in the form of naps when and where you can. Close your office door, get an air travel neck pillow that allows you to sleep while sitting up. Take a break, go to your parked car, set the timer on your phone for 15 minutes, and lean back in the driver’s seat. Put on a 20 minute show for the kids, or even turn your phone on silent and rest your eyes for five minutes. Any type of pause or restful break throughout your day, no matter how big or small, will restore energy instead of putting yourself into energy debt.