We all feel full of energy some days and tired on other days. For those of us with health challenges, energy is a major issue.

I use clay as a metaphor. Each morning, I am issued a blob of clay. Some days it’s bigger; some days it’s smaller. I’m not in control of the size of the clay ball. It can be affected by things like how well I sleep, how much pain I feel, what I did yesterday, and a whole host of other things. It’s mysterious.

Some people, places, and activities add clay to the blob, some scrape clay away. (Let’s be honest: some people shovel buckets of energy from me just by being in the room.)

Physical, mental, emotional environmental, spiritual etc. – In my experience, energy is energy. It doesn’t matter what the type is; each energy expenditure affects the size of my blob of clay. What matters is awareness. If the temperature is -20°, it will cost me energy, even if I don’t go outside.

My role is to be aware of my energy on a moment to moment basis. I can do that by simply stopping what I’m doing, taking a deep and gentle breath, and sensing the energy in my body. Do I feel full of vim and vigor, ready for the next move? Or am I ready to lie down?

To a point, I can adjust the size of the blob by switching activities. When I’m tired, I can listen to some peppy music, dance along, and be reenergized. Even though I expended some physical energy, I’ve gained some joie de vivre. [That’s joy of living, where I am happy to be alive.]

Sometimes, though, I run out of clay. I don’t have any energy left for sculpting. I have no alternative but to rest. I want to be careful of my self-talk during such moments. No need to pretend I have more energy than I do. No need to shame myself. Now is the time to practice self-compassion. [Reminder: the four steps of self-compassion are 1-mindfully accept what’s happening. (“This is a moment of suffering.”) 2 – remember other people have similar experience. (“I am not alone in this.”) 3 – offer myself compassion and soothing. (“May I be kind to myself.” Gentle Touch…) 4 – ask “what’s the kindest thing I could do for myself right now?”)]

Having limited energy may be difficult to explain to people with higher energies. (Added challenge: explaining takes energy I may not have.) Using a metaphor (like clay) may help.

As I go through each day, I can remind myself to pause, breathe, and sense my energy level. I can be aware of what brings me energy and what costs it. I can remind myself to be kind when I reach my limits. These are the skills involved with sculpting energy.

It seems to me that assessing and sculpting energy is one of the basic necessities of living with illness. What other skills would you include? Let me know in the comments…

In your journal:
How do you assess your energy?
Write about the types of energy.
list what brings you energy.
List what costs you energy.
What are the necessary skills of living with illness?