The Painful Disconnect Between Human Energy, Health and Performance
Human Energy, has been a topic, at least in western cultures that is only recently being explored and understood, and likely because fatigue has become so widespread. Due to having access to more information of all kinds and opportunity than at any other time in history due to technology (pc, mobile, social…) and the competitive, and faster-paced culture it has all inspired; all this access is taking its toll in the form of depleted human energy.
Add in the fact that technology is removing the need for human employment, and is increasing the demands on fewer brains to handle the workload; and as a result, of even this cursory review of our present life situation, which could be ever-more detailed; people are tired and stressed. So, understanding how to deal with constant tiredness, fatigue, and vital exhaustion, or worse, burnout and chronic fatigue syndrome has become front and center for millions of people, starting with sleep.
Sleep has become more important than ever before.
In today’s 24/7 world, employees are under pressure —pressure to perform, to handle more and to be “always on” … and that does not even consider home-life demands. As stresses mount, employee fatigue and turnover is rising as well; real-life challenges directly impacting individuals and company alike.
For American employees:
- 45 percent of Americans sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night reported feeling tired or fatigued up to three times a week, not because 7-8 hours of sleep are not enough (it could be) but because the amount of energy they are spending the rest of their waking hours is outpacing that capacity of the sleep period to full regenerate their energy.
- Those only managing six hours sleep or less each night is quite unsurprisingly, the most tired. 54 percent of people getting six or fewer hours sleep wake up tired 4 or more days a week*
*Source: Americans Are Tired Most of the Week. Statista / You.gov
Now here is where the real challenge comes in.
While the health and wellness industry has exploded, our understanding of human energy and its impact on health and performance is limited and misguided.
In a marketplace full of generative solutions, all of which attempt to stimulate, incentivize and motivate employees, re-generation (or recuperation) of energy to promote healthy habits and higher levels of performance is sorely missing. Perhaps it’s because, in the context of productivity, the time and space required for regeneration—sleep, rest, recovery, relaxation, meditation, time in the sun, in varying temperatures, and rejuvenation for examples, is an inconvenient truth, to say the least.
Relentless demands on our time and energy leave very little space and time for the regenerative practices that cultures of time past had naturally built into their way of life.
Today, that has changed, and people are more than fully engaged they are over engaged for reasons presented earlier in this article; but the extent to which they are over engaged is usually minimized by everyone.
Who wants to admit they have so much going on their barely hanging on, but that is the truth for far too many people and it compromises our health and performance.
Merely combine self-care, with family, and career, let alone an extracurricular creative or sporting desire, with the complexity of technology, and the unexpected, and you will have one FULL life.
And only those who have the right structural efficiencies and lifestyle supports will effectively thrive and experience the incline or increase of life.
“education groups thrive on organization”
flourish, prosper, burgeon, bloom, blossom, mushroom, do well, advance, succeed, boom, more
And that means they stay out of the vicious cycles and downward spirals that characterize “non-thriving,” and life on the decline.
What are a vicious cycle and a downward spiral?
- A vicious cycle is a sequence of reciprocal cause and effects in which two or more elements intensify and aggravate each other, leading inexorably to a worsening of the situation.
- A downward spiral is series of thoughts or actions or vicious cycles which feeds back into itself, causing a situation to become progressively worse as vicious cycles compound. It is worse than a vicious circle, which is self-sustaining in its current state.
Stress is a natural part of life; it’s only when we are experiencing distress, meaning we know we are headed in the wrong direction and don’t have a strategy for correcting course that we get on its wrong side and you know you are on the wrong side of this equation when you don’t have enough personal energy to take care of your health at the level you need to perform and succeed.
Let’s face the facts: Lack of energy is the #1 cause of health and performance decline, and what’s worse is that most people have not made this connection. They either don’t understand that lack of sleep and rest… is scientifically and comprehensively linked to every major disease out there, or they don’t understand their current condition or the impact that it’s having on their lifestyle and life results.
So, this brings up 7 ways the traditional paradigms for human energy, health and performance are changing and must change if this disconnect is going to get healed.
1. Nutrition and exercise, albeit core essentials of living, alone do not constitute a lifestyle; they are aspects of lifestyle but are less than 10% of the lifestyle equation. And if you are depending on only these two aspects of living to cope with stress and how it’s affecting you, you are seriously missing the boat and need performance lifestyle training.
2. Sleep is not an afterthought, expendable and or “optional,” in your life, it’s a core essential and is of equal importance to nutrition if not, easily put, more important and by a large margin. Matter of fact, the biological function of sleep, is regeneration, and there is more too it than sleep alone but without sleep, nothing else in the other two-thirds of life works very well, or for long.
Sleep is what give you that performance edge, each day; the better your sleep, the sharper you are; and lack of sleep underlies every one of the top 10 reasons why people go to the doctor.
3. We can no longer asses our stress, by looking at the biological alone. We never truly did anyway, but today when people are stressed they go to the doctor, making stress and fatigue one of the top reasons why people visit their doctor, even though they point to all other kinds of problems from joints to back pain to anxiety and depression.
4. We must get away from thinking we are “one thing” away from resolving our fatigue, weight, health, performance, financial or any other problem for that matter. The answer is never one thing, it’s a stack, a layering, a system of things which, when working together, give us the results we want in life. We need to think like that.
Imagine a coach saying all you need to do is work on dribbling, and you’ll win the game. Dribbling is part of the game of basketball, but not the whole game. We must be systems thinkers in today’s day and age, more than ever before.
5. We need to break out of the idea that we can outsource our energy, health (wellness, fitness etc.) and performance to others to come in and fix us. Inspiration, education, and support yes, and implementation (especially if medical is involved) but total responsibility, no. No one understands your situation and circumstances like you do and most outsourced professionals will not, and cannot take the time to understand all of what’s giving rise to your problems.
Outsourcing can also get expensive in both dollars and time so you need to use this carefully and make sure you’re optimize your lifestyle for energy, health and performance.
6. We need to start viewing our lives through the context of human function and performance. For example, you only know how healthy you are when you put yourself in a performance situation and see what your capacity to endure is. This is when you get real feedback.
All limiters of human function, energetically, physically, mentally or intellectually, and emotionally are sure to come to the surface when you are being put to the test.
Viewing health as an end unto its own can keep you chasing your tail and viewing performance without a foundation of health is a sure-fire way to unsustainability. So, our approach to life, business, sport, needs to be inherently healthy at each level of lifestyle transformation.
Even freedom form a dis-ease, from fatigue cancer, is not a goal, it’s a lifestyle objective and must be viewed in that perspective for the best results.
7. We need fully acknowledge that our lifestyle is central to our success. Before or after the doctor, health, success, and quality of life; it’s how you live every day that counts. Everyday.
80-90% or more of all diseases from fatigue to multiple types of cancer are lifestyle-induced[i] and rooted in poor lifestyle choices negatively affecting health and performance. Rates of these preventable diseases are skyrocketing, and especially for people under chronic stress.
Here’s the bottom line:
As life increases in complexity, becomes faster-paced, more competitive and there are more demands on our time, energy and attention, it is essential that we optimize the way we live, from the bottom up.
We must live fundamentally successful lives.
For an easy example, if you are eating nutrient-poor foods, you will always struggle with food; stuck in vicious cycles of cravings, food addictions and all kinds of coping methods because your nutrient needs are not being bet. You’ll stay stuck at level 1or tier 1 living that way and never get to the next level, fully.
It’s like wondering why you keep tripping as you step off every curb when you don’t understand the underlying principle of gravity. When it comes to food, you must understand the nutrient density of the food you are eating if you want to eat successfully.
That’s just one of many examples I can give of living out of alignment with what’s essentially true. So, we must learn not just nutrition but all the fundamentals of successful living, else, we’ll stay stuck in all kinds of vicious cycles and the stress of a compounded downward spiral not-so-unique to us (though it sure feels that way) as we go through life and that is no fun.
When we created Performance Lifestyle Training, over 20 years, I had all the above in mind, as I’ve faced the same challenges and still do to some degree, but in practice, life get’s better month to month and year to year and the same can happen for you.[i] American College of Lifestyle Medicine.