know thyself

Some days I have so much energy and feel so positive and optimistic that it feels like even my wildest dreams could easily be made realities. Other days I feel so tired and blue that I can barely move. I wish my energy followed more of an even keel, but this is how I am: consistently inconsistent.

In an effort to better understand myself and the peaks and troughs in my energy levels (and subsequent moods) I’ve been charting said energy levels for the last four months. I’ve been trying to account for the circumstantial ‘life’ stuff, like how busy or stressed I am between one day and the next, and just focus on the physical – it’s like trying to imagine the behaviour of the Coriolis force in the absence of Earth’s rotation or landmasses: a simplified model for something that is actually quite complex.

Over the last four months I’ve changed jobs, moved house, travelled, got sick once, changed my diet, and had periods of time with no alcohol at all, and periods of time with plenty. So if I could remove all of that white noise and pretend I was living in a cave on top of a mountain on my own, completely in tune with my own rhythms, I could use that knowledge to my advantage, which is the ultimate point of this exercise.

If I knew that a period of time was approaching when I usually have a lot of energy I could make use of that energy to get stuff done. Alternatively, if I know a lull in energy is almost upon me I can rest up and not feel bad about it – I knew this time was coming and have made allowances for it, so there’s no need to get annoyed/impatient/pissed off with how crap I feel and not understand where it’s coming from. It’s a kind of ‘make hay while the sun is shining’ attitude: do more stuff when you have the energy, and do less when you don’t.

So what have I found? I’m generally at the mercy of two cycles: my own menstrual cycle, and the moon’s cycle. I’m not on the Pill, so the first cycle is au naturel and arrives on a regular basis just after the new moon. I sometimes get a bit down and feel like everything in my life is shit and I’ll never be happy in the days leading up to my period starting (luckily I’ve been doing this self-analysis stuff for long enough that I can figure out why I feel this way – it’s not rocket science), but the event itself is usually relatively benign and pain-free, especially in comparison to some of the horror stories I’ve heard from other women.

The moon’s cycle, however, seems to have more of an effect on me. In the days leading up to the full moon I often feel bloated, lethargic, irritable, angsty, and generally out-of-sorts. Observing the gravitational pull that the moon has on water, and considering that we also contain a lot of water, it’s not too much of a tenuous link to realise that the moon has a gravitational pull on us too.

I often feel at my best around new moon, when the moon is aligned between Earth and the sun and the gravitational pull of each is in the same direction. Around full moon however, Earth is aligned between the moon and the sun and the gravitational pull each exerts is in opposing directions, which is often how I feel: scattered and unsettled and like I’m being pulled every which way. I don’t necessarily have less energy, but the energy I have is often fragmented.

I’ve included the last four month’s charts below, with black or brown representing being physically sick, emotionally unhinged, or extremely tired – it’s good to see that the number of these days per month is on the down. Yellow represents an average day in the sense that I’m not bouncing off the walls, nor am I dragging my feet too much either. Light green denotes ‘goodish’ – not quite good, but better than average, and dark green is ‘good’. Orange denotes ‘very good’ meaning I have lots of energy all day and feel great because of it and tend to get a lot done. I have to be careful with these days as I have a tendency to push it to the limit and then feel tired the next day.

What about you, do you have peaks and troughs in your energy or your moods? Do you know why? Can you see through the white noise of your day-to-day life to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture?

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another alcohol hiatus

The last time I went without alcohol I waited until the end of the month to write about it, just in case I didn’t make it. This time I don’t need to wait – there’s no way I’m going back on the arrangement I’ve made with myself. I’m doing six weeks this time, the first three of which were super-easy; it was almost a relief to know that I wouldn’t have to be making any decisions about whether or not to drink alcohol. But this week, the fourth, things got a little testy. It’s not so much that I’m pining for alcohol, but more that I’m starting to feel a little dull and boring and that I should be having more fun and not being so serious. I hope dullness doesn’t consume me before the next two weeks are up!

The more I experiment with not drinking the more I realise that alcohol and health do not make good friends. Somehow, I used to be able to pull it off – eating well and exercising regularly all week, drinking to excess on a Saturday night, and then nursing a hangover with junk food and couch time all day on Sunday. As an example of what I mean by excess, I remember one afternoon my flatmate and I polished off a litre of white rum between us before going to town and drinking more. Sometimes I’d have such a good time while out drinking that the hangover was worth it. But gradually, incrementally, the fun diminished, rendering the hangover less and less ‘worth it’.

Us Kiwis really don’t know much about moderation when it comes to alcohol. Many of us, it seems, love to get completely inebriated on a fairly regular basis: it’s how we communicate and interact with each other, it’s how we hook up, and it’s also used as a guise for things more sinister. It would be great if we could find ways to unwind and enjoy ourselves without harming our bodies and our communities so much.

So why do we, as a nation, feel the need to get so written off? Is it escapism? Is the reality of our day-to-day lives so bad that we want and hide under a blanket of booze whenever we can, even though we know that the blanket won’t nurture and support us and will only leave us with a stale soggy hangover which makes our stark cold realities all the more difficult to deal with. The unfulfilling job, the loveless relationship, the financial stress, the physical discomfort of living in a body that doesn’t work properly because you haven’t looked after it: drinking won’t alleviate any of these problems and it’s quite likely that it will make them worse. We say that young people today aren’t responsible with alcohol, but how can we expect them to be when they don’t have any positive role models?

When I started this alcohol hiatus it was off the back of three consecutive boozy weekends: a reunion, a wedding, and a birthday. I felt gross. My skin was breaking out, I felt bloated and acidic and disgusting. If you’ve never gone for more than a day or two without drinking you’ve probably forgotten how it feels to not be constantly slightly hung-over. It’s like living with a food allergy – if you don’t completely cut out all of said food (gluten and lactose are common ones), you’ll never get to experience how good it really feels to have a body that functions as it should. That slightly headachy/nauseous/bloated/foggy/uncomfortable feeling is your new reality because your day-to-day habits cause it to be that way. But any habit can be changed, if you want to change it. For me, right now (at 6:00 AM on a Sunday morning without having had a drop of alcohol for a month), it feels more normal not to drink than it does to drink.

Why not come join me? It’s a beautiful world over here.