Mira Kirshenbaum Talks About the Emotional Energy Factor

Feeling Your Best with Thyroid Disease

peace, mind-body, thyroid
Total energy is how ready, willing, and able a woman is to enjoy life to the fullest in the present. Pixabay

Mira Kirshenbaum is the author of a wonderful book, The Emotional Energy Factor: The Secrets High-Energy People Use to Beat Emotional Fatigue. I think this book should be required reading for anyone with a thyroid condition, or any chronic health condition that causes fatigue. It's truly a wise, common-sense, and very insightful look at the connection between our minds and our energy, and how it all relates to health. I had an opportunity to interview Mira Kirshenbaum and am pleased to bring you some of her thoughts here.

Defining emotional energy

A person's total energy is how ready, willing, and able she is to LIVE -- to take on challenges, to fight for what's important to her, to work to make her dreams come true, to care for loved ones, to build a better future, to enjoy life to the fullest in the present.

Only 30% of the energy required for this is physical. That is, only 30% of the energy necessary for this comes from physical sources like rest, diet, exercise, and health. New research shows that 70% of total energy comes from nonphysical sources, what I call emotional energy. You have emotional energy when you feel UP for your life -- hopeful, positive, engaged, charitable, caring, patient, focused, loving.

Emotional energy vs physical energy

There were two times in my life when I was personally struck by the importance of emotional energy. The first was when I was a kid. I grew up among mostly poor people, mostly immigrants.

We all had it tough. Some of us struggled emotionally. Some of us were able to do what had to be done, but it was with the grim, tense manner of someone clearly running on empty.

But there were a few people like my Uncle Morris who lived the same lives everyone else did and yet managed to go through their lives filled with emotional energy.

So they always had plenty to give, and they were always up for themselves, their lives, and the people around them. I now know, based on my research, that their high emotional energy doesn't come from luck or good genes. It comes from specific things they do to prevent emotional energy from leaking out and to give themselves more emotional energy.

The second time I was personally struck by the importance of emotional energy was when I was going through the worst of my struggle with hypothyroidism. At that point, I didn't know that I even had the disease. What I do know is that in that period I was collecting data on all the different things people do to increase their emotional energy. Just learning about this must have given me enormous emotional energy, because it was in this period that I got a phone call from my doctor at around midnight one day telling me that the lab had just called her with a red alert because my TSH levels were 57, which was as high as she'd ever seen. She was surprised that I wasn't in a coma.

And yet I was chugging along finding out the secrets of high-energy people. And this demonstrated a fact that I've now seen demonstrated over and over again: that because total energy is 70% emotional energy, when physical energy is very low, you can still have plenty of energy to do what you want to do if you have enough emotional energy.

Women and emotional energy

Women are definitely susceptible to losing their emotional energy. It's interesting, though -- women's emotional energy is at risk not because we're weak but because we're strong. We take on so many responsibilities and we shoulder so many burdens and we care for so many people that women today are virtually emotional triathletes. The only way women can thrive is if we work as hard at giving ourselves new emotional energy as we work at spending our precious emotional energy.

Chronic health conditions

There are 25 emotional energy boosters in The Emotional Energy Factor. Here are four specific ways to up your energy when you have a chronic health condition:

  1. Concentrate on the things you can do--don't think about how your life is limited, think about how your life has changed and focus on new opportunities. Ask yourself: What if your chronic condition were a secret gift enabling you to take advantage of these opportunities? Force yourself to come up with answers to this question.
  2. Avoid stressful situations. We're like waiters in a busy restaurant: we can only carry so many plates of stress at a time. A chronic health condition is a big platter all by itself. So eliminate stressful people from your life. Do whatever you do in the least stressful way. Before you say yes to any request, ask how stressful it will be for you to follow through.
  3. Understand that worry is a luxury you can't afford. A worry is just a very bad way for a problem to come to your attention. But you've been a problem solver all your life. The key is to do something when a problem comes into your mind, anything, no matter what, as fast as possible. You don't have to solve a problem to kill a worry. The part of you that's prone to worry is just afraid that you're not going to show up for yourself. As long as you act, as long as you do something rather than nothing, the worry part of you will relax. The more you act, the less likely you are to worry because your mind trusts you to take care of your life. You don't have to do something great, you just have to do something.
  4. Understand that your life now is all about your emotional energy. So think about every part of your life, everything you do. Do an emotional energy audit. What gives you emotional energy? What drains it? Then add more of the things that give you emotional energy and stop doing some of the things that drain it. Just by knowing that you can control your emotional energy in spite of your chronic illness, you'll give yourself more emotional energy.

Looking forward to things can help you get through

Even the condemned man gets to look forward to his last meal. So everyone can have things in their life to look forward to. They just may not necessarily be the things you wanted to look forward to. Maybe you'll never be able to hike the Appalachian Trail. But you can look forward to getting in the mail a series of videotapes about great hikes through nature throughout America. Having something to look forward to just means making an appointment for pleasure. It's not the size of the pleasure but the definiteness of the appointment that gives you emotional energy. The point is to have thinks you like -- and who doesn't have things they like! -- and then structure your life so that you can do them.

Link between emotional energy and weight loss

Weight loss is a big problem for all of us thyroid patients. I can tell you that personally. Menopause and hypothyroidism have combined to make it extremely difficult for me to lose weight. But I've lost 26 pounds in the last year. I did it by using what I call The Emotional Energy Diet which I include in The Emotional Energy Factor. This is based on the fact that most hunger and cravings come from emotional, not physical hunger. We eat because we're lonely, bored, frustrated, angry, jealous, stressed, discouraged, etc. But all the food in the world will never satisfy an emotional hunger.

So what you have to do (and I know this isn't easy but if it worked for me, it can work for anyone) is try to be half as good at identifying your emotional hungers as you are at identifying your specific cravings for food. Then use any of the 25 emotional energy boosters to satisfy your emotional hunger. The food part will take care of itself. But there's another aspect to The Emotional Energy Diet. The truth is that there are lots of weight loss plans that work. The plan that will work best for you is the plan that feels right to you, and that means that it's the plan that gives you the most emotional energy, because of what it allows you to eat, and when, and how.

Why laughter is a 'key secret'

Because it works! Here's why I think it works. Melodrama is all about making small problems big. Just watch any soap opera. Comedy is all about making big problems small. So laughter is a problem shrinker. Not only that, it makes you feel bigger in relation to your problem, and this gives you a lot of emotional energy, both the fact that your problems are smaller and that you yourself have made them smaller.

Say 'no' to conserve emotional energy

Mira: Here's how to think about saying no to conserve your emotional energy. Think of it as an investment. Sure, you take a hit in the short-run. You feel a little guilty. Someone else is a little disappointed. Fine. It's nothing more than a brief rain shower in your life. But it's freed you up! And every time you say no, you give yourself a little more freedom. Now here's the really cool part.

When the part of you that controls your emotional energy sees how good you are at keeping yourself free, it releases even more emotional energy, because now you know that you can take care of yourself. And new research is showing that the more you show that you can take good care of yourself, the more your physical health is enhanced. The negative stress effect on physical health comes from your not knowing that you can take care of yourself. So the health benefits of saying no are enormous.

Emotional energy drains, or 'people pollution'

People pollution is a terrible problem for our emotional energy. The principle for dealing with it is to: Make as much distance as you can from the people who sap your emotional energy. If you have a friend or relative who's a huge emotional energy drain, you might be able to break off all contact.

Don't do it by having a confrontation. Just have less to do with that person. See them less often. Don't answer every phone message from them. If we're talking about people you must include in your life like a spouse or boss, you can also have less contact with them. For example, you might work out an arrangement where you and your spouse leave each other alone when you first get home from work. Also, you can do is identify the one or two biggest ways this person drains your emotional energy. Is it their complaining? Their negativity? Their piling on too many demands? Whatever it is, focus on it and talk to that person about what he needs to tone down this aspect of how he treats you. Let him know about the impact it has on your emotional energy.

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