So often many of us hear our friends, loved ones, and even ourselves state “I have no energy. I would like to stay in bed the whole day. There is nothing that gives me pleasure. I have no energy to enjoy it. I don’t want to do anything”.

These statements can sound very much like descriptions of a depressive state. 

When friends of the person making these statements hear it, they usually try to tell the de-energized individual to shake the feeling off, go for a walk, get together for lunch, or go to the movies together. His or her psychologist would try to find the emotional components affecting this state of mind.  A psychiatrist would offer anti-depressants. Medical doctors would order a bunch of tests. 

Our physical and psychological bodies have a relationship

The question then arises: where is the truth and what needs to be done first? 

First, don’t ignore the symptoms if the feeling of fatigue is lingering on and robs you from being able to enjoy your life. 

Medical check-ups are always a prudent thing to do. Despite some of our fatalistic thoughts of the doctor discovering some huge disease, we might find that a comprehensive blood test can reveal simple reasons for feeling not so great. Although it might also uncover more serious issues, such as low thyroid function, it can alert us to much more mundane concerns like allergies, sinus infections, low levels of vitamins like B12 or D3 (very common), or mineral imbalance. Such deficiencies or issues can easily wreak a havoc on our sense of wellbeing. In other words, little things can be like a pebble in our shoe. It is small but we cannot walk until we shake it out. 

Despite my strong belief in psychotherapy as an avenue to address depression, I often recommend medical check-ups, for the simple reason that depressive symptoms might manifest in the body’s call for action. Alternatively, when depressive states become very powerful and deep, whether they have idiopathic origin or they are instigated by difficult and painful experiences, we tend to make decisions that often undermine our physical health. That is to say, our physical bodies and our psychological bodies and chemical brains are intertwined and work together or against each other. 

For example, how often do we see in movies depressed people reaching out for ice cream or pizza? Of course, if it happens from time to time, the body deals with it valiantly, but if it becomes a habit, it can lead to physical issues, such as diabetes and nutritional deficiency. Another way in which our bodies and mental states are related is through physical activity—lack of physical activity creates lower oxygenation of the brain, which in turn, affects brain functions, which can create physical and mental fatigue. 

Be the guardian of your physical and mental health.

Be the guardian of your own physical and mental health. Each of them maintains in its own ways your life’s energy, so being mindful of our bodies and of our mental states is crucial.

That is, when your physical check-ups tell you that you are out of the “danger zone,” you might still feel a lack of energy because your mind and body learned to feel this way over time. In other words, we are creatures of habit and we learn well. In the same fashion that we learned the habit or the everyday routine of- feeling out of energy, we can unlearn it. The first step is to become in touch with the fact that energy needs to be cultivated, encouraged, fostered until it transcends into zest of life

How can we cultivate and foster energy in ourselves?

There are a few options from which to pick ways to build a sense of inner comfort, satisfaction, and happiness. Or — energy and a zest for life. 

One option is to begin looking at life more curiously. Things around us and within us are fascinating, and even finding yourself curious about a frog’s lifespan, for example, could lead to a lively research into amphibians’ world, and into your own thoughts about it. Learning about new things fires up new connections in our brains, and can help facilitate a state of enlivened excitement about life. 

Another option to consider is to take some time to think about what we do well, and then to create a plan to expand in that area. For example, if you are good at explaining things to people, maybe a class on teaching would be a fun way to expand on that capacity or to read a memoir by a scientist or a professor. Appreciation of our qualities and finding purpose through them is a wonderful way to discover your internal energy reservoir. 

Another path is to begin acknowledging and recognizing our fellow humans’ predicaments, and finding empathy within us. Sensations of empathy can lead us to take action to help another person by lending a loving ear or by pet-sitting for him or her in an emergency. It can also lead us to an inner state of gratitude for the things that are good in our lives, which is another simple yet effective practice to create more energy. Recognizing other people’s circumstances can also lead us to reach out to others when we need empathy and connection. Connection is a powerful route to more energy in your internal and external worlds, and something that you can share meaningfully with another person.

This might also lead you to reach out to a therapist, in order to explore in a safe space your feelings of depression and lack of energy, and their origins inside of you.

Lastly, you can take time with your senses, through going out to nature or cultivating mindful eating. Seeing and smelling all the sounds that nature offers us can bring us a sense of unity and balance, while tasting and sensing food textures through mindful eating can bring us a sense of joy and pleasure. These are all paths to cultivate your energy on a daily basis, and are magnificent tools in helping you to go from zero to zest of life. 

So next time you notice some feelings of “out of energy” or that it is hard to enjoy certain things, consider taking one of these steps to remind you of what is whole inside of you, and what is available to you now. You might need additional help through medication, psychotherapy, or physical interventions, to get your energy level on track, but a small step from zero can often bring you even a bite of that zest for life. And that’s a beautiful start.

I’m Anna Goslicka, MA, one of the therapists you could see at Wright Institute Los Angeles where we offer Affordable Therapy for Everyday People!

Anna applies an integrative approach to therapy by drawing on psychodynamic theories, systems, neuropsychology, and hypnosis. Her background in art allows her to appreciate, encourage, and support the creative processes of patients re-creating their own life with a full understanding of self in the atmosphere of empathy and safety. Anna’s special interest and passion is for co-facilitating, with patients, their processing of trauma.