How to Refill Your Energy Well When Life Gets Overwhelming

About 6 weeks ago, I returned home after 3 months away from my family.  While I enjoyed parts of my time alone, like always having a clean apartment and not having to pick up after anyone, being away from my husband and kids was difficult.  Upon my  I return, I wanted to express my gratitude for their support and to soak up and give back as much affection as I possibly could.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of others that needed my time and energy as well.  Work projects that were pending my return are coming at me fast and furious.  Friends want my company and I want to reconnect with them.  And I am trying to maintain some of the habits I established over the summer.  But the extra time that I had available in DC to focus on my needs has flown out the window.  As a result I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed.

Mental and physical energy are both taxed when we are juggling many priorities and dealing with life stress.  Managing energy is an important skill to master. If our energy becomes too depleted, we have diminished capacity to handle stress.  Compassion towards ourselves and other becomes a monumental effort.

The level of water  in a well depends on the inputs and withdrawals.  If a village is pulling water for a large variety of needs and there is no rainfall to refill it, then the well will run dry.  In times of drought, we become more conservative in our water withdrawals….shorter showers, quicker dishwashing, turning off the water while brushing teeth, and so on.  When rains come, conserving water becomes less important.

Think of energy the same way.  When life takes withdrawals, we need to find ways to refill the well.

Strategies to Refill the Well

Sleep – The most important and most effective way to replenish energy is a good nights sleep.  Many believe they can function on 5-6 hours or less, but research has shown that the average adult needs 8 hours a night.  Try it for a week and see how much more patience, love, happiness, and ability to focus that you possess.  You will likely find you need more sleep than you realize.

Healthy Eating – I am guilty of turning to junk food to handle stress, but I have learned that this only compounds stress because it puts nutritional stress on my body.  And it does nothing to refill my energy reserves.  Focusing on lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains and fruits, and plant-based proteins provides the body with the nutrients it needs to keep the fires burning strong.

Exercise – Exercise takes physical energy, but most of us use more mental energy throughout the day than we do physical energy.  Fatigue often comes because our brains are taxed.  A brisk walk, hard gym session, or good run clears the brain and leaves us with more energy afterwards than before.  Starting the day with a workout lays a foundation for a more positive day.  Exercising at lunch resets the clock for a better afternoon.  And exercise at the end of the day sheds the day’s stress allowing for a more relaxing evening.  Find the time of day that best serves you and make exercise a priority.

Hobbies – Spending time doing something you enjoy is critical to maintaining energy for the harder tasks in life.  Cultivating a hobby will provide you energy by shedding other life stress, bringing you joy, and allowing your mind to relax.  Try for at least 10 minutes a day doing something that simply brings you joy.  For me, this is reading a book, writing, or playing a good board game with my family.

Meditation – a 5-10 minute meditation session is a great way to clear the mind and reset your body.  Not only does it give you energy back, it plugs any energy leaks by helping shed negative thoughts and mental distractions. I find that a 10 minute meditation mid-afternoon is a good as a cup of coffee.

Introvert vs. Extrovert – Determining if you are introverted or extroverted is a great help in figuring out how you replenish your energy reserves.  Introverts are not always shy or anti-social.  Rather, introverts regain energy from alone time, while extroverts get energy from being with others. I am an introvert.  I love being with others, but find it exhausting.  I need time alone to replenish my energy.  If I don’t get any alone time, I find myself running on empty very quickly.  Because I know this, I will often eat lunch alone if I have meetings all day, or take a hot bath and read alone after the kids go to bed.

Implementing these strategies on a daily basis will keep your well of energy full.  A full well will keep you resilient in times of stress.  Identifying areas that are sucking the well dry is equally as important as refilling the energy well. If you find yourself running low, examine your daily habits and determine where you are leaking energy.  Are you not getting enough sleep?  Are you giving to much of yourself to others or not spending enough time with loved ones? Are you using your free time to binge watch Netflix at the expense of exercise and meditation?

Energy Sucks to Avoid

Worrying and Negative Self-Talk– A friend wisely told me once, “Worrying takes energy.  It is better to reserve that energy for positive things.”  Because our energy reserves are limited, it does not serve us to spend that energy on worrying or negative self-talk.  Rather, focus the energy you have on staying mindful.

Netflix binge – While it may seem relaxing to veg on the couch watching the latest House of Cards, a Netflix binge does not replenish your energy and it takes valuable time away from exercise, meditation, and sleep.  Rather than spending hours on end watching TV, take a nap or go to bed earlier, get exercise, or spend time talking with a loved one.

Caffeine, sugar and other artificial sources of energy – When we use caffeine, sugar, or other artificial sources of energy, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.  A limited amount is sufficient, however if you find yourself relying on these to get through the day, examine your priorities and make sure you are getting enough sleep and investing in other energy replenishing strategies.  You will find these giving back much more and not asking  for repayment down the road.

You will quickly discover areas where you have a leak in your energy well.  Perhaps it is a slow leak which is easy to patch.  Maybe it is a large leak and will require more repair time.  In either situation, once you find the leak, you will find that implementing these strategies will refill that energy well.

The journey continues…..

TBT – 2017 Javelina Jundred Crew Report

A little over a year ago, the Fife Family was preparing for a grand adventure.  Kenny was going to be running the Javelina Jundred.  We had heard about this amazing race since we entered the ultrarunning scene and now we were going to have the great pleasure of participating….him as a runner, me as his crew.

We had plans for a repeat showing this year, but life doesn’t always like to honor our plans.  While we won’t be there this Saturday, I look back with such fond memories and look forward to another go at it next year.

To all who are running, best of luck.  For those crewing, take good care of you runner and yourself.


Javelina Crew Report – 2017

Saturday October 28, 2017

5 o’clock AM – The sun is barely rising on the horizon, light gently spilling into my bedroom as I wake for the day. My phone chimes – a text from Kenny. The night before he camped at McDowell Mountain, preparing himself for a weekend to remember. He is letting me know is ready to go and I wish him luck before he heads off to the start line.

6 o’clock AM – Packing up my camping gear, my thoughts are with Kenny as he takes his first steps onto the race course. Read More

A Moment of Reflection

A few weekends ago, Kenny and I had the amazing luxury of getting away from the kids for several days.  We spent Friday night car-camping so we could run the Prescott Circle Trail, starting at the Thumb Butte Recreation Area before we went to Flagstaff for some R&R.

A little over a year ago, I started a run from the same location.   That run would prove to change my life in many ways.  It was the Whiskey Basin 57K, my first trail ultra (second ever ultra).  Being back on the trails I rememberd to reflect on how far I have come in the last 12 months.  I am such a forward focused, what is the next challenge, type of person that I forget to celebrate the successes I that I have had.

As I reflect, I can see I have come SO very far.  That first 57K on the trails seemed monumental at the time; the hardest experience of my life.  And at the time, it certainly was the most challenging physical feat I had undertaken.  What I realized being back on those trails is that each hard challenge we tackle creates the springboard for the next great challenge.

When I look back, since that race I have accomplished so much:

  • PR at the San Diego Half Marathon (first sub 2 hour half!!)
  • Sub 6 hour 50K at Across the Years
  • 52K at Coldwater just 3 weeks after Across the Years
  • 50 Mile Race at Antelope Canyon

And that is just my fitness accomplishments.  When I examine my life as a whole, I have made great strides professionally this last year, my marriage is stronger than it was a year ago, and my kids are growing into young men that make me so proud.  I have also improved my relationship with food and my body image by leaps and bounds. Hard work and focused determination lead to so much accomplishment.

After Whiskey Basin, I wrote a race report and I went back to read it again today.  Here’s the excerpts that brought a smile to my face:


EXCERPT FROM WHISKEY BASIN RACE REPORT APRIL 2017

Whiskey Basin 57K took place this past Saturday, April 8, 2017 and it was a smashing success!!

We scoped the trails the night before and I was looking forward to running on them since it has been a while since I have run through a pine forest.  I was also feeling apprehensive and knew that it would be critical for me to run my own race. It is often a downfall for me to get all caught up in comparing myself to others and alter what I know I need to do to accomplish my own goals.  These are my insecurities boiling to the surface and insecurities that I am striving to overcome through my running.

Just before we started, my friend hugged me and said, “We’ve got this”.  That was just what I needed.  Within 100 yards, I could feel myself at peace.  My zen didn’t fly away.  It stayed firmly put.  I floated along the trails at an easy pace, feeling confident that I wasn’t pushing myself too hard, even though I could feel my legs itching to let loose.

A part of me was fearful that I would lose my flow later in the race, but I reminded myself I was well prepared and that I was feeling great.  I hit the Goldwater Aid station at 16.5 miles ½ hour ahead of schedule.  Some of my other running friends were at this aid station when I got there which shocked me because I figured they would leave me well in their dust.  Never have I felt this good half way through a race.

The course description shows the last 31K being only 883 feet of climbing so much to my surprise it involved a lot more climbing than that.  I had to adjust my expectations a little bit and even gave myself the permission to be happy if I didn’t finish within my 9 hour goal.  I was at peace with this change of plans and continued to have fun and just enjoy the ride.

From the Goldwater Aid station to the Badger Mountain Aid Station it was almost 10 miles.  I had a few dark moments through this stretch, but my body never felt like it wanted to quit.  I felt strong and powerful.  Only my brain wanted to stop but I was able to keep myself focused on the moment and was able to rise back to the light.

The Badger Mountain Aid Station came out of nowhere when I saw Squirrel Nut Butter flags flying and I was happy to discover I was still ahead of schedule.  Even though there was a lot of climbing, I hadn’t slowed down much at all.  Less than 10 miles to go.  I knew that things were about to get real, but I also could see the end in sight.  I was down into the single digits!  And surprisingly, my friends were at this aid station as well!  I couldn’t believe that I kept catching up to them.  These ladies are strong and fierce.

During the next 4 mile stretch, I ended up running with a couple that had been trailing behind me a little ways.  They were super nice and encouraging and when I told them it was my first trail ultra, they told me how strong I looked.  It made feel really good to hear that from people with experience!  At one point, I let them go ahead of me so I could fuel and take some of my Hammer pills.  I caught them again when we reached the tunnel of gloom leading to the last aid station.

The last 10K from the Sundog Aid Station to Watson Lake continued to be smooth.  I rounded a corner and at last I could see Watson Lake.  In a sick twist of humor, the trail then turned south away from the lake.  I couldn’t believe that I could taste the finish but had to run the other way!  We hit a service road that finally took  us back north towards the lake and suddenly my brain shut down.  After running on the beautiful trails and feeling strong and powerful all day, this service road proved to be my arch nemesis.

Those last two miles were my slowest of the race I am sure, but when I rounded the last bend and saw my kids climbing on the rocks, I could taste the victory.  Hands up in joy, I crossed with finish line with my sweet boys in tow, my husband waiting proudly on the other side.  My finish time was 8:39:07, 21 minutes faster than my goal!

I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family.  The time they gave me to train and go to bed early, the hours I was tired, the cranky bitch I became during my taper.  They loved me through it all and gave me the space and encouragement I needed to get it done.  The work was mine though and mine alone.  No one ran those miles for me.  No one else put in the training and the mental preparation.   That was all me.

In two weeks I turn 35.  This race is my 35 miles for my 35th birthday month.  There were only three women younger than me finished the race.  This just goes to show that the best is yet to come.


Reliving that day, both from my writing and from being on those trails, brings great joy to my heart.  I proved to myself that I was capable and it gave me the confidence to try for the next big goal. Each time we do something hard and succeed, it only fuels the flames of passion.  If we settle into what is easy every day, life is a lot less fulfilling.  When we push and stretch, we grow.  One day we wake up and see a beautiful flower growing strong. 

The journey continues…..

Building a Bridge over the Inaction Chasm

There is a void that exists in front of each of us.  I call it the “inaction chasm”.  It is that space that exists between the thought of what we should do and the first step of action.  For some, this chasm is smaller than others, but leave no doubt, it exists for everyone.

Determining how to bridge this chasm and get ourselves from inaction to action is difficult.   The idea of taking that leap, no matter how big or small, from inaction to action is scary.  I have a whole arsenal at my disposal that holds me back.  My main go-to’s are:

  • Research research research: I love doing research beforehand to make sure that when I start, I will execute perfectly.  I use this tactic to stall my action because it feeds my desire to be good at everything I do.  By hanging my hat on research, I can avoid these potentially painful experiences.
  • Plan plan plan: I am a great planner.  I can break down a goal into milestones and create action items with realistic deadlines.  But I struggle to implement this perfect plan.  I am so comfortable in the planning phase that I default back to it time and again, ultimately using it as a crutch to keep me from taking action.

I get caught in the loop of research and planning routinely announce to myself, “Tomorrow I will put this into action.”

The problem is that tomorrow never comes.  One day, the light bulb came on and shined its light into the dusty corners where I have hidden the truth from myself.

Truth: I am scared to start.

Scared to accomplish the goals I have spent so much time planning for and researching?  Scared of what will happen if I don’t succeed? Scared what will happen if I do?

Simply, we all grow comfortable with the place we are sitting right now.  As humans, our natural tendency is to make thing easier.  This is a survival instinct.  Gathering food from easier sources is smart when you are fighting every day to survive.  Those days are past, however.   We have to make the conscious effort to push our boundaries in order to keep growing otherwise we will stagnate and wither.

I certainly don’t have all the answers because this is indeed a great struggle of mine, however, here are steps I have taken to build that bridge:

  • Eliminate Distractions – Examine your life and habits and see what is present that gives you the “excuse” of distraction from the hard goals.  For me, like many, this is television and social media so I have limited the time I spend on them, many days eliminating them all together.
  • Make taking the first step easy  – Preplanning my meals so I don’t have to think about what to eat each time mealtime comes around makes choosing healthy foods easy.  Or laying out running clothes the night before so I don’t have to think about what to wear when my alarm goes off early in the morning.  Anything that prepares you to take action with little effort is helpful.
  • Surround Yourself with Community – Choosing to surround yourself with others who share the same goals provides support when times get tough.  They can be there for you when you need motivation and you can be there for them when they are in need.
  • Make Your Goals and Progress Public – When we put our goals out into the world it helps to keep accountability.  But it works better when you also share your progress.  Knowing others will cheer you on, encourage you, and celebrate your small wins along the way helps keep the passion and excitement burning when the hard work becomes mundane.

The inaction chasm is transformable.  The power to shrink the chasm is within each of us.  The first step is always the hardest and the smaller the chasm is, the easier it is to take that first step.  Focusing on making that first step easier will give you the power to keep moving.

CALL TO ACTION: Share in the comments actions you take to make the first step easier to take.

How to Be Selfish for the “Active You”

Movement is not optional.  It is a necessary and critical part of living fully and completely.   It supports healing from mental illness.  It makes you more creative and productive.  Whether you like to walk, run, swim, cycle, climb or any other number of activities, you must make time in your life to move.

Running is clearly my best way to promote and embrace movement.  Running takes on many noble forms.   Some people run in memory of a lost loved one.  Some run because they want to support a charity.  Some run to stay healthy for their family.  Some run to keep a friend or a spouse company. Read More

9 Questions to Ask Before Skipping a Run

For years I have known that running adds value to my life.  Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Trail Sisters, “Embracing Depression through Trail Running” and through writing this article, I came to understand more deeply the inextricable link that running and I have with each other.  We are one, running and I.

When the article was posted, Nikki Kimball, ultra-runner extraordinaire, commented, “Depression gave me exercise as a life sentence.  Exercise gave me the power to fight depression.”  As I read this powerful quote from one of my heroes, I was struck with a force like a tidal wave.  That was the missing link. Read More

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