Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Personal Energy Conservation Plan

A photograph of various lamps illustrates the ...Image via Wikipedia

Being green is the "in" thing to do and saving energy is all the rage. For example, people are switching to energy saving compact fluorescent lights (CFL) that use only 20% of the energy required to power an incandescent light bulb. These light bulbs make such a difference that by 2012, incandescent light bulbs will be phased out in the United States and become a thing of the past.

Too bad conserving my own personal energy isn't as easy as changing a light bulb.

I made another step in this direction today when I completed my second telephone appointment with the Workwell Foundation. As I did the first time, I talked with Meg who is an exercise physiologist. Today we went over my heart rate and activity logs.

Apparently, when you have chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, your body doesn't work quite right any more. Sure, when most people go from laying down to sitting to standing, they have a corresponding rise in heart rate. For a normal person, their heart rate might peak at about 80 by the time they get to standing. For me, I start somewhere in the 70's lying down and get to a little over 100 by the time I stand up. Oh yeah, and that is with taking a beta-blocker to keep my heart rate lower.

No wondering I am tired all the time.

So Meg reviewed with me some of the principles of energy conservation and management:
  1. Keeping your heart rate down is the equivalent to putting energy in the bank.
  2. Break activities up into intervals and take a break between intervals.
  3. If your heart rate gets higher by the end of the day or the next morning, it means that you did too much during the day/the day before.
  4. Balance out activities over the week to achieve a consistent work load.
  5. If you are standing, try to do the activity sitting.
  6. If you are sitting, try to do the activity in a reclined sitting position.
  7. If you need to bend down, try kneeling instead.
  8. Focus on your breathing, slowly in for three counts and out for three counts, to make your heart rate go down.
I employ many of the specific suggestions she provided me during the hour long consultation, so my job over the next two weeks is to pay closer attention to the activities that are problematic for me and try to do them in a different body position or break them up into intervals. I also need to start working on strengthening my transverse abdominal muscles: these are the muscles that get activated when using your breath to fog a mirror, when you cough or when you prevent breathing out by pinching your nose. (You can try it now. You should feel a sensation near your belly button.)

I wonder if you activate your transverse abdominal muscles when you laugh. Let's do an experiment! Here is a light bulb joke. Read it while you place your hand over your belly button. Let me know what happened by leaving a comment.

Q. How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb?

A. One, but the light bulb must first fill out all the appropriate forms to determine eligibility for service.

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