Episode #54: The 4 Centers of Energy

Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual. These are the 4 centers of energy that directly influence our daily capacity to do all the things we want to do. What if I told you that you have the innate ability, not only to recover from the stress of your day to day life, but also to increase your resilience and expand your capacity for the future. This episode walks you through how your energy centers directly influence your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being and also how, with awareness and intention, you can build and sustain optimal performance across all four centers.



Welcome to the Freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.

As with many things in 2020, it has taken me way longer than I imagined to create my new online experience: the 6 Steps to Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevent. But guess what?!?! You can now as of the release of this episode join the waiting list for my anticipated soft launch at the end of November!! Go to https://the-booth-andrews-company.mykajabi.com/6-steps-waitlist to sign-up so you will be the first to know when the doors open to this experience! I know that is kind of a long link and I am including it in the podcast transcript and you will also be able to find it on the Linktree to my instagram page at @theboothandrews.


In this episode we will spend some time learning about the 4 centers of energy which is the focus of Module 3 of the 6 Steps to Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevention. This is based on the work by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz as captured in the book The Power of Full Engagement. The direct excerpts from this work will be denoted by quotations in the transcript of the episode. 

When I was growing up, I learned to wield my mental energy. As a weapon and a shield. Academic performance was expected. Logic ruled the day (my role model was Spock from the original Star Trek series). Emotions were deemed weak and dangerously vulnerable (not the good kind of vulnerability that Brene Brown talks about). I used my mind to control my emotions . . . to shove them down into places they would not be recoverable for decades.

I didn’t consider myself athletic. Although I was forced to run for a significant chunk of my childhood as a form of punishment. I ran a couple of cross country seasons--usually with an injury. I played softball for a while. Golf was my father’s chosen sport and I was on the first girl’s golf team at my high school. 

It actually wasn’t until I was certified as Les Mills Body Attack instructor about 2 years after my middle child was born that I set a physical goal for myself and worked relentlessly toward that goal. Marathons, triathlons and crossfit followed as I developed more trust in my body’s capacity to perform in athletic venues. 

Spiritually, I have walked a rocky path. I was raised in an evangelical church and schooled somewhat relentlessly in the Bible. I knew scripture better than my Bible teacher in high school. But that church also caused significant harm to my family when I was a teenager. Since then, I have had fits and spurts of exploring who I believe God really is and who God isn’t despite the theology wielded by a variety of religions and denominations. You will often hear me refer to God and the Universe interchangeably, because that understanding became my home in my adulthood. When my mother died in 2012, I lost my connection to spirit for a while--ushering in some of the darkest days of my life so far--and it wasn’t until I went through yoga teacher training in 2016 that I started to be able to reconnect with the part of ME that feels connected to and part of something bigger than myself. 

Can you pick the 4 centers of energy out of the story? 

The 4 centers of energy are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Our energy is renewable but also exhaustible. But when we engage in an intentional cycle of stress followed by recovery, not only can we recover from the stress of the day, we can actually increase our resilience and expand our capacity for the future. 

“You are a complex energy system. The energy system that pulses through you is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. All four dynamics are critical, none is sufficient by itself and each profoundly influences the others. To perform at our best, we must skillfully manage each of these interconnected dimensions of energy. Subtract any one from the equation and our capacity to fully ignite our talent and skill is diminished, much the way an engine sputters when one of its cylinders misfires. 

Physical Energy

Physical energy is the foundation of all 4 centers. I have said before that our body is the vessel that holds our soul so that we can do our soul’s work on this earth. Physical energy allows us to manage our emotions, sustain concentration, think creatively, maintain commitment to and the capacity to carry out our purpose, and it also allows us to maintain and build our emotional, mental and spiritual capacity.

When we do not invest in our physical energy center either because we are overworking/overstressing without recovery or because we aren’t pushing ourselves at all, we put ourselves at higher risk for:

  • Low energy or inability to sustain our energy

  • Poor concentration

  • Fatigue

  • Low stress tolerance

  • Low resilience

  • Illness

  • Injury

  • Atrophy

  • Death

  • Lack of capacity in all 4 energy centers 

Emotional Energy

As a society, we demand extraordinary emotional regulation and often even reward dissociation. But shunting our emotions and perpetuating dissociation makes us sick. When we deny our emotions, we actually give them more power. And when we shut down emotions we perceive as negative, we also sacrifice the good ones too. The emotions that fuel highest performance are enjoyment, challenge, adventure and opportunity. While we don’t get to choose our emotions, we can invest our time and energy into experiences and activities that generate these positive emotions for us. When we do this, we enhance our well-being and expand our overall performance capacity. 

When is the last time you did something just because you enjoy it?? Dr. Stuart Brown says that the “opposite of play isn’t work. The opposite of play is depression.”

Emotions that arise from deficit (aka running on an empty tank) or from threat include: 

  • Fear

  • Frustration

  • Anger

  • Sadness

  • Impatience

  • Overly critical

  • Anxiety

  • Rigidity

  • Lack of depth in relationship

  • Insecurity and low self-esteem

  • Poor listening skills

  • Low empathy

We tend to think of tough emotions as either a sign of weakness or a character flaw. But what if they are signs of an empty tank or an indication that our body feels unsafe in some way? 

“The deepest expression of emotional capacity is the ability to experience a full range of feelings. We have a tendency to ride the pendulum toward one extreme or the other . . . consumed by our negative emotions and often desperate to avoid them, sometimes even falsely constructing positivity. The more depleted we are, the more rigid we become, often finding ourselves stuck in extremes. When we intentionally invest in emotional recovery and expansion, we will find that we are able to move freely and flexibly across the spectrum, less likely to get stuck in any one place.”

Mental Energy

It still surprises me sometimes how much I used to demand of my brain without a second thought, and certainly not with an awareness that I should be intentional about restoring the capacity I was using up all day every day.

When our mental energy is on-point, we are able to sustain concentration, move flexibly between broad and narrow concepts and also between internal and external focus. We are able to access “realistic optimism, the ability to see the world as it is while also working positively toward a desired outcome or solution.”

“The cultural norm is that working longer and more continuously is the best route to higher productivity. What is actually true is that the longer, more continuously and later at night you work, the less efficient and more mistake-prone you become.”

“The challenge is that thinking uses up a great deal of energy. The brain represents just 2 percent of the body’s weight, but requires almost 25% of its oxygen.” Just saying this makes me want to take a deep inhale!!

Signs of mental fatigue include:

  • Short attention span

  • Disorganization

  • Pessimism

  • Rigid or narrow perspective

  • Mistakes

  • Poor execution

  • Lower creativity

  • Mental staleness

  • Failure to take reasonable account of risks

The key to mental recovery is to give the conscious, thinking mind intermittent rest. A few years ago, I identified a clear sign of mental fatigue on my part: endlessly clicking the open tabs on my browser . . . sometimes in multiple windows!! I used to try to push through this type of fatigue; generally losing a few hours with nothing to show for it and still exhausted. 

NOW, I give myself permission to walk away and come back later. Not only do I reclaim the time I would have lost mindlessly clicking tabs at the top of the screen, but I come back fresher and WAY more efficient. The task that would have taken several hours when fatigued can sometimes take half the time or less!  

Spiritual Energy

“The quantity of energy we have to spend at any given moment is a reflection of our physical capacity. Our motivation to spend what we have is largely a spiritual issue. . . . At the practical level, anything that ignites the human spirit serves to drive full engagement and to maximize performance in whatever mission we are on.” Spiritual energy is the most powerful source for motivation, passion, perseverance, direction and commitment. There is a reason why the 6 Steps for Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevention start with discovering your WHY (also known as purpose). But as you are learning here, spiritual energy cannot be sustained in a vacuum. 

Low spiritual energy can look like: 

  • Disaffection

  • Detachment

  • Apathy

  • Indecisiveness

  • Conflict-avoidance

  • Lack of follow-through

  • Unreliability

  • Lack of truthfulness or exaggeration

  • Stepping outside of our values

Spiritual energy is a unique force for action in all dimensions of our lives. There are times when our spiritual energy can actually carry us beyond our physical limitations, but as I have also described from my own journey, we cannot rely solely on spiritual energy to stay well (we have to continue to invest in the vessel that carries our soul). When we do not sustain our physical, emotional and mental well-being, over time we will also lose our capacity to stay anchored and connected to that force and purpose in the world that extends beyond us. 

All 4 Energy Centers

“The primary markers of physical capacity are strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience. These are precisely the same markers of capacity emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Flexibility at the physical level, for example, means that the muscle has a broad range of motion. Stretching increases flexibility. 

The same is true emotionally. Emotional flexibility reflects the capacity to move freely and appropriately along a wide spectrum of emotions rather than responding rigidly or defensively. Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back from experiences of disappointment, frustration and even loss. 

Mental endurance is the measure of the ability to sustain focus and concentration over time, while mental flexibility is marked by the capacity to move between the rational and the intuitive and to embrace multiple points of view. 

Spiritual strength is reflected in the commitment to one’s deepest values, regardless of circumstances and even when adhering to them involves personal sacrifice. Spiritual flexibility, by contrast, reflects the tolerance for values and beliefs that are different from one’s own, so long as those values and beliefs don’t bring harm to others. 

Optimal performance then is your ability to sustain strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience in all four dimensions.”

So how do you learn to do that? Module 3 of the 6 Steps for Stress Recovery and Burnout Prevention will walk you through the HOW as we lead up to the creation of your own Personal Recovery Toolkit in Module 5. Remember, that you can join the waiting list for this online experience by going to https://the-booth-andrews-company.mykajabi.com/6-steps-waitlist. You can also find this link in the episode transcript that can be found at boothandrews.com or in the link in my bio on Instagram @theboothandrews.


Thank you for listening today. And, if you haven’t already, please hit subscribe and remember to rate this podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. When you subscribe and rate, you make it easier for other people to find this content. 

I look forward to being back with you next time!