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The Exhaustion Epidemic

Let's visit childhood once more. Remember bounding out of bed in the morning, eager to meet the new day? There were playmates to visit, games to play, trees to climb, and little place for boredom or exhaustion. Look at the kids around you – there is an abiding energy and an enthusiasm that keep them going. Even in the evening, while you might be collapsing, their squirming little bodies want "just five more minutes" or "one more story" before succumbing to sleep.

Most of us would pay a high price to feel such energy. We get more done, and have more fun doing it, when we're feeling alive and alert. But somehow, as adults, most of us have outgrown this early exuberance, and we can't always summon the energy we want. We may rely instead on the use of artificial energizers.

To a large extent, the roots of our dependency on stimulants can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution, which demanded brutally long hours from workers. To meet the grueling demands of industry, workers were fueled with tea, coffee, and tobacco to stimulate them to work faster and more efficiently. Soon sugar entered the mix, to sweeten the tea and coffee, followed later by the introduction of chocolate. Ever-increasing consumption of these stimulants continued into the twentieth century, rapidly becoming part of the daily ritual of millions of people throughout Europe. And this trend continues to grow in the new millennium.

These "workers friends" aren't the only stimulants around, of course. Amphetamines, cocaine, and even alcohol – both a stimulant and a relaxant – fall into this category, too. All of these affect the emotional center of the brain – the limbic system – to produce the cherished experience of pleasure. Issues of illegality or serious health consequences aside, these popular stimulants will simply compound our load of exhaustion.

We'll be looking at the wellspring of that exhaustion and the substances that offer a quick-fix solution – which ultimately becomes part of the problem. And we'll see how it's possible to get back our energy by using ancient herbs and natural nutrients.

Our own technological revolution has spawned a world that never sleeps. Markets are open twenty-four hours; television and the Internet call to us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Many of us are trying to keep impossible schedules to meet work and family responsibilities. When we shave an hour off our sleep, we feel we've gained some small advantage.

This all has a cumulative effect. You struggle to find time with your kids, friends, and colleagues, not to mention your partner. You start off less alert than you'd like, begin to feel drowsy as the day wears on, and doze off if you sit down to read or watch TV in the evening. When you finally find yourself together with your partner at bedtime, neither of you has any energy left to do anything about it!

Too often today, we rely on chemical "helpers" to keep us going: the frequent coffee breaks, the doughnut to satisfy our hunger when we have no time to eat, the cigarette to calm our nerves. You will soon see why we use stimulants, how the common stimulants affect us, how we become dependent on them, and how to replace them with healthier, more effective alternatives.

To get an idea of how depleted your energy might be and how dependent you are on stimulants, check yourself out on the Energy Check questionnaire if you have not already done so.



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From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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