Author: Bria Wannamaker
Take a moment to examine the table below. Which side do you connect with more? Which behaviours do you exhibit more? Which ones do you wish you could hone in on? We all have a softer side, a more driven side, a little yin, a little yang, some day light and night time; masculine and feminine energy lives within us all. When you feel off balance, or “not like yourself”, or are in a state of chronic stress and fatigue, and you feel “off”, it may be time to take a look at how you’re balancing your energy.
|Masculine Energy||Feminine Energy|
For example, being the multi-passionate entrepreneur/athlete that I am, I have been operating out of masculine energy for years. That sense of drive, competitive nature, focus, structure, and rigidity – I can identify with them all. Which is great – there is a time and a place to harness the masculine energy. But what happens when it becomes detrimental? When you’re leaning into one side of the chart?
Western culture tends to be more focused on the masculine (until you retire – then it’s socially acceptable to stop and smell the roses), focused on productivity, on doing. And then, you’re allowed to take a little vacation here and there but say you take a week’s vacation – ever notice how it takes you 3 whole days before you can drop into that state of being?
If we override the nature of our femineity, it feels uncomfortable, it feels clenched, tight, restrictive, limited, and small. We are missing out on the connectedness, the sensuality, the pleasure, and the care that comes along with feminine energy. With feminine energy, life is enjoyable, it’s at a slower pace, it’s present to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly and what’s more is that this feminine energy can hold space for the ebbs and flows of life because it is able to express these emotions in healthy ways – versus suppressing them and holding them in the body (see my previous blog post on somatic symptoms for more information on stress in the body).
Now, I personally identify with leaning more toward masculine energy and working to embrace my feminine energy and I know that others are familiar with this too simply because of how we’ve been conditioned in our society.
In terms of your mental health, masculine energy might look like:
- People pleasing/being a “yes!” person
- Feeling the need to control every little detail of a trip
- Constantly worrying about the “what if” scenarios
- Crushing goal after goal and never feeling satisfied or content
- Not allowing yourself to indulge, relax, or experience joy and ease
- Reduced sense of need for sleep
- Tendency toward anxious response symptoms
- Restrictive eating
- Emotional breakdowns/crying uncontrollably once per week or maybe even more infrequently
Or, perhaps you’re someone who experiences the opposite…
In terms of your mental health, feminine energy might look like:
- Struggling to create structure within your life or to follow through on tasks
- Having so many creative ideas that you start a bunch of different projects or commitments but aren’t able to finish them all
- Finding it difficult to gain motivation for being active or moving your body/working out
- Binge eating
- The need for more sleep
- Tendency toward depressive symptoms
- Crying or expressing emotion multiple times per week
Let me say that it is not better or worse to identify with being more masculine or more feminine. Like I said, these are qualities that live within us all. The reason that I know that is is important to address is because if you’re stuck on one side of the chart, it really can feel like you’re off balance. So, I’ll outline some ways below for you to feel less stagnant, exhausted, and lost and feel more in-balance.
Now, I’m going to approach this from the lens of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is the psychotherapeutic theory that I mainly practice, along with some other modalities.
Energy Balancing via CBT
- Evaluate your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours: (pretty much what you just did by reviewing the above chart and reflecting on yourself). Look at your thoughts,”I have to complete this task for work so that people will like me, It’s extra, I took it on and I don’t want to do it.” Feelings, “I feel stressed and resentful”, Behaviours, “I did the work anyway but I snapped at my co-worker when she said that she expected it to be done sooner, I had already been in a rush to drop my kids off that morning”. In this example, the person was acting in the masculine energy of giving and doing but was clearly uncomfortable. Feminine energy is protective by nature and works to set healthy boundaries.
2. Identify core beliefs: How did I come to believe this? Were my parents always working, busy, rushing and in the masculine – is this why I feel the need to rest more, slow down more, and be in the feminine? Or, did I follow suit – do I truly believe that I have to be constantly busy in order to be successful? In order to be happy? Are these beliefs still true for me? Is this still serving me? Are these core beliefs still in line with my values? Ask yourself powerful questions, and you’ll generate insightful answers.
3. Challenge your automatic thoughts: *wakes up* “I feel exhausted today, I didn’t sleep well, but if I call in sick to work, people will think that I’m lazy and I won’t be productive today“. Challenge the negative thoughts that automatically pop into your head. “I ate so much over the weekend, I have to exercise hard all week and eat super clean” These restrictive thought patterns are leaning more toward masculine energetic traits. It’s OK to allow, rest, receive (use your time off if you have it!!), and to nurture yourself.
4. Set healthy boundaries: Feminine energy is protective in nature – that doesn’t mean closing yourself off and building up walls, it means setting boundaries. For example: saying No when you need to, saying thank you and accepting help if and when you need it, expressing gratitude toward others. Harness that feminine energy that so appreciates fostering a sense of community!
5. Strategies for cognitive flexibility: If you’re stuck in the masculine and your intense rigidity, structure, and discipline that once served you is no longer feeling supportive to you. Try the following to increase your cognitive flexibility.
- Practice approaching problems and decision making from different angles & trying new strategies. Step into big picture thinking and out of tunnel vision- out of the limbic system (fight-or-flight) and into using the prefrontal regions of the brain which aid in problem solving, organization, and planning.
- Switch up your routine to foster creativity and tolerance of change – cook new foods, try a different workout, walk your dog a different route or take the scenic route instead of the quick route on a drive, meet up with a friend for coffee at random, sign up for a fitness class in your community, go shopping in the evening or out for a walk before you turn the TV on. Whatever it is – try something NEW and different.
- Connect with others – therapist, friends, family, listen to podcasts, take a course, read books, social media – gain new perspectives through trial and error, learning vicariously through others, and acknowledging the experiences and advice of others. By doing this, you can then decide what works best for YOU.
6. Grounding exercises: Again, if you’re trapped in the masculine energy of overthinking and overanalyzing – get out of your head and into your body. To foster sensuality, activate your 5 senses – what can you See? Smell? Taste? Touch? Hear? Pair this grounding exercise with some deep breathing to really connect with your body. Breathe in through the nose 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, breathe out through the mouth 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, and repeat!
7. Activity Scheduling & Behavioural Activation: If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your feminine energy and aren’t quite sure where to start Activity scheduling is a great way to plan out and structure your days, click here for a pdf template. Use behavioural activation if you’re struggling with low-energy and low-motivation worksheet available here, this helps by taking you from that calm, feminine sense of being, right into the masculine traits of being active.
The most important thing is to become aware of your tendencies and to notice when you’re not acting in alignment with what you need. Excessive masculine energy can lead to burn out and exhaustion, while feminine energy in excess can lead to a sense of chaos and overwhelm. Try the strategies listed above to find balance within yourself and hopefully you’ll see a ripple effect in your life.