Emotional energy is the resource available to run the psychological component of our lives.
Like other power sources, we have finite amounts at our disposal. Yet many of us squander this precious commodity and end up feeling tired, impatient, irritable and overwhelmed.
Below are five unnecessary behaviors that sap our emotional energy. Recognizing and avoiding these pitfalls will ensure you have more fuel in your psychological tank.
1. Holding grudges
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Grudges are bouts of long-held anger that center on an identified issue. We use psychic energy every time we recall the event, foster self-righteous indignation or act unkindly toward the precipitating party. We can even make grudges a habit and direct needless energy toward their continuation without realizing what we’re doing.
Solution: Catch grudge-holding in the act. Take a deep breath. Then say, “I want to let this go.” Think about something pleasant. Repeat the process as often as necessary.
Worrying directs our thoughts toward events that may never happen and makes us feel powerless and afraid. Worrying is different than planning. Worrying is an irrational process with no endpoint. Planning addresses a specific problem and, when the plan is in place, requires no further input.
Solution: Stay in the present moment. Don’t fret about what might happen. Steer clear of fear-inducing movies or watching excessive amounts of news. Practice meditation and other self-calming strategies.
3. Taking on others’ problems
It’s good to be compassionate, but some folks make a career out of inserting themselves where they don’t belong. Neighbors, adult children or co-workers seldom want or need our input. Plus, our hovering sends a bad message: “I know more than you. You can’t do this without me.”
Solution: Tell yourself, “This is not my problem.” If your help is requested, follow the asker’s lead. Then graciously bow out when your task is complete.
4. Not making decisions
The decision-making process inherently requires mental energy. The longer we take to make the decision, the more energy we expend. People avoid decisions because they worry they’ll make a mistake or they like (or dislike) both options. But that aversion only makes matters worse. Not only do they still have to make a decision, they’ve added angst to the equation.
Solution: Identify the decision that needs to be made. Select the key factors to consider. Don’t obsess about pointless details; they only cloud your thinking. Give yourself a specific deadline. Once the decision’s been made, don’t rethink it. Move on to something new.
Overreacting is the art of elevating ho-hum occurrences to VIP status. We can do this on multiple levels: with our thoughts (“I replay this over and over in my head!”); with our words (“This is the worst possible day of my life!”); and with our actions (“I can’t wait another minute!”) Overreacting heightens urgency and drama that may actually interfere with the task at hand. Of course, appropriate reactions are subjective. But whenever possible, it’s best to stay calm.
Solution: Avoid inflammatory language. Make observations instead of judgments. Keep your cool if someone else is flipping out.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.