“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert
I felt zapped. Depleted. Drained. Out of gas. And I wasn’t sure why.
- Enough sleep? Check.
- Enough exercise? Check.
- Enough nutritious food and vitamins? Check.
- Health check-ups and tests up to date? Check and check.
- Reasonable schedule? Check.
I thought I felt this way because I’d recently had surgery to remove a sizeable tumor.
But that had gone smoothly, and I was fully recovered and back to my regular schedule.
However, there was one thing that I noticed since the surgery: I was angry and couldn’t seem to shake it. I don’t think I realized the grip it had on me until I started trying to figure out the source of my low energy.
I began to wonder if my anger and inability to let go of it could be the cause. I also wondered why I was so angry when the surgery and recovery had gone so well. I should have been happy that the tumor was benign.
I was in it, but not necessarily conscious of it and not realizing what it was doing to me. The best way to describe it would be an automatic emotional reaction coupled with a lack of awareness.
I had been zapped by my emotions!
How we manage and deal with our emotions affects our energy big time.
Here are four steps to process your emotions so they don’t zap your energy.
1. Be mindful and consciously aware of your emotions.
Before we can manage anything, we need to be aware of it instead of acting on autopilot. Awareness puts us in the driver’s seat and allows us to not only engage in the experience, but also decide how we want to respond to it. In this case, we need to realize how the energy of our emotions affects us.
I noticed that I had been low in energy, and by the process of elimination and observing my behavior, I realized I had been stuck in anger. I had been irritable, argumentative, and overreacting to the smallest things. Once I had observed my behavior, I acknowledged that anger was becoming my main emotional state.
The next time you catch yourself in an emotional experience, try to notice your behavior and identify the feeling behind it. This will give you insight and a new ability to manage it.
2. Identify what thoughts are triggering the emotions.
Once you’ve observed your behavior and identified the emotion that’s zapping your energy, you need to see what thoughts may be triggering it.
After I identified that I was stuck in anger, I kept thinking about the surgery and the events that led up to it. I had felt pain in my abdomen, so I went to the doctor and told her this.
She did a regular check-up and said there was nothing wrong. I was relieved to hear this, and went home and didn’t give it another thought—until I started feeling pain again.
I went back and told her that I felt pain and I was sure there was something wrong. It was a very strong intuitive feeling. This time she did a quick check and said, once again, “There is nothing wrong with you.”
I questioned her about the pain, but she rolled her eyes and said, “Ignore it. At a certain age everything starts to hurt.”
I asked if I should get a test or an ultrasound, but she said it wasn’t necessary, so, despite my intuition, I went home.
A few days later, I was in pain again and began to think it was my imagination, because a doctor that I trusted said, “Don’t worry; nothing is wrong.”
My intuition kept telling me I needed to get a second opinion. So I went to another doctor who immediately sent me for a test and quickly scheduled me for surgery after having found a tumor.
Having gone back through the events, I realized that the few days before the surgery I was livid about what had happened. What if it was cancer? I let precious months slip by because I didn’t listen to my intuition.
After the surgery, I was so focused on recovering that I guess I just put it out of my mind. After I recovered, the anger set in again, but it wasn’t until I started searching for the cause of my low energy that it started to make sense.
The thoughts running through my mind post-surgery were: Why didn’t she take me seriously? How dare she blow me off like that? Why didn’t I challenge her and insist on a test? All these thoughts were triggering anger. I was stuck in it, but not aware enough to figure it all out.
Always try to connect your thoughts to the emotion you’re expressing. In recognizing the thoughts, you’re able to address them to move through the emotion.
3. Lean into the emotion and learn from it.
When we suppress our emotions, we send that energy underground, with toxic effects.
Don’t suppress your emotions, but also don’t get caught in the energy of them. When we let our emotions hijack us, it’s like we’re on a runaway train. We are not in control. We may get addicted to the surge of emotion and get stuck in it.
This is what happened to me when I was angry after my surgery; my emotion dictated my behavior, which depleted my energy. When I acknowledged what was happening and leaned into the emotion, I was able to identify the problem instead of just suppressing it.
When we lean into an emotion, we can learn from it.
4. Respond proactively to the emotion and transition from it.
When an emotion lingers, we don’t have to get stuck in it.
Now when I feel a powerful surge of emotion that I think will hijack my energy and time, I take a deep breath. I then visualize a simple picture with the cause, the emotion I’m feeling, and the action I can take to shift out of it and deal with what caused my reaction.
For example, if something makes me angry, I visualize anger in a red circle with an arrow pointing to what caused it and another arrow pointing to the releasing action.
The releasing action usually has two parts: The first part deals with the energy shift. For example, if I’m angry about something, I absolutely have to fit in some form of exercise as soon as possible. Even if I don’t have time and it’s just twenty sit-ups or a quick walk. This releases the energy in a healthy way and clears my mind.
The second part deals with the cause and what action I can take to address it. In this instance, I promised myself I would always be my own advocate and insist on a test if I feel it is necessary.
Make this process a habit and it will have a great effect on your energy, happiness, and productivity.
You can only manage your emotions to the extent that you’re aware of them. Creating awareness gives you the chance to maximize and manage your experience. And by doing so, you can avoid getting stuck and depleting your most valuable resource: energy!
Have you ever felt like your energy was zapped by your emotions? What helped you move past it?
Photo by AlexanderStein