How to Maintain Your Emotional Energy in 3 Steps

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Notice, Label, and Stop!

Did we leave you intrigued by the last line in our previous article? This “tease” of a cliffhanger was designed to make the invisible visible. The notion is that one’s emotional energy tank is often running on empty without our noticing.

Surely, you could think of instances when you’ve been emotionally EXHAUSTED without even acknowledging it. As Van Gogh sagely stated; “Let’s not forget, the little emotions are the captains of our lives, and we obey them without realizing it.”

We all suffer from both small and large leaks in our emotional energy tanks. And each type of drain impacts our ability to function, leaving us exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually. So, before your energy slips away again, let’s explore this process step by step.

Imagine the following scenario: Ruth enters her office. She had prepared for the day’s meeting the night before by laying out all of the relevant materials. She is now stunned to find that all her materials are now GONE!

How would you feel if you were Ruth? What would be going through your mind?

Ruth felt anger bubbling up inside her, as the movies in her mind developed at lightning speed:

  • Who could’ve done it?
  • Why did they do it?
  • How could anyone be so disrespectful?

Ruth’s emotional energy tank drained in an instant. Perhaps your emotional energy tank feels drained just from recollecting this story. What’s worse, unless Ruth recognizes and addresses her energy drain, she is capable of bringing this negative energy with her into the meeting. Her colleagues would sense her agitation without having a clue from where it stems.

Fear not! Just like Ruth, you can prevent this from happening to you. We’ll start by demystifying what an emotional energy tank is. Then we’ll examine the role self-awareness plays in keeping that tank filled and functioning optimally.

Our emotional energy tank represents our ability to maintain perspective and leverage our emotional intelligence. This regulation allows us to remain connected to the present moment. Unlike with other energy tanks, when this source is full, we’re in a state of emotional equilibrium. You know the feeling: grounded, clear headed, and equipped to manage whatever arises. We can stay curious, hopeful and connected. When our emotional energy tank runs low, we can feel irritated, impatient, frustrated, anxious and defensive. This can lead to a sense of isolation. “It’s me against the world.”

Now, let’s return to the notion that simply the thought of such an event has the power to drain our emotional energy tank. Reframe this notion as a retrospective, instead. Reflection can be a tool to employ the growth mindset and activate agency. With this attitude, you can proactively intervene next time something triggers you. And the good news is that you can employ a simple three-step method to mitigate your emotional energy tank from being drained unnecessarily:

  1. Notice when the trigger occurs.
  2. Label the emotion(s) that creep in.
  3. Stop and recognize what’s happening.

These three steps will keep you grounded and connected so you can maintain perspective. When you are able to notice (Step 1) and feel the emotions that are bubbling up, you can name them (Step 2). Once you label your reflexive reaction to an incident, you have the ability to address the feeling that is derived from the emotion.

For example, Ruth could have said out loud, “I’m feeling angry about what has happened”. Once she’s named the feeling that is derived from the emotion, she can do something about it. Dangerous curve here; naming a feeling isn’t as easy as it sounds; it takes practice. After all, angry feelings can present differently for each of us, taking the form of frustration, or fear, or resentment, to name just a few.

When you become aware of the emotion  that impedes connection to those around you (Step 3), you can act on it . The reward of a filled emotional energy tank is the ability to remain ‘connected’. This is similar to a filled physical energy tank leaving us ‘energized’ and capable.

It’s critical to hone our competence for connection, not only with others but with ourselves in times of emotional stress and imbalance. Begin by asking yourself how often your inner critic ‘told’ you to get upset with yourself because you were running out of time to complete a task. How often have you been tricked by your inner critic into adding more to your calendar than you actually intended to? (Yep, it happens to us, too!)

When we’re successful with these three steps, we stay connected– both with ourselves and with others. Connection is important as it helps us gain perspective beyond ourselves, and thus we can remain in communication with people around us  about areas in which we agree and, more importantly, areas of non-alignment and disagreement.

When Ruth  discovered all her meeting materials were gone, her reflexive emotion was anger. “Someone ignored my work, and was disrespectful of my efforts.” This was the movie she saw in her mind. If she had widened her lens, she could have considered that perhaps a night cleaner had just been doing their job.

Widening the lens is only possible when we’re self-aware and then notice, label, and stop. If Ruth had employed the suggested three-step method, she would have soon realized that the action wasn’t against her. It was the result of a lack of communication.

In the future, she may consider leaving a note in the meeting room, requesting others leave the work untouched, with an indication of when the ‘mess’ would be removed. There could be many variations of how a future scenario ends for Ruth.

By learning from this past experience, Ruth will be able to better manage her emotional energy in the future. This will allow her to best access her mental energy which, as a knowledge worker, is what she gets paid for. Join us as we explore Mental Energy as the next stop on this energetic exploration!


Deborah Goldstein is the founder of the Driven Professionals, a community driven to support the health, well-being & success potential of NYC professionals. Deborah is also the founder of Goldie’s Table Matters, providing education and entertainment to both corporate and private clients nationwide.

Ute Franzen-Waschke

Ute Franzen-Waschke is passionate about developing people for the international workplace. Throughout her career, she has worked with her clients on co-creating environments that allow individuals, teams, and businesses to thrive, be the focus on communication, relationship, or corporate cultures. Ute is doing research on how Coaching can support wellbeing and engagement in contemporary corporate work environments. She is the author of the book “How to create a successful remote work culture”, Co-author of the book “Changing Conversations for a Changing World Vol 1 & 2”.

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