Drained.  Exhausted.  Depleted.  These are all words that can often point to the most overlooked type of replenishment and one every leader needs: Emotional Replenishment.

In this blog series we have been discussing energy management as a vital component to a leader’s performance.  Accessing pleasant and positive emotions is what enables our ability to excel from an emotional perspective.

Negative emotions are also necessary and we all experience them as part of being human.  The question is how we process and respond to our negative emotions in order to return to a place of emotional equilibrium.

In this blog post I am going to share three things I have learned about managing my emotional energy as I have been on my own replenishment journey the past few years.  There are many ideas and practices, so hopefully these three will serve to spark some ideas for your own replenishment cycle.

Cultivate Mindful Awareness

It is so easy to coast through our days without paying much attention to our emotions at all.

Attending to what we are feeling is the first step to becoming more aware of the link between our emotions and our energy and performance.

It can start simply.  Perhaps in those obvious moments when you are feeling strong emotions, pause and force yourself to name the emotion and the reason why you are feeling that way.  Or it could be as structured as setting a timer to go off every few hours and asking yourself to name your emotions in that moment.

Picture your emotional awareness like a muscle.  You need to exercise it to build that strength and skill.  Over time the awareness of what we are feeling and the ability to tie it with factors that influence our emotions is beneficial in managing our emotions.

This activity of cultivating a mindful awareness of our emotions at any given moment is a pre-requisite skill for the next two I mention.

Bounce Your Emotions

As a child my very wise mother would often remind us to bounce our eyes when something came on the television that might create a long-lasting picture that would have a negative impact.

Whether it was something gruesome or someone dressed immodestly, she taught us to bounce our eyes from the negative to the positive as she cultivated a desire to fix our eyes on what is truly good and beautiful.

It occurred to me that this principle is useful in cultivating emotional energy as well.  We will all experience negative emotions.  Rather than stuffing the negative emotion or exploding in response to it, there is a third option.

I am learning to acknowledge what I am feeling and to assess the reason why I am feeling that why (that mindful awareness we cultivated, remember?).

Then if the emotion is negative, I make a conscious choice to “bounce” my emotion.  I stop thinking about what is causing the negative emotion and replace that negative thought pattern with positive thoughts.

For me, this is usually thoughts of gratitude because I find that zooming out and focusing on all of the ways I am blessed helps to restore or clarify perspective.

Making Space

Finally, if you have not seen the movie Inside Out, I encourage you to do so.  It is a children’s movie with incredible insights on emotions that we as adults can learn from, too.

One of my takeaways from that movie was the reminder that we experience a full range of feelings.  It is possible to simultaneously feel two emotions that seem contradictory.

In fact, that is a sign of emotional growth and maturity.  We can view a situation and realize that sadness and joy can both be present.  Or that we can be both tough and tender.  Or that openness and discretion are not exclusive of one another.

We have to make space and build our capacity to feel these seemingly opposite emotions.  When we do we will find that our depth of understanding of situations grows immensely.

So, what are some specific ways to replenish emotionally?

There are many, and they are as individual as we are as people.

Walking is one thing on my replenishment cycle that is both physical and emotional.  While I am walking I exercise my gratitude muscle and focus on listing things that I am thankful for as I walk down one side of our building.

By the time I turn the corner, I might focus next on thinking about a question I am pondering or a verse from Scripture I am meditating on that day.  As I finish my lap and walk down the fourth side of the building, I am mentally preparing myself to go back to my desk and resume my work.

Another common way to replenish emotionally is through relationships.  Spending time with people we love in ways that connect deeply is powerful and energizing.

Having hobbies or activities you enjoy can also bring pleasant emotions and re-fill our emotional energy tank.

There are many ways that you can replenish emotionally.  Any activity that you enjoy can be a source of renewal.

The important thing is that you remember to exercise your emotional muscles regularly with periods of intermittent recovery.

Our emotional capacity and emotional intelligence are not static.  We can each grow in the basic skills needed to fuel and maintain our emotional energy.