What to Do When Your Emotional Energy is Drained

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Do you ever have those times in your life when you feel overwhelmingly tired? When EVERYTHING feels impossibly tricky, and you have zero energy. Even getting through the day feels like a marathon of marathons.

Maybe you’ve even lost interest in doing things that once brought you great pleasure. Or you feel as if your work and home lives are crushing you beneath a gigantic mountain of obligation.

There are countless reasons you may be feeling fatigued. Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep at night. Your diet is a bit off-kilter. Or perhaps you are even having issues with your thyroid.

But what happens when you’ve ruled out all possible physical causes for feeling fatigued? What then?

I’ve been there before. I struggled to find answers about why I feel caught in a dense fog of weariness. And the search for answers led me on a journey of self-discovery toward a transformation in both mindset and energy.

This journey led me on a path toward doing less, being more present, and, most importantly, tapping into the power of emotional energy.

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What is emotional energy?

To understand emotional energy, we must first acknowledge our bodies as being comprised of equal parts, physical and psychological. Each impacts the other and therefore contributes different types of energy.

In the most basic sense of the term, emotional energy is the energy we obtain from our emotions. And there are experts, including author and psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum, who believe the emotional contribution is even larger than the physical one.

I think everyone has their concept of emotional energy, and we are conditioned to believe that we are at the mercy of our emotions. There’s also a belief that the experience of having feelings is deeply embedded in our brains at birth. And if this were true, it would mean that we have very little control over our emotions.

Believe me when I say that I was as shocked as anyone when I recently listened to a TED talk by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett that challenged everything I thought I knew.

And what I learned is that your brain is constantly making predictions in an attempt to create meaning. Emotions are, in fact, neutral until you assign significance to them. And that significance comes from your brain’s ability to make predictions based upon past experiences.

In other words, your emotions are created entirely by you. And as such, you have far more control over your emotions than you thought.

Why is emotional energy significant?

Not only are our brains in charge of assigning meaning to emotions, but biologically speaking, our brains are designed to look for danger. A primary function of the brain is keeping the body safe and it accomplishes this by constantly searching for potential threats.

Left unchecked, our natural tendency to focus on the negative and construct worst-case scenarios can deplete emotional energy and leave us feeling completely and utterly drained.

I have to confess that I’ve spent much of my life avoiding strong and predominantly negative emotions. It’s almost as if I thought I could deny their entire existence and never have to face feelings such as embarrassment, shame, or sadness.

Unfortunately, this practice of ignoring a specific set of emotions led to an overall decreased awareness of all emotions. And in fact, failing to recognize the impact of emotional energy in my life is just as harmful as not treating high blood pressure or diabetes.

Our mental and emotional well-being is just as essential to our overall sense of wellness as our physical state. Unfortunately, there is a shocking lack of credible information out there about how to care for our emotional well-being.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across an incredibly thought-provoking TED talk by Dr. Guy Winch that I suddenly realized how little I knew about emotional energy and its impact on how one feels physically.

Armed with this new knowledge, I began piecing together a completely new outlook on emotional energy. And the new outlook is based upon the knowledge that what you think about is what you get.

The Mind-Body Connection

Remember all that stuff about physical and emotional components? As it turns out, emotions can trigger a physical response in the body.

Think back to a time when you were extremely nervous about something. It could be a test, a performance, or even a difficult conversation. How were you feeling physically?

In my experience, being nervous means my heart races, my palms get sweaty, and my hands shake. Maybe you have similar physical sensations when nerves start to rise.

Regardless of your exact sensations, apprehension is the easiest to begin connecting emotional energy to physical awareness. And once you make this connection, it becomes easier to tap into the more subtle emotions.

As a general rule, negative emotions typically result in physical sensations of contraction within the body. The sensation is very similar to the rock, which suddenly appears in the pit of your stomach with bad or unexpected news.

On the other hand, positive emotions often present as the sensation of expansion. Think about the light, airy feeling you get after completing a complex task you have been dreading for weeks.

Understanding how to interpret your emotions is crucial to conserving and enhancing your emotional energy because it’s tough to change something about which you’re clueless!

It also gives you the ability to manage emotion on a deeper level because we often feel emotions physically before our “thinking brain” has even had a chance to process the event. And the better we are at identifying emotions, the easier it becomes to manipulate our emotional energy.

How does your emotional energy get depleted?

Although the ultimate goal is to improve your emotional energy, it’s vital to first understand how it gets drained in the first place. One of the biggest culprits is chronic stress.

Chronic Stress

Life is stressful. But nothing drains your emotional energy faster than prolonged and unrelieved stress. The type of stress that comes from high-pressure jobs, intense schooling, or even the decision to have kids.

All three are scenarios where you often feel as if you have no control over your life. And without positive coping strategies, you may begin suppressing your emotions to get through the day without a breakdown.

Suppressing your emotions may be effective in the short-term, but it leads to emotional numbing and even depression over time. And it takes you further and further away from happiness and an overall sense of well-being.

Being Indecisive

Another huge drain on emotional energy is being indecisive. Indecisiveness zaps all your energy by causing you to continually go back and forth, mentally weighing out the pros and cons of a particular situation.

The pitfalls of indecisiveness are especially evident with big life decisions, but it can also happen with too many small, daily choices. It’s almost as if you have a set amount of emotional energy and instead of focusing it all in one area, you spend a little bit everywhere without anything to show for it at the end of the day.

No Boundaries

A lack of personal boundaries is a classic source of drained emotional energy. It’s similar to being indecisive in that your emotional energy gets spread too thin.

Even worse is the fact that you’re probably spending your energy in places that aren’t even that important to you. Energy is, unfortunately, a finite resource and requires careful consideration before spending it. And when you have no boundaries, your energy gets scattered here, there, and everywhere.

Perfectionism

Yet another source of drained emotional energy is perfectionism. Contrary to popular belief, perfectionism is more than high standards. Perfectionism is the belief that one can attain completely unattainable levels.

And what’s worse is the fact that more often than not, we often impose perfectionism upon ourselves. It’s an internal form of aggression that is particularly destructive because you can’t escape yourself. Nor can you ever feel satisfaction at a job well done because you’ll never reach the standards you set for yourself.

How Can You Improve Your Emotional Energy?

Now that you understand the significant contributors to a drain in your emotional energy, it’s time to move on to how you can plug those drains!

Identify the Source

One of the first things you can do to improve your emotional energy is to pay attention to your emotions. There can be many contributors to feeling down, but until you correctly identify the one(s) explicitly impacting you, it will be challenging to make positive changes.

I recently read this transformative book called Do Less by Kate Northrup that suggests you start listening to yourself. Pay attention to your body and how specific thoughts make you feel on a physical level.

We often spend so much time ignoring our emotions and physical sensations in the name of productivity that we lose that valuable connection. But if you start small such as with decisions about what to have for breakfast or how you should spend a couple of free hours this weekend, you’ll soon see huge returns on your overall well-being.

Reverse Chronic Stress

Once you incorporate listening to yourself again, you may realize that chronic stress is at the root of your emotional energy crisis. Although solving this type of issue can be a bit trickier, there are small steps you can take to start feeling more revived.

If the energy drain is your career, try to identify the specific situations causing distress. Spend some time digging into both the situation and your response to see whether it’s possible to transform your mindset and approach it from a more positive angle.

As a nurse practitioner who strictly sees patients in the nursing home setting, this past year has been incredibly stressful for me. After reflecting on my low energy state, I was finally able to recognize the full impact my career has had.

Switching careers isn’t exactly an option at this point, so I began searching for other answers. My search led me to a book called The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer.

This book taught me how to let go of situations where I had no control and be present. These are both essential tools to begin dealing with significant stressors you may not necessarily have complete control over. I learned that sometimes acceptance is the best way to start feeling better.

And although acceptance is one option, choosing to leave a situation you can’t overcome is undoubtedly another valid one. Whether it’s a toxic work environment, a career you chose to appease someone else, or a relationship that simply isn’t working, walking away is sometimes the best option.

Find Your Tribe

Have you ever noticed that certain people energize you and others who completely drain you? It’s fascinating to think that, unlike physical energy, we can get emotional energy from the people around us.

And I’m sure you’ve heard that famous saying about how we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. It’s so true and points to the importance of surrounding yourself with people who fill your cup rather than dump it.

Start paying attention to who you spend your time with and if they change your vibe for the negative, consider searching for a new tribe.

Resolve the Unresolved

Whether it’s perfectionism, indecision, or a lack of boundaries, start taking steps to resolve whatever is draining your emotional energy. Start taking measures to not only recognize what’s holding you back but to take action toward solving it.

In my own life, meditation and journaling have been incredibly beneficial in helping me step towards higher emotional energy states. Meditation teaches you how to stay present, especially if you tend to gravitate toward the past or the future.

Journaling helps bring up thoughts and feelings hiding deep inside but are draining your emotional energy. There’s something about putting pen to paper that releases negativity and truly enables you to resolve whatever is holding you back.

It also highlights the fact that we can’t out-think our brains. In other words, simply telling your mind to stop with the negativity and hamster wheel of worst-case scenarios is entirely ineffective. But learning how to connect the physical with the psychological is influential and critical to truly transforming your life and improving your emotional energy.

Other Resources to Improve Your Emotional Energy

Whether it’s a lack of energy or juggling too many projects at once, my passion is helping women overcome whatever is holding them back. I’ve encountered barriers in my own life but have also experienced the triumph of overcoming them and want to help others do the same.

Check out these posts for more motivation and inspiration to overcome that one thing threatening to hold you back!

And if you’re looking for even more tips to improve your emotional energy, here are a few of my favorites!

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I sincerely hope this post has inspired you to examine your life and work towards a higher emotional energy state by addressing the negative and channeling the positive. Remember that you are amazing and have a unique contribution to make in the world. But you need positive energy to make your impact!

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on emotional energy and what you think may be holding you back from a higher energy state.

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