Do you recall the sensation of finally getting something off your chest or resolving a situation with a friend? Of how much of a relief it was and how much lighter you felt afterwards? Isn’t it funny how often it’s only with retrospect that we realise how much that situation was taking up space within us? How heavy it was on our shoulders?
This points to the fact that the more small or large matters we have unresolved, the less energy we have for our life.
There’s a huge range of what I would call ‘unresolved matters’ – from practical things at home like needing a faucet fixed or finding one of the kids has outgrown their bed and needs new furniture, to financial challenges, to conflict or misunderstanding in a close relationship. A very obvious unresolved matter for many of us at the moment is the uncertainty of the pandemic situation and all that comes with it. It’s creating uncertainty at home, school, work; everywhere. Another is the challenge and division among and within some families, friends and work groups because of the differing views and understandings of what is occurring and the impact of current mandates on our businesses and lives. These are all placing pressure on some relationships and sit in the category of ‘unresolved matters’.
It’s not only that these kinds of things take up valuable mental real estate, and have us thinking about the situation at various times when we might want headspace for other things, they also consume our emotional energy and space. This happens through not only how we feel about the situation – whether it’s frustration, concern, grief, fear or impatience – there’s also the work we are doing in the background of our consciousness to keep these feelings at bay and not get overwhelmed or distracted by them. We’re often keeping things parked off to the side or pushed down while we get on with the day-to-day.
This dynamic alone can take up a lot of our consciousness and leave us with less energy for day-to-day life, the activities right in front of us and the people around us. We might be less present, have less creative energy for creating or solving things, and find ourselves somewhat preoccupied without knowing quite why.
All of this of course can drain us physically, especially if it’s keeping us awake at night or triggering our stress response periodically, because that will usually drain us in the end.
So what can you do to help mitigate these dynamics and preserve your energy? Here are a few simple tips:
Make some space for yourself to be with the situation
While it can be tempting to put the more challenging unresolved situations in the too hard basket and just truck on with life, we can really free ourselves up and support ourselves if we do give some space to what we are feeling and what we need. It can also be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we have to wait for the other person to resolve this with us before we can feel okay within ourselves. This is like handing over our internal wellbeing to somebody else. I prefer to look at it as something that I am responsible for. My inner wellbeing is on me and I will do my best to take care of myself whilst this unresolved matter between us is present. This is something I share with clients a lot – it’s called ‘self-soothing’ and is discussed in detail in Dr David Schnarch’s excellent book Passionate Marriage. We also talk about self-soothing in my RISE programme as a way to strengthen your own sovereignty.
One way to give yourself emotional space at a very practical level is to journal/write.
You might write down how you’re feeling about the situation, what you’re feeling in control of about it and what you’re not, what you feel you need and what you’d like to give the other person.
Clear up your own emotional content
Somewhat related to the first point, often life situations have a tendency to press our buttons and I always see that as a gift (sometimes more retrospectively if I’m honest because sometimes it’s really not fun to be triggered!). The gift in it is that it’s pointing you towards an emotional reaction that you’re having that you can then choose to take care of should you want to. For instance, if I’ve been triggered into anger by someone – and especially if I notice it happens repeatedly – I will usually turn to myself and look at whether that is an emotional pattern within myself to heal, irrespective of whether the relationship also needs attending to in some way. And it’s amazing how the dynamic of a relationship can shift once we’ve done our own inner work.
Define an ideal outcome
It’s also true that despite how much inner work we may do for ourselves, certain people will still play out their own behaviours and there will still be certain dynamics at play. So, another way to help move situations in a positive and preferred direction is using intentions. Take a blank piece of paper and describe an ideal outcome for the situation. You can do this for virtually anything – whether it’s a piece of ideal bedroom furniture or how you want to be experiencing a relationship. Describe the relationship as if it was ideal. And start small if needed by describing the ideal outcome of a conversation you need to have with someone. What would you like to have happen? How would you to be feeling? How would you like the other person to be feeling? What possibilities would you like to have available?
The power of intentions cannot be overstated.
This is where you are using your conscious mind and your free will to intend an ideal outcome for something in your life. This can create a powerful alchemy that serves not just yourself but those around you as well.
Make time to actually deal with it
This sounds obvious, but we can procrastinate on it when we think it might take more energy than we have or it feels too big to deal with in one go. If this is the case, decide what the smallest next step is and just do that bit. In many cases, it’s only when that is complete that the next step becomes clear anyway. The irony too is that when we do finally get around to take the half hour or hour it might need to deal with it, the relief and headspace we get back can often make us wonder why we didn’t do it earlier! It’s usually worth prioritising.
It will be those people who have dealt with their own inner emotional ‘luggage’, or who are dealing with it, who will fare the best in the coming months and years, as further challenges arise and we need to continually step up.
Historically, we’ve been a little obsessed with having enough time and money. I believe the most valuable commodity these days is energy (actually energy and love to be more precise).
So look out for where you can preserve and lift your energy in your day-to-day life by clearing away any heavy emotional energy hanging around and free yourself!