How to Take Charge of Your Emotional Energy at Work

As published in Huffington Post December 16th 2014.

Let’s face it. Work takes up a lot of our emotional energy.

Add in a difficult colleague, feeling disconnected from your job, or the frustration of being constantly overlooked, and I guarantee that this will carry over into your home life.

I recently spoke with Lisa Petrilli, international leadership strategist and author of The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership, about maintaining your emotional wellbeing at work.

Lisa’s unique perspective comes partly from her work in redefining Introverts as those who draw their energy from their inner world–a revolutionary insight for those who struggle to preserve their energy throughout the workday, but don’t fit the traditional introverted label of shy. This inner world of ideas is the main source of energy for an introvert, as opposed to an extrovert who primarily gains emotional benefits from interacting with other people.

Regardless of whether you draw your emotional energy from interacting with others or from your own inner world, the ability to sustain your emotional energy at work is key to your overall wellbeing.

Preserving Your Emotional Energy Through Awareness.

Lisa explained to me that one of the biggest obstacles to emotional wellbeing in our work life is, “When we don’t pay enough attention our emotions.”

Her company, Vanda Inc., uses the term positive consciousness to recognize that although our intent is to be positive at work, there will always be things that trigger us–things that we can’t dismiss by simply thinking positively. We must intentionally address these emotions by asking ourselves questions such as, “What was it about [the triggering event] that made me angry?”

When we focus our awareness onto our emotional and physical reactions at work, we give ourselves the opportunity to get to the bottom of a trigger and become free from it. This ultimately allows us to better sustain our emotional energy.

Lisa taught me that the simplest way to practice this awareness when triggered is to close your office door or go to the restroom. Pause and breathe deeply. Recognize how you are feeling and what is happening in that moment.

Lisa warned that if we do not acknowledge our emotions, this creates a buildup, which then causes a ripple effect in our life both at work and at home.

Is Clarity or Fear Dictating Your Decisions?

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with people who feel disconnected from their job, and yet they do not feel that they can leave their current work situation. I asked Lisa what effect this can have on one’s emotional wellbeing, and she pointed out that it depends on where the decision to stay is coming from.

If you are choosing to stay in a job that is not aligned to your purpose or values, this could be a decision based on fear. You may be afraid to find a new path, or there may be a parent’s voice in your head that causes you to shrink back. If this fear is negatively affecting your emotional energy levels, it’s time to start peeling back a few layers to work through it.

On the other hand, your choice to stay may be coming from a place of clarity, where you are actively working to discover what you want. Further clarity may be pursued through reflection in solitude or from conversations with others, depending on how you are wired. In this situation, you can actually feel energized even though you are staying in your current job.

Lisa explains that clarity about “who you are and what you want” leads to good choices. When we lack clarity, we can quickly lose our authentic path and it becomes challenging to maintain our emotional wellbeing.

Prioritizing Your Time in Small, Simple Steps.

Lisa outlined several practical ways for busy women and men to prioritize their time at work, in order to provide better emotional alignment.

First, she emphasizes that you must, “know who you are and what’s in your own higher good.”

We all have our own distinct strengths and passions. By prioritizing our time according to our natural talents, we will find we have more energy at the end of the day.

We will also find more energy when we start to build awareness in others of what we bring to the table. Introverts, who may struggle with this due to a preference for their inner world of ideas, can creatively become more visible through one on one dialogues or electronic communication.

Another suggestion Lisa gives is to simplify how we try to help others. She points out that, “We don’t have to worry about helping other people…it’s all going to come back to you.”

Essentially, a 10 minute coaching conversation, recognizing a junior staff’s efforts in a presentation, or a quick email that connects two people will give you an emotional boost without bogging you down with over-commitment.

Finally, we need to have the courage to ask for what we want or need at work. If you are passionate about a particular project or working with a specific mentor, advocate for yourself. When we let others know what we want, we create opportunities to energize ourselves.

If you suspect that you fit into Lisa’s definition of an Introvert, I would highly recommend that you read her book, The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership for more practical tips on navigating your work life. You can also read more about understanding your purpose and mission as a leader on her Visionary Leadership blog.

If you would like some additional tips on developing emotional wellness both at work and at home, visit me at Secondhand Therapy for your free eBook, Start Investing in Your Emotional Wellbeing: 25 Practical Tips for Moving Beyond Survival Mode.

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