STAYING SANE Preserving Psychological Energy BY: Troy Murphy | May 2016
Mental resources are limited. We must strategically utilize and prioritize expenditures of precious energy. The power of the mind needs energy reinforcements to supplement the losses to combat the constant demands. The more actions requiring conscious thought, the quicker we become drained, falling flat to the demands of life. Self-discipline comes at an expended energy cost. Structure and habit relieves some of the demands on our mind. We conserve the precious resources of the mind through healthy habits, freeing resources for creativity and responses to critical junctures of opportunity and escape.
Loneliness, fear, anxiety and anger disrupt our systems, signaling change and demanding action. Minds and bodies react, evaluating circumstances and determining responses. This chain of events demands cognitive resources. Too much emotion overwhelms, flooding the system, and spilling over cognitive restraints-we react with impunity, ignoring consequences and destroying trust. Defiantly standing against the emotional storms weakens the soul, beating down the walls of determination, leaving us naked to temptation. We lose focus on future intentions, justify error, and create harmful trajectories. When we expend tremendous energy to stay balanced, few resources remain to constructively work towards long-term intentions.
Structure, designed to maximize resources, provides balance, and under ordinary circumstances keeps emotions within manageable levels. When we are inflicted with high sensitivity to the fluctuating emotions, we may require more structure. Built in schedules, spending, and quiet time relives the constant strain of choice. We do healthy things because they have become habit. If your life is chaotic, implementing structure will relieve stress. Establishing habits will be difficult at first, requiring massive amounts of self-discipline; we must rely on outside support. Others force accountability, rejecting the flimsy justifications with which we can easily mollify our own minds.
Structure is good—but has limitations. For some, flexibility is their challenge.
We react to the nuisance of displeasure in many unhealthy ways; calming unpalatable emotions through suppression, passively acquiescing to their demands or completely shutting down. The response requires cognitive effort, depleting the system of vitality. Feeling one emotions but expressing another is draining. Often encouraged by new-age-well-being experts, we suppress negative emotions and put on a happy face. “Sadness makes you feel bad so don’t feel sad,” we are advised. But suppression ignores important information conveyed to our mind through the experience of the body. Suppression has short term benefits; even required in some social interactions. But when emotional suppression permeates our lives, we become disconnected from our environment, losing authenticity, creating blocks to deeper connections.
We teach children to suppress the annoying expressions of intense emotions; the ability to suppress may serve the child in adulthood. Some of these children, through the over-exuberant parenting, become disconnected from feeling. Suppression doesn’t eliminate emotions. Our bodies still react to experience. Our minds just suppress the flow of information, losing insights and draining energy; behaviors still driven by the emotions just unrecognized and in need of faulty justifications. This chaotic emotional driven life suppressed of the valuable information through feeling damages relationships and interferes with planned futures. True connection demands empathetic understanding. Without recognizing emotion this is impossible.
Instead of suppression to give comfort, a better plan creates a life immune from the constant spikes of emotion. We structure our lives with healthy choices that improve health, financial stability, and intimate relationships—the flourishing life provides the inner-peace we seek. Restructuring our daily habits can’t be done alone. We need support—humbly seeking guidance. We don’t change through grit alone. Our plans for change must include creating environments that demand less choice, conserving energy for moments where we must engage self-discipline. These changes include built in date nights, destroying credit cards, and work-out partners. We must encircle ourselves with those that will keep us accountable, reporting deviations and stumblings.
When we struggle, our first impulse is to disconnect. Families working with an addict struggling towards sobriety know, once the addict begins to distance himself, trouble is usually afoot.
We must actively examine our lives for destructive habits that complicate futures. They create circumstances that will trigger emotions, disrupting our lives with instability.
We need more than energy conservation; we also must replenish. We replenish with rest, exercise and healthy eating. In addition, we improve vitality with meditation, prayer, or nature, calming the mind and escaping anxieties, rejuvenating the soul with self-discipline and creativity.
A depleted mind is a very suggestible and a pleasure-seeking machine. Unfortunately, many pleasures in the present complicate futures; creating more demand on limited resources. Slowly dragging us down and bolstering a destructive cycle of chaos. By utilizing small morsels of self-restraint to create healthy structures and form healthy habits, we can redirect energy later for greater successes—the cycle of growth. With growth, we discover increasing ability to process difficulties while diminishing the overwhelm of anxiety and fear. ~Troy Murphy