If you’re an adult, you are responsible for your mental and emotional well-being. No one else is.
During the month of February, we’ve been blogging about mental and emotional health. We’ve explored How to Become Your Own Best Friend; Discover the Power of Assertiveness, and Protect Yourself from Abuse.
Today we wrap up our series by unpacking how to fill your emotional tank.
Here’s something we need to embrace: God hasn’t called us to run a sprint. He’s called us to run a marathon. Filling our emotional tanks sets us up to be good marathoners. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Let’s be honest—sometimes His yoke seems anything but easy. But I wonder if that’s because we take on some things Jesus never intended us to. When it comes to refueling emotionally, there are three baselines we have to know:
Baseline 1: You can’t give what you don’t have
If you have little-to-no fuel in your emotional tank, it is difficult to keep running the race you’re called to—not because you’re a bad person—but because you have nothing left to run on.
Baseline 2: You are an emotional being
We’re not just body and spirit. We’re 3-part beings body, spirit and soul. And the soul component includes our thinking patterns and the emotions we attach to those thinking patterns.
Baseline 3: We need to pay attention to 3 key emotional indicators
These indicators tell us how much emotional fuel we have in our tank. Wouldn’t it be great if we could invent an emotional Fitbit that would alert us when we’re running low on emotional fuel? Until somebody invents that, we have to rely on other indicators:
Indicator 1: Your pace (schedule)
A quick glance at your calendar would give us insight into your emotional fuel level. Many leaders operate in the realm of extremes when it comes to pace. They either work a hundred hours per week or five hours per week. If you lean toward workaholic tendencies, we’re not suggesting you overreact to that by swinging to the opposite extreme of laziness. If you’re lazy, knock it off and start producing. If you’re a workaholic, knock it off and stop trying to do what God’s called you to do in your own strength. Laziness and workaholism are unhealthy twins. Health is somewhere in the middle.
Indicator 2: Your people (friendships)
Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” Leadership sets you up for isolation, and isolation is good only in small doses. Extended isolation leads to emotional trouble. There is no pill for loneliness. If you can’t remember the last time you hung out with close friends just to hang out and have some good, clean fun . . . you may be running on emotional fumes. If you want a full emotional tank, block off time in your calendar to spend with healthy, replenishing people.
Indicator 3: Your plan (emotional maintenance plan)
Most of us have a maintenance plan for our car or truck. We change the oil every several thousand miles and rotate the tires. The purpose is to extend its life. Very few of us have an emotional maintenance plan. Here are some emotional maintenance plan items:
Item 1: Laughter
Proverbs 17:22 says: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Ever felt better after a good belly laugh? The feel-good rush we experience is chemical in nature. Mood-enhancing chemicals are released in our brain, and stress is tamped down.
Item 2: Exercise
Much like laughter, exercise helps to burn off nervous energy and reduce stress. Recent research indicates exercise may actually help to create new brain cells. Could you use a few more of those?
Item 3: Healthy Distraction
Refueling emotionally requires you to occasionally inject a little bit of distraction into your life. Not a lot of distraction. Just a little. Here are some ideas to for healthy distraction:
- Plant some flowers
- Play 18 holes
- Take a walk on the beach
- Visit an art museum
Item 4: Sleep
Seven-to-nine hours of sleep nightly gives your brain space to repair itself. To flush toxins. The right amount of sleep is a leader’s cheat code. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are hungover outperform those lacking sleep.
In Mark 6:30-32 we read, “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, (ever been that busy?) He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
Jesus prioritized rest. And if you observe His life, you discover that He was never stressed out (except for Gethsemane). One reason why? He had this refueling thing figured out. If we figure it out too, we’ll be able to lead longer, lead better, and have more fun along the way.
The good news today is we don’t have to do 50 things to stay healthy emotionally . . . just a few. Here is the emotional infrastructure required to enjoy sustained health:
- Become your own best friend
- Discover the power of assertiveness
- Protect yourself from abuse
- Fill your emotional tank
You can read more in-depth on these life-changing behaviors in my book, Unshakable You: Five Choices of Emotionally Healthy People.
Through February 28th you can grab a copy here for 50% off the regular price.
You may be thinking, “Anxiety and depression will never happen to me.” I sincerely hope you’re right. But if you’re a leader, statistically you’re a likely candidate for these evil twins. If you’ll take action now . . . build a healthy, preventive approach now . . . you’ll reduce the likelihood of needing an emotional root canal down the road.
Rooting and praying for you,