• Janna Lauer

Stress Management: Part 2 of 5, Rest & Our Emotional Experience

Rest is perhaps the simplest and arguably the most essential form of self-care. We need it both physically and mentally. And there are many dimensions to the benefits and the possibilities of rest. However, there is more to rest than just taking time to recharge our energy. The quiet time of rest is most impactful to stress management when it is used as a time to evaluate, via our emotions, how we are spending our energy in the first place. This is important because, at a basic level, stress is caused when our energy is spent on actions that are not aligned with, or in agreement with, our goals and values.

Our emotions, both positive and negative, are powerful and necessary signals about our lives and our experiences. They have the power to tell us if our actions are in alignment with our goals and/or values or not. Experiences and circumstances that are out of our control come up in our lives all the time and they have impacts on our alignments. Listening to our emotions can tell us how or if these new experiences or ideas fit into our lives. While negative emotions can be challenging, they are inescapable and are as essential as positive emotions. Negative emotions are telling us something in our lives is off and needs to be changed. Taking the time to look deeper into and understanding the cause of that emotion can give you clarity as to exactly what might need to be done.

Sailboat on the Nile River at sunset
Sailing on the Nile River, Egypt

Emotional work, or fully engaging with our emotions, can be hard, scary, and overwhelming. I’ve been there, I still visit that state from time to time. But here’s the deal, emotions are part of the human experience, there is nothing you can do to escape them permanently, and eventually, they will always find a way to express themselves. They are also shadowy and often appear much larger when we are looking at them indirectly rather than square on. That is not to say this will be easy at the beginning. Many of us have been conditioned to discount and disengage from our emotions. Unlearning those behaviors may take professional help from a psychologist or counselor if it feels too overwhelming or too triggering to do by yourself.

If you do feel ready and able to try it on your own but aren’t sure where to start, I would suggest clarifying your goals and values. Having a clear understanding of your guiding values makes evaluating and taking action much simpler. This is one of my favorite values clarification exercises that might even help you set some goals. Then next time you are feeling stressed, take a rest and ask yourself, What specific emotions am I feeling? What is causing this emotion? How does this align or not align with my goals or with my values? Doing this frequently will help to course-correct more quickly and easily. Doing this with a coach who can hold you accountable will keep you on track even more.

So the next time someone suggests relaxation, taking a break, meditation, etc for stress management know that it is not just time to renew your energy. It can also be time to check in. You can use the quiet to reflect and dive deeper into your emotional experience and understand your alignments in order to possibly take action to change the stress you are experiencing.

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