Bob Fair, LPC and Dave Wiedis, Copyright 2017
Many of us face challenges during the Christmas season -- whether grief, stress, remembering loved ones, dealing with painful family dynamics, and more. As we think about spending holidays with family and friends -- or entering any situation for that matter -- it helps to assess our level of "emotional capacity," defined as the maximum amount of emotional energy that we can offer.
All of us have emotional capacity, and that capacity varies given our personalities, unique situations, and relationships we are currently in. Capacity also involves our emotional health, briefly defined as our degree of self awareness and ability to feel what we are feeling.
To manage emotional capacity, two good questions to ask yourself are:
1. What are my non-people stressors, and how are they affecting me?
- Take a moment to inventory stressors (work deadlines, etc.).
- Take a moment to consider how your stressors are affecting you (restless sleep, fast pace, irritability, other emotions).
2. What are my relational stressors, and how are they affecting me?
- Take a moment to inventory relational stressors (difficult or toxic friends or family members, unresolved conflict, etc.).
- Take a moment to consider how your stressors are affecting you.
Then, practice R.E.S.T.
Psalm 62:1 Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. NIV
R.E.S.T. is a tool you can use to help manage your emotional capacity.
R stands for: Redirect my automatic thoughts back to the “Here and Now,” the current moment. What are automatic thoughts? These are the beliefs and scripts we play over and over in our minds without conscious thought. I can't do anything right, I will never feel joy again, I am inferior to everyone here, etc. Practice recognizing your automatic thoughts and then redirecting them back to the present moment and the truth of God's word.
E stands for: Emotional Awareness. A person who is emotionally healthy is more self-aware. Take time to assess: What am I feeling in this moment? How am I reacting to stressors? Practice slowing down and naming your emotions.
S stands for: Sabbathing. Know your capacity and your boundaries. As noted, capacity ebbs and flows and is affected by our physical health, stressors, thought patterns, and relational stressors. Your boundaries are what you will and will not tolerate from others. Practice acknowledging your capacity and setting healthy boundaries. And practice "sabbath." On a daily basis and a weekly basis, stop to rest, delight in God and His creation, worship, and contemplate God's gifts and goodness.
T stands for: Talking with God about the above. Take a few moments to pray to God about your stressors and how they are affecting you.
You can implement R.E.S.T. at any time during the day. It is a healthy way to invite God into your life, to honor Him, and to realistically assess your own capacity. See yourself through the "grace-filled" eyes of Christ.