People who have higher EI are less likely to be negatively impacted by the presence of stressors. As your EQ increases, you feel less stress. Without consciously trying to control their reactions to stress, high EQ individuals show fewer physical signs of stress reactions, such as sweaty palms,elevated heart rate, and increased secretion of certain hormones and brain chemicals.
By improving your EI, you’ll be able to handle stress better, become more resilient and less likely to succumb to burnout and depression.
How can you do this?
1. Increase your self-awareness
Your perceptions are colored by your own feelings and reactions so, unless you are aware of yourself, you will not accurately read yourself or others.
Those with high emotional intelligence are more able to accurately understand and assess their emotional states and know how and when to express their feelings.They also can effectively regulate their mood states. Salovey et al.
As you name the emotion the intensity already drops (Name it to Tame it).
2. Recognise your signs of stress
Physical signs: clenching your fists, sweaty palms, higher heart rate, tight feeling in your chest or stomach, pain in your jaw.
Emotional signs: feelings of fear, hurt, anger, overwhelmed.
Behavioural signs: raising your voice, pointing your finger, withdrawing, not sleeping well.
3. Physical shift
Once you recognize your signs of stress, physically slow down your breathing. If necessary, remove yourself physically from the situation to give yourself a gap, i.e. create distance – take a break so you can regain perspective and be more intentional in how you react to or handle your stress.Take a short walk, have a drink of water, anything to create a space for yourself.
Keep exercising when stressed as this will release the feel-good hormone, Serotonin. It is often at our most stressful times that we tend to stop our physical activities because we are often not sleeping properly, lack energy and are only focused on our problems. This is when we need the physical release the most.
4. Learn your triggers
Write down your top stressors. Connect them to people or events. Be aware of the trigger (person or event) that is pushing you over the edge.
Come up with a cognitive and behavioral way to refocus your energy when you are triggered. Maybe look into a new project or hobby.
If your trigger is a person, tell them how they are (intentionally or unintentionally) impacting you by using your crucial conversation techniques.
5. Emotional shift and self awareness
Acknowledge both your triggers and your emotions and accept what you are feeling. It is important to be able to move from your emotional brain to your cognitive thinking brain – from anxiety or anger to logic and rational thinking. Step away to evaluate yourself, the situation, cause/effect and learn to look athow you are coming across to others and your reaction.
Your story: the step between what others do and how we feel, is where we tell ourselves a story, i.e. we add meaning to the action we observed, we guess at the other person’s motive and we judge. We SEE & HEAR – TELL A STORY –FEEL – ACT.
Recognize the story you are telling yourself and don’t let it control you. You may need to tell yourself different stories to break the loop. We often increase our own stress levels by the stories we tell ourselves so test your story as your perception is not necessarily reality.
Learn to look: Be cognizant of emotional contagion and how you may be impacting others. Be aware of your style under stress. Do you mask, attack or avoid? i.e. do you move to silence or violence? Own your part of the situation.
Learn to exert influence over your own emotions. Others don’t make you mad – you choose how you feel.
Reframe your story or perception – you can do this by changing your own viewing point.
Decide on which action will create a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Remember that how someone chooses to act towards you is a decision they make and has nothing to do with who you are or your values. This also helps you to take the ‘personal sting’ out of some interactions.
Slow down your action. Think before you act!
Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech that you will ever regret. Ambrose Bierce
Test the ‘fact’. Is it fact or is it your interpretation of fact? Watch for ‘hot’ words,e.g. “He gave me a real ‘drilling’ in that meeting”.
7. Your people
Confide in someone you trust. They may be able to give you a wider perspective and options.
Build and nurture relationships so that you have a support system. Know your ‘feel good’ people so that you can turn to them when you are very stressed.
Writing down your emotions also helps. You can even draft a response to the person who triggered you but do not send it. Use it to help diffuse your response, then go back later, reread and rephrase. Remember your words can only be forgiven, they will not be forgotten.
When it is a workload situation causing the stress, writing down your tasks may also bring you more clarity. It is much easier to organize a list than work with an overwhelmed brain.
How attentive are you to each member of your team or family’s feelings?
Are you using your emotions to understand yours and others needs at work, or to beat up on them or yourself?
8. Silence kills
When we fail to speak up about things that matter this can also increase our stress and have horrific consequences. For example: If you know a deadline is unrealistic, say so.
9. Hold boundaries
Don’t allow other people to take advantage of you. Be clear in your boundaries as alack of boundaries leads to a lack of respect. If you can’t say ‘no’ you will find yourself potentially drowning.
We live in volatile and stressful times, so being able to manage our stress is essential. Please always remember the flight attendant’s instructions of “putting your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others”.