Developing Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence is essential for coping in high-distress moments when you are more likely to experience more intensified emotions and to react impulsively.
When you strengthen your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), you are better equipped to remain emotionally aware during times of heightened stress and to maintain a balance in body and mind. Building EQ is possible for anyone at any stage of life, but requires conscious effort and intentional, daily practice. By practicing Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills regularly, you can create permanent changes to the way you perceive, react to, and heal from the challenges of life.
When practiced regularly, the five Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills taught in this blog series can significantly build your EQ so that you may function optimally and remain balanced even during stressful situations. Let’s take a look at the first skill.
EQ Skill 1 - Recognize Stress and Reduce It
When we experience a moment of high distress, our instinctual reaction is flight, fright, or freeze. This response affects our ability to accurately assess a situation because our mind and body are not communicating harmoniously. Once we can recognize when and how stress hits us, we can then take steps to reducing and eliminating it. When we strengthen our ability to recognize stress in our bodies and cultivate a robust vocabulary to name our emotions, we can more aptly and swiftly reduce stress when it arises.
The following three tips are useful in recognizing and reducing stress both in the moment and overtime:
Identify your physical reaction: Stress often reveals itself physically as tight or sore muscles, clenched hands and/or teeth, shallow breathing, and a furrowed brow. Practice pausing throughout your day to acquaint yourself with your various physical sensations when you’re both stressed and calm. When you experience high levels of stress, before you react, ask yourself where in your body you are experiencing stress. Becoming aware of your physical responses to stress will help you regulate tension when it occurs and to gain independence from unbeneficial and habitual behaviors. Likewise, increasing your awareness of pleasant bodily sensations will help you to identify unpleasant ones.
Engage your senses: Our senses connect us with the tangible world and help us to feel more at home in our bodies and thus more in control during moments of distress. When you experience high stress levels, turn your attention to a sight, sound, smell, taste or touch that will sooth and/or energize you. Serene and uplifting images; the sound of a wind chime, water fountain, or favorite song; the scent of flowers; a peppermint candy; or a soft blanket are all ways in which you can engage your senses and quickly reduce stress. When you get in touch with your senses, you also are able to more swiftly assess what you are able to control in a situation and what you aren’t.
Discover your stress outlet: Individual responses to stress vary. If you tend to become angry or agitated under stress, you’ll respond best to stress-relieving activities that quiet you down, such as breathing, stretching, or drawing. If you tend to become depressed or withdrawn, you will respond best to stress relieving activities that are stimulating, such as dancing, cycling, and other aerobic exercise. If you tend to freeze, you’ll benefit from stress-relieving activities that provide both comfort and stimulation, such as journaling, gardening, or walking through a park.
The skill of recognizing physical signs of distress significantly boosts self-awareness and emotional freedom. As you become more attentive to your body’s reactions, you gain independence from unwanted and harmful habitual behaviors and can conduct yourself with grace, wisdom, and maturity.