The term Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is commonly used all over the place. What exactly is EQ, and how can those who don’t study the topic in depth rip the benefits of such magnificent skill? Well, it’s an acquired skill. It’s like digging into your inner shopping bag and pulling the useful out.
The simplest and most straightforward definition of EQ is the ability to recognize, direct, and positively express your and other people’s emotions. It’s a skill set anyone can learn, and it is a paramount tool for keeping your nervous system in a relaxed state or “in check” so that the rest of you (body and mind) function at its optimal level, even when in the presence of stressors. Sounds simple enough for most, but I know it is not as easily understandable and attainable to all, so let’s keep disemboweling this one. What this means is that regardless of what you think, what you have learned, what you have lived, experienced, or endured, EQ is a paramount skill that allows you to tackle the difficult task of understanding ourselves, overcome life’s challenges, and build strong and long-lasting relationships.
The best part is that EQ is a learned skill set, and can be achieved at any time in life. When we remain emotionally aware we help keep our nervous system feel comfortable and under control. This ensures our immune system and other parts of our body are working to their fullest possible potential. Often, our perceptions make us feel unsafe even when not encountered with a life-threatening event. Thank fully, the nervous system has a cool remedy for all the stress, depression, fears, anxiety and insecurities. All you have to do is know how to get your nervous system to participate, and you will find yourself able to engage with others in an emotionally intelligent way. What does that mean? It means that instead of thinking of situations as life-threatening and having self-defeating attitudes, you will be able to engage with others in ways that are calming, you will be focused, become creative, grow compassion, and engage socially. In other words, emotional awareness has the benefit that it boosts your ability to connect with others in a stress free, safe and happy manner. In other words, if our emotions are in check, nobody will need to complain that we’re acting “off.”
Our nervous system is the command center for all things that keep you safe. It works like a testing agent, always assessing safety all around you, internally as well as externally. If the command center (nervous system) has a doubt your body shuts down and begins to prepare for the necessary response, be a fight, flight, or freeze. If your command center is in a defensive state, then your body’s ability to fully protect you is compromised. When your nervous system is out of whack, you can take steps to help bring it back to its comfort zone so it can work full throttle for your safety. You can do this by reaching out to another person for comfort, or if a calming human is not around to help you relax and get back into balance, you can also dig into your brain to connect with positive sensory experiences, like when you had that amazing time at the beach, or that happy place only you know about. It sounds simple because it is. We tend to adhere to bad sensory experiences, bad memories, and feed off bad thoughts more often than good ones. Instead we need to look at the good extract the bad, and try to multiple the remainder into command center fuel. You can learn to override stress like a pro.
Remember that stress is not always bad. It is only when we allow it to turn our world upside down that it becomes negative. Stress should fit like your favorite pair of shoes. Stress must remain in a state that works within your own personal comfort zone. Learning to manage your stress can help you maximize from it. We tend to perform better under stress, it motivates us to excel. But if you overstress, your overall feeling of safety and security goes to shit, and an overwhelming sense of “something is not right” will make you enter emergency mode and run even when you could’ve just stayed and battled that demon. The result? Your life, mind and body, and relationships take the toll. Allowing stress beyond your comfort zone can lead you to act like an idiot, not thinking or acting appropriately.
So, what can you do to deal with stress? Everyone responds different to sensory experiences, so you should test drive a few until you find what works for you. For some people soothing and relaxing is the way to go, while others might need a more energized and engaging approach to stress relief. Here are a few ideas:
· Rely on your senses to relieve stress. Take a walk. Listen to music. Go sightseeing. Pet your dog, cat, bird, squirrel, or snake. Smell something that gives you peace (it could be a flower, your child, or your partner). Eat some comfort food. Look at pictures, old and new.
· Any type of activity can help relieve stress. Find what best fits the requests of your nervous system. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, running, boxing, woodworking, knitting, flying a drone, fishing, cooking, mowing the lawn, or just taking a nice walk, being active helps to bring the nervous system back to its comfort zone. Concentrating on an activity can help you remove attention from what is stressing you, and give more attention to relaxing.. It’s really that simple.
· If you find yourself agitated, switch into an activity that will quiet you down.
· If you’re the type that spaces out when they’re stressed, find an energizing activity that will help you snap out of it.
· Whatever your choice and approach to stress relief is, do not force it. If it’s not coming naturally, if it’s not working, move on and try something different.
Think of your emotions as messages. Sometimes you receive a good message, sometimes you don’t. Our emotions help us disembowel what matters to us, they help us figure out what we love or fear, what brings a smile to our faces and what makes us frown, what we like and don’t like. Without the use of our Emotional Intelligence, we will just push our emotions away, never learning from past experiences. Learning from past experiences is the cornerstone of future emotional intelligence. Feelings based on past, rather than present experiences can lead us to make inappropriate, foolish and at times unnecessary decisions. Don’t screw it up by not being aware of your emotions and learning from your past reactions.