Master Your Emotional Intelligence: Three Techniques for Overcoming StressNov 14, 2022
Imagine yourself sitting at your desk at home, working away. The choices are endless: café macchiato, espresso, cappuccino, latte, or just plain black coffee. You might be a tea lover, depending on where you were born.
Your nervous system is not detecting any danger. As a 'normal' state of being, your brain processes the information from your external environment and regulates your body energy accordingly.
Let's take your imagination a step further and picture a tiger or other predatory animal lurking in your peripheral vision.
Suddenly, your nervous system kicks into gear and sends a signal to your brain: "ALARM, DANGER!"
This triggers a stress response in your brain and directs your energy towards keeping you safe. In this case, only your vital organs are working overtime to protect you from being eaten, chased, or attacked by a predator.
But what does this have to do with my goal of strengthening my leadership skills through emotional intelligence, specifically stress management?
External challenges, like being chased by a predator, can trigger a stress response in one of three ways: flight, fight, or freeze. The brain doesn't differentiate between a life-threatening predator and a heated discussion with your colleagues or senior management about resource allocation.
My blog "The Fundamental Differences between IQ and EQ Explained ?" explores this concept in more depth.
Everyone has different stressors that can trigger our stress response. Stress in itself is not necessarily good or bad, as long as we recover from it and allow ourselves to re-energize afterwards.
However, chronic stress can lead to burnout and depletion. Think of it like holding a glass of water for five minutes, 15 minutes, an hour, a day, or a week. After a certain period of time, your arm will feel paralyzed.
I remember a time when my body simply stopped caring about what my mind wanted and collapsed due to mental stress, external pressure, and self-actualization. My only option was to stop everything I was doing and simply rest, recuperate, and re-energize.
But you know what? The world didn't stop spinning. My work continued without me, and I eventually received phone calls and emails asking when I would return from sick leave. This experience taught me a valuable lesson: you are the only one who can save yourself. It all starts with a decision to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.
That's where stress management skills come in.
Three Key Components of Effective Stress Management
According to the EQ-i 2.0 model, stress management is comprised of flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism.
Flexibility means adapting emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to unfamiliar, unpredictable, and dynamic circumstances or ideas. Those with low flexibility may resist change, while those with high flexibility may constantly want to change.
Stress tolerance is a person's ability to cope with stressful or difficult situations and depends on their belief that they can manage or influence the situation positively. Those with low stress tolerance may appear stressed and anxious, while those with high stress tolerance possess a wide range of effective tools for managing their stress.
Optimism is having a positive outlook on life and staying hopeful and resilient despite setbacks and challenges. Those with low optimism may feel helpless and hopeless, while those with high optimism maintain a positive attitude despite pressure and adversity.
Stress management is crucial for everyone, but particularly for leaders who face high levels of stress on a regular basis. By focusing on flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism, we can effectively manage our stress and avoid burnout and depletion.
How Stress Management Works in Real Life
Individuals with low levels of flexibility tend to be rigid in their way of thinking and are set in their ways. They may resist change, be slow to start new projects, and avoid hard work. They are not willing to adapt to new circumstances and may become frustrated or overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations. They may also have difficulty handling unexpected events and may struggle to recover from setbacks.
Individuals with average levels of flexibility tend to be adaptable, curious, and open-minded. They are willing to change their minds if presented with new information, but they may not always act on their changing thoughts and beliefs. They are comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity and may have a variety of coping strategies for dealing with unfamiliar or unpredictable situations.
Individuals with higher levels of flexibility have more ease at adapting to new situations and embrace change with a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness. They are often considered change champions and are perceived as agile leaders. They are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, and can quickly adjust to changing circumstances.
Individuals with low levels of stress tolerance may struggle to cope with even minor stressors, appearing stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. They may feel like they are not in control of the situation and may be more likely to procrastinate or give up when faced with challenging situations.
People with an average level of stress tolerance can typically cope with most of life's stressors adequately. But, they may struggle with fear or anxiety in challenging situations, and their ability to manage stress may depend on the situation and their emotional state at the time.
Individuals with higher levels of stress tolerance possess a wide range of effective tools and strategies for managing stress. They are convinced that they can influence the situation positively, and they take action to reduce the impact of both visible and invisible stressors. They are able to bounce back from setbacks and remain productive and focused even under pressure.
People with lower levels of optimism tend to feel helpless and hopeless quite frequently. They may have a negative outlook on life and struggle to see positive possibilities for the future. When faced with setbacks and challenges, they may give up easily and feel defeated, unmotivated, negative, and worried.
Individuals with average levels of optimism can see positive possibilities for the future and may have a clear path forward. However, their positive thoughts and clarity may not last very long. They may struggle to maintain a positive attitude when faced with pressure, stress, and adversity.
Those with higher levels of optimism maintain a positive attitude despite pressure, stress, and adversity. They have a positive outlook on life and tend to see setbacks and challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. They remain hopeful and resilient in the face of adversity and are able to bounce back quickly from setbacks.
Stress management is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence and effective leadership. By developing the hallmarks of flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism, we can become more adaptable, resilient, and better equipped to handle challenging situations.
If you feel like you need help in managing stress or improving your emotional intelligence, let's connect!
Together, we can develop a personalized plan to enhance your stress management skills and achieve your goals. Let's take the first step towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.