Emotional intelligence allows us to navigate the complexities of our emotions and effectively manage our reactions. It helps us recognize, understand, and regulate our emotions, as well as the capacity to empathize with others. When we lack emotional intelligence, we often find ourselves struggling with anger, defensiveness, and strong emotions. By developing emotional intelligence, we can gain control over these intense emotions and enhance our overall health and well-being.
Increasing our emotional intelligence is a process that takes time. It’s working on an emotional muscle and getting stronger with practice.
Here are some steps to get started:
1) Identify your triggers.
What triggers a strong emotional reaction for you? Common triggers include criticism, rejection, failure, and feeling misunderstood or unappreciated. When we encounter these triggers, our emotions can quickly escalate. By identifying our triggers, we can begin to develop strategies to manage our emotions effectively and prevent them from spiraling out of control.
2) Acknowledge your emotions and reactions.
Anger may feel like intense frustration, accompanied by physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat and body tension. Defensiveness often arises when we feel attacked or criticized, leading us to become guarded, argumentative, or dismissive. Strong emotions, such as sadness, fear, or anxiety, may cause us to feel overwhelmed. By acknowledging these emotions, we can take the first step towards effectively managing them.
3) Be aware of your defenses and default coping patterns.
If you are human, you are wired to some extent to get defensive. We have all sorts of coping patterns that are not always helpful. It’s easy to focus on others or strike back when we feel wronged. But these patterns can prevent us from taking responsibility for our own emotional well-being. Try to acknowledge and accept your emotions without judgment or blame, be curious and compassionate.
4) Work on learning strategies that promote self-awareness and emotional regulation.
One helpful tool is deep breathing, which helps to calm the nervous system. Taking a step back and giving ourselves time to cool down before responding can prevent us from saying or doing something we may regret. When emotionally flooded, we need at least 20 minutes of calm to allow stress chemicals to dissipate. Additionally, practicing empathy and striving to understand the other person’s point of view can diffuse tension and foster a more constructive conversation.
Techniques for Dealing with Strong Emotions
A very helpful technique is mindfulness, which involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. By observing our emotions without getting caught up in them (and the negative stories we connect to them), we can develop a greater understanding of their underlying causes and avoid getting overwhelmed. Engaging in physical activity can also provide an outlet for pent-up emotions and release tension from the body. It is also important to seek support from trusted friends, family members, or therapists to help us process and cope with our feelings.
Other helpful strategies include meditation, focusing on strengths, changing negative thinking patterns and self-defeating beliefs, increasing self-care and cultivating empathy and compassion. Ongoing self-reflection is important in this journey.
Seeking Professional Help
In some cases, we may require professional help and extra support. If you need help, please reach out to find counseling and other helpful resources.
A Primary Defense is Denial
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Do you have more issues with mood, outlook and energy in the fall and winter? You may have symptoms of SAD. For many, taking steps like increasing Vitamin D and using a light box can make a difference.
National Suicide Prevention Week runs Sept. 10-16, 2023
Get free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by dialing or texting 988.
To access the crisis line dial 988 and then press 1 or Text 838255.
Quotes & Inspiration
Ways to Enjoy Fall
“Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”
— Wallace Stegner