Have you noticed? Many people’s emotions are running high these days! It’s no wonder, considering everything that’s going on around us. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or “out of control” with so many things up in the air.
But even in the eye of the storm, there is something we can do to help maintain a sense of calm and that is, work on developing our “emotional intelligence” (EQ) skills. Basically, emotional intelligence is our ability to understand and regulate our feelings. When we are unable to do this, feelings can begin to control us, rather than the other way around.
Here are some ways that you can strengthen your own EQ muscle (based on the R.U.L.E.R. system developed by psychologist Marc Brackett, founder of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence):
- R: Recognize – it may be easier to recognize pleasant emotions such as joy, but what about feelings you’d rather not feel such as anger, sadness, or jealousy? Taking a few quiet moments every day to check in with your feelings is an excellent starting point. Bracket suggests using a “mood meter,” asking yourself a) How much energy does this emotion have? and b) How pleasant is this emotion?
- U: Understand – the next step is to determine why you are feeling a certain feeling (without judging yourself for it). Did something stressful just happen at work? Did you have a fight this morning with your partner? Did your child say something hurtful to you?
- L: Label – give your feeling a name and try to be as specific as possible. For example, are you “a little miffed” (slightly annoyed) or “enraged” (over the top angry)? This will help you figure out what to do about your feeling.
- E: Express – you know what they say about unexpressed feelings; they don’t go away. There are many healthy ways to express your feelings – if someone has offended you, you can have a calm conversation with that person. Maybe you’d rather discuss it with a third person—perhaps a close friend or therapist. Some people prefer working out feelings through exercise or doing something creative.
- R: Regulate – while you can’t always control what feelings you experience, you can control what you do with them. If you’re feeling lonely, do you grab a bag of chips and hide under the covers or call a friend? If you feel someone isn’t treating you fairly, do you speak up for yourself or complain to others about it?
Emotional intelligence is a skill that is learned through patience and practice. Be gentle with yourself.