By: Caroline Zappas
Do you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed, finding it difficult to pinpoint why you are feeling that way? In these situations, it’s often easier to brush off unexplained emotions rather than actually explore what is making you feel so stressed or anxious. When life’s obligations begin to pile up and to-do lists start to run a mile long, the last thing you want to do is sit with uncomfortable emotions in an attempt to understand their source, but it is necessary to do so.
Understanding your emotions is vital to the process of developing emotional intelligence, defined as “the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions” (UWA Psychology and Counseling News, 2019). Having emotional intelligence can allow people to bolster their own personal and social growth. Additionally, studies have shown that having the ability to regulate your emotions “is associated with greater well-being, income, and socioeconomic status” (Côté et al., 2010). On the other hand, without emotional intelligence, people are “unable to understand and control their emotions or those of others” (UWA Psychology and Counseling News, 2019).
So how does someone develop emotional intelligence? In 2010, Elena Danciu at the University of the West Timisoara conducted a survey to “attempt to develop and optimize the involvement of emotions to achieve individual success” (Danciu, 2010). From the results of the survey, they recommend the following steps in developing emotional intelligence:
- Learn to identify and recognize your own emotions
- Develop the ability to understand the real causes of the occurrence of your emotions
- Control emotions of anger, rage, and be able to tolerate your own frustration
- Be able to manage your own stress
- Correctly recognize the emotions of those around you
Emotional regulation is a central component to mental health, and while it’s important to not only have the knowledge of how to regulate these emotions you must also follow through and implement these strategies in your own life as well (Côté et al., 2010). Personally, I attempt to improve my emotional intelligence by taking a step back and trying to name the emotion I am feeling, thinking back to when I began feeling that way. Most of the time, it is the result of an unpleasant interaction, disappointing test score, or busy day.
After identifying and understanding the cause of your emotion, I then find it helpful to acknowledge and tolerate the fact that you are feeling that way. Although no one likes feeling sad, disappointed, or overwhelmed, they are all normal human emotions that everyone is bound to experience and simply just a part of life. So, instead of pushing it away, it is more helpful to accept that you are feeling that way and channel your energy towards finding a solution. Following acceptance, one should engage in self-care practices; this is not only a way to feel less anxious but also do something nice for yourself. I have found that going on walks with friends, listening to an upbeat song, or doing a breathing exercise to alleviate some of my stress is what works best for me.
The final aspect of emotional intelligence is being able to “read the room” so to speak. Being able to identify how others are feeling and how that influences their actions ensures you have a unique and critical perspective on situations. Having a strong understanding of not only your own emotions, but also those of the people around you, will give you a leg up in determining the best approach to anything life throws your way.
Côté, S., Gyurak, A., & Levenson, R. W. (2010). The ability to regulate emotion is associated with greater well-being, income, and socioeconomic status. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 10(6), 923–933. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021156
Danciu, E. L. (2010). Methods of developing children’s emotional intelligence. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 5, 2227–2233. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.07.440.
UWA Psychology and Counseling News. (2019). The science of emotion: Exploring the basics of emotional psychology. UWA Online. https://online.uwa.edu/news/emotional-psychology/.