Learn to manage stress and negative thoughts by building emotional intelligence. Listening to and understanding our emotions is just the first step to managing them.
We've learned to recognise the signs of stress, sources of stress, and our coping patterns. We've also learned how chronic stress, if left unchecked, can lead to anxiety and depression, and we've picked up some healthy ways to cope with or reduce stress.
Next up: learning to build emotional intelligence. Sounds chim (difficult)? To put it simply, having emotional intelligence means you're able to recognise, understand, express, and manage your emotions.
Emotions and stress management are closely related. The better you are at managing your emotions, the greater your ability to manage stress.
Why Build Emotional Intelligence?
With emotional intelligence, we can better handle stressful situations.
Emotionally intelligent people can identify and differentiate between emotions. Understanding our emotions allows us to use that information to make effective decisions and take appropriate actions.
For example, an emotionally intelligent person would recognise when he or she feels angry and use deep breathing to calm down before speaking.
Related: Mental Health – Emotional Intelligence
Recognise: Listen to Your Emotions
When you're feeling unpleasant emotion like sadness or anger, don't ignore or get into the habit of suppressing them.
It's easy to dismiss or label your emotions as an inconvenience or something silly. Try to overcome these instincts! Focus on your emotions and figure out why you're feeling them.
Related: Be Mentally and Emotionally Tough
Understand: Write Down Your Emotions
The thoughts in your head may seem jumbled up like rojak when you're feeling a mix of strong emotions. Organise your thoughts by writing down what you feel, and the events that happened that might have made you feel this way.
Not in touch with your emotions? Start keeping track with a daily mood journal. Note the basics: are you mad, sad, glad, or scared?
Related: When the Brain is Ill
Express: Communicate Your Emotions
Learn to express your emotions. When feeling overwhelmed, share your feelings with loved ones by using words like “I feel...”, and ask for their help in problem-solving.
Communication isn't just about what you say, but also how you say it. Pay attention to body language (e.g. eye contact, posture, hand gestures), both your own and other people's.
Do you unknowingly tense up when angry or slouch when you're sad? Consciously adjust these cues, and use inviting, open body language when sharing with your friends and family: keep arms uncrossed, palms relaxed, and eye contact frequent.
Related: Expressing Yourself Through the Arts
Managing Your Emotions: Be Healthy, Be Happy
Once you've learnt to recognise, understand, and communicate your emotions, you can manage them. The key here is to consciously choose things that help you stay healthy and relaxed.
Instead of eating to soothe feelings or turning to drink to “drown your sorrows”, choose healthier activities like going for a walk at a nearby park or heading to the beach to swim or cycle. Regular exercise is not only great for our physical health, it's great for managing stress in the long term as well.
And make sure you continue to do the things that make you happy and relaxed regularly — don't neglect them during difficult times!
Regular R&R will help you be in a healthier state of mind, making it easier to handle stress and negative emotions. It could be simple activities like reading, chit-chatting with friends, or getting a mani-padi.
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