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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Emotional Intelligence - Stress Relief Through Managing Emotions

 By: Byron Stock


The key to attaining resilience in this stressful world is to develop Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills. Today's headlines leave little doubt of the detrimental effects of stress. The demands, pressures and challenges we face daily can evoke negative emotions that, when not handled effectively result in high levels of stress. Our news is filled with anxiety provoking topics such as the economy, layoffs, holiday stress, academic stress, relationship stress, the impact of stress on health and much more. And at work there is a growing demand to do more with less; faster, better, cheaper, with fewer people. Without the right skills to handle these ever increasing challenges our performance suffers. While we may not be able to change our stress-filled environment, we can get at the root cause of our stress by changing how we perceive and react to stress-producing events.

The Relationship of Challenge, Emotions and Performance:

Whether you realize it or not, your emotional response to the challenges (or demands/expectations) you face directly affects your performance. For example, imagine I hire you for a position. As a new hire, you're feeling excited, determined, eager, optimistic and confident. After you perform very well on the first few projects you're assigned, I become confident that you can handle more projects. In fact, because of having to do more with less, I'm going to give you a lot more projects. Of course, I expect you to continue to perform at the outstanding level you displayed on your first projects.

However, once you receive project on top of project, although you're trying your best and putting in extra hours, you reach a point where that little voice in your head whispers, "What's going to happen to me if I don't get this all done?" Frustration, anxiety, fear and panic take over. Now skepticism, pessimism and uncertainty are your constant companions instead of optimism and confidence. And, with your frustration, you find yourself wasting time worrying and second-guessing yourself - time that cannot be spared.

And more importantly, your health becomes affected. Your negative emotional response results in a cascade of some 1,400 biochemical events, some of which result in physiological changes such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol (the stress hormone), and adrenaline. These events compromise your mental clarity, your emotional balance, your physical energy and personal effectiveness, all of which play a part in communication, rational thought and problem solving, and your state of health. And the increased frequency of these negative emotions can cause you to become indecisive, defensive, short with people and angry when others ask you for support or when they don't support you. In fact, because you and others exist in the same environment, other people are likely feeling the same emotions. And stress, like a virus, thrives in this toxic environment.

While this seems disheartening, let's look more closely at this problem. Whenever people are UNABLE to cope with the demands of their environment they experience negative emotions and beliefs which, in turn, manifest as stress. So while our environment is a significant factor in producing stress, ultimately it is the individual's inability to transform negative emotions and beliefs that lies at the core of the problem. The word "unable" points toward the real leverage." If people are unable it means they don't know how to, in this case, manage their emotions about what is happening in the environment.

Actions We Can Take:

So what can we do to help ourselves in these difficult times of growing demands? First we need to develop our emotional self-awareness. By being aware of our emotions, we can catch ourselves at those points and in those situations where we perceive negative emotions creeping in and taking over. Next we need to develop our emotional self-management skills. With enhanced emotional self-management skills we can transform negative emotions into positive, productive feelings and behaviors, enabling us to think more clearly. In our Emotional Intelligence (EI) skill-building programs, developing emotional self-awareness and self-management skills are the foundation of EI Competence.

True Story Example:

Let me give you an example from a true story of what can happen when you develop these skills. I was delivering our EI training to a group of high-potential directors and vice presidents. The training took place on a Tuesday and Wednesday. One of my participants sent this email on the following Monday morning: "I had been having an extremely stressful week with a crushing, impending feeling of failure/doom that I wasn't going to be able to get everything done to meet some very important deadlines. Since your course, I have been using all the techniques and am amazed how successful they have been. I have been able to get 'on top' of everything that needs to get done with little to no agitation. You very well may have helped me with one of the most significant, positive improvements I have ever made in my life."

What's the Point?

We can make several observations from this true story:

- Even in today's demanding environment, you can improve your performance by developing EI skills.

- You can immediately begin to develop these skills with dramatic impact in a very short period of time - it doesn't take three to six months as some people suggest.

- When you develop EI skills, you can manage high-stress situations in-the-moment - so instead of waiting for a yoga class, a vacation, or a meditation time, you can manage negative emotions when they occur and prevent stress from accumulating with its potential negative health impact.

Our program results support these points. We conduct impact interviews with participants two to three months after our training. Typically, participants report improvements ranging from 20% to 35% in personal productivity, 25% to 40% in mental clarity, 20% to 40% in stress reduction as well as improvements in teamwork, creativity, management of emotional reactiveness, reduced conflict and other critical workplace issues.

Specializing in the area of Emotional Intelligence (EI) skill-building, Byron Stock is devoted to making work a place where people flourish and productivity improves. Typical improvements in personal goals range from 30% to 50%. Visit to learn about Byron's quick, simple, proven techniques to harness the power of your EI.

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