How to Regain Clarity and Overcome Stress
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
A big theme of having high emotional intelligence is properly identifying your emotions before responding to them and effectively responding to those emotions.
I often hear people say that they feel stressed or overwhelmed. While these are strong feelings, there is usually a deeper emotion that is causing someone to feel stressed. It is important to understand our feelings' root cause to identify what we can control and begin to address the root cause. According to Chip Dodd, we have 8 basic emotions:
Dodd writes about how each of these feelings is a gift.
This was immediately interesting because I am not a fan of feeling any of the first 7 feelings. We become anxious, stressed, depressed, and hopeless because we ignore or even deny these feelings rather than learning from them.
I know I become stressed when I am fearful, especially if I am fearing failure.
In the past, when I felt sad, I would dwell on being sad, which made me more sad or even angry. I would ask myself, "Why am I sad?" Then, follow up by saying, "I have so much to be grateful for-get over it."
This is not a great way of thinking, especially as a leader. We tend to treat others the way we treat ourselves, and the most successful leaders have a great amount of empathy.
The key to being an emotionally intelligent leader is first to understand your own emotions and then work to understand those around you.
Dodd has a great image of his feelings chart. It outlines how each emotion is a gift and what it looks like when our emotions impair us. Below is a summary of his list:
When we are hurt, we show resentment. When we use hurt as a gift, we experience healing and courage.
When we feel lonely, we can become apathetic. When we understand how it feels to be lonely, we can use that to have more intimate relationships.
If we are sad, we might turn towards self-pity. When we evolve from that, we are more accepting of others. Experiencing sadness allows us to be more empathetic of those around us.
Anger can lead to pride and depression, or it can express passion when expressed effectively.
Fear often causes anxiety. If we learn from the fear, we can gain great wisdom.
Shame can cause us to be contemptuous or lead to humility.
The impairment of guilt is toxic shame or shamelessness. The gift is freedom and forgiveness.
Even though being glad seems like only a gift, he does mention that it can lead to sensual pleasure without heart. The gift of gladness is joy with sadness.
This was not a book I would normally read, but it was fascinating, and he mentions many great points that changed the way I experience the more "negative" emotions.
It also goes along very well with improving our leadership by becoming more emotionally intelligent.
Once we identify the real feelings, we can bring more logic into the picture. I like to use the below outline to create a plan that will bring clarity and lower your stress levels.
Step 1: Write down everything that is keeping you up at night. Sometimes this step alone will get everything out of your head enough to bring in a new perspective.
Step 2: Rank this list from the biggest stressor to the least.
Step 3: Highlight the stressors you can control.
Step 4: If the ones you feel you cannot control are at the top of the list, write down anything you CAN control that will help you reduce stress in these areas. For example, if you are stressed because your company is downsizing, you can control how many jobs you apply for every day or how many recruiters you speak to.
Step 5: Write down solutions that will help you reduce stress on the items you can control.
Step 6: Chose 1 action that will reduce the most stress and replace something that is causing you to stress with the new action to reduce it. For example, if I exercise, I will be more productive, and if I am more productive, I will not be as stressed about work. Now, we cannot just add another to-do, so think about what you can replace to allow you the time to exercise.
Step 7: Once you feel like you successfully reduced your stress with the action from step 6. Chose a new one that will help.
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