In the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, there’s a line that says, “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
In recent years, leadership training events have emphasized the importance of emotional intelligence. But emotional strength and balance are important for everyone, not just those in leadership roles. Utilizing the tools available to help us to manage our emotions is especially important for followers of Jesus.
What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient, refers to our ability to monitor and control our own emotions. Your emotional quotient, also known as EQ for short, is not the same as your intelligent quotient (IQ), but it is just as important.
Developing a high EQ will reduce mental stress by equipping you with self-awareness, self-regulation and good communication skills. This will help you to elevate your confidence and make you emotionally stronger.
What are the primary human emotions? Several years ago, psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic emotions he suggested are universally experienced in all human cultures: Happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, anger. He later expanded his list of basic emotions to include such things as pride, shame, embarrassment and excitement.
If it feels like your emotions are “all over the map” during this season following the pandemic, you are not alone. In addition to altering our schedules and delaying many of our plans, the closures and life interruptions of the past two and a half years have challenged our sense of emotional balance.
Here are eight tips to help us navigate our emotions:
- Be assured that increased emotional activity is normal. Changes in our routine, reconfigurations in our network of relationships, stress in the workplace or classroom, and uncertainty about the future all tend to elevate our anxiety and stir a variety of emotions.
- Anticipate emotional fluctuations. During normal times, you may experience momentary surges in anxiety, frustration, anger and grief. During changing times, those spikes may occur more frequently and last longer.
- Practice patience. Be patient with yourself and others as you adapt to changes and establish new patterns in your daily routine.
- Walk, run, stretch or ride your bike. Physical exercise has a way of clearing emotional debris and helping us recalibrate our emotions.
- Own your emotions. Discuss your emotional fluctuations with a trusted friend, accountability partner or counselor. Verbalizing your emotions may prove to be therapeutic. If emotional distress begins to grow darker, make an appointment with a professional counselor.
- Become more grounded in your faith. Let your spirituality serve as an anchor. Emotions are fickle, even when they are held in balance.
- Fly by the instrument panel. Like a veteran pilot landing a plane in the fog, make decisions based on what you “know,” not how you “feel” at any given moment.
- Enlist a therapist or counselor. Just like we go to the dentist to care for our teeth and an optometrist to care for our eyes, we may choose to see a counselor for help in navigating our emotions. We don’t wait until our teeth deteriorate to go to the dentist, and similarly, we should not wait until we reach desperation or rock-bottom depression before seeing a therapist.
John Seymour contended, “Emotions make great servants, but tyrannical masters.”
Strengthening our emotional intelligence is key to keeping all the other dimensions of life in harmony. Proverbs 4:23 cautions, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Barry Howard serves as pastor at the Church at Wieuca in North Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist with the Center for Healthy Churches. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Brookhaven, Ga. Follow him on Twitter at @BarrysNotes.
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