Enhancing Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the key to becoming resilient in this stressful world. Stress and its detrimental effects pervade our headlines. We are bombarded with a never-ending drove of articles on such topics as the economy, layoffs, holiday stress, academic stress, relationship stress, the impact of stress on health and much more. At work we are asked to do more with less; faster, better, cheaper, and with fewer people. While there may be a lucky few who can change their environment, most of us must cope with its ever-increasing pressures and, ultimately, without the right skills our performance suffers. To deal with stress, we need to examine the root cause which is how we perceive and respond to stress-producing events in our lives.

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. With your new job you feel eager, excited, optimistic, determined 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, I'm going to give you a lot more projects because we all have to do more with less. Of course, I expect you to continue to perform at the outstanding level you displayed on your first projects.

However, as project is piled upon project and you find yourself putting in extra hours and trying your best, you reach a point where you ask yourself, "If I don't get all this done, what's going to happen to me?"?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, other people are likely feeling the same emotions because you and they exist in the same environment. And stress, like a virus, thrives in this toxic environment.

Emotions and Stress:

Let's examine this disheartening problem more closely. 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 stress-filled environment is a significant factor, ultimately it is the negative emotions and beliefs that people experience and are unable to change or transform that lie 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. When we become aware of our emotions, we also become aware of those times and situations where we allow our negative emotions to creep in and take over. Next we need to develop our emotional self-management skills. By developing these skills we can transform negative emotions into positive, productive emotions and behaviors which enable 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 develop these skills in a very short period of time and experience dramatic results - 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.

Author's Bio: 

Byron Stock guides individuals and organizations toward excellence by helping them develop their Emotional Intelligence skills as a powerful tool to achieve strategic objectives, lead change and create resilient, high-performing organizational cultures. Visit ByronStock.com to learn about Byron's quick, easy, proven techniques to harness the power of your Emotional Intelligence.