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How can we use our Emotional Intelligence to make sense of these uncertain days?

At the end of December, we began to hear of a virus that appeared to have made the jump from animal to human and was rife in the local community. Who knew this virus, COVID-19, would travel the world, affecting millions by May?

In the midst of panic-buying and anxiety overload, how do we make sense of what is happening, and how do we learn to live with it? This is where EQ (emotional intelligence) comes in.

What is EQ? In a nutshell, using emotional and cognitive information to make more informed decisions about how you live your life. Think about common expressions we use:

Park your emotions – we need to make a rational decision here!

Or

Don’t let your heart rule your head (or vice versa!)

Or

My head tells me one thing, my heart another - what do I do?

If only we could integrate head and heart…oh wait! We can! In doing so, we can recognise those feelings of fear and anxiety yet allow ourselves to pause and take note of what science can tell us about coronavirus.

Me, myself and I

We spend a lot of time functioning on auto-pilot in this overly busy world of ours. How often do we take the time to sit back and reflect? For many of us, that will feel distinctly uncomfortable. It is when we are least busy that our internal negative thoughts, concepts of self, and sense of place in the world are scrutinised and obsessed over. Common refrains are I’m not good enough or My life is a disaster or I wish I had done it differently.

And now we have COVID-19 to add to the list of worries.

Yet taking time to reflect and make room for those thoughts allows us to challenge them and understand that we have choices here. Think about the feelings you are experiencing as a result of what we are facing in the world today:

Fear? Dread? Worry? Does it feel like you are losing control? Do you feel like nothing is the same anymore? Are you scared for your families? The climate? What happened to all the coral in the world’s oceans? Did you turn the cooker off this morning before leaving the house?

Anxiety breeds anxiety – we started with coronavirus, and we ended up worrying about the cooker! This is the first message then:

It is completely and utterly normal to feel all these emotions.

Accept them, welcome them – and then take a pause: are you going to allow them to subsume you so that you are in a state of perpetual fear?

Clearly, the answer is ‘No, but er…….that’s easier said than done, dude.’

What are your choices, then? Here are a few ideas:

· Do some research to find out the facts – don’t let lurid headlines be your only source of knowledge

· Turn off your social media and news outlets – take a break from the endless repetition of recycled news

· Practice mindfulness – as you walk your dog, drink your coffee, even driving your car. Being mindful means paying attention to the here and now – driving those pesky thoughts about viral spread out of your head, even if for only a few minutes

· Take some deep breaths – place your hands on your belly and have a go at ‘belly breathing’…slow inhalation of breath through the nose, slow exhalation through the mouth. Repeat, drop your shoulders, let yourself relax. Can you feel your belly inflating as you breathe in, and deflating as you breathe out? That’s great breathing right there – and will help you manage those feelings of fear and anxiety

Now for the second message:

You have a choice about how you respond to the world around you.

In learning to manage your feelings in this way, you will feel less like everything is out of control. You might not be able to change what is happening, but you can change how you respond to it. This then integrates emotions with cognitive data, allowing you to respond, rather than react.

Have a go, keep practicing – remember, YOU have the power to change how you view the world!

For more information about how we can develop and use our emotional intelligence, email ruth@celandt.org

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