How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Combat Stress at Work and in Life

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By Peter Daisyme

The Global Organization for Stress has put together some alarming facts about the impact stress is having on our lives. Eighty percent of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. Stress levels in the workplace are also rising, with six in 10 workers in major global economies experiencing increased workplace stress.

Emotional Intelligence in Action

In looking for solutions to combat this level of stress, emotional intelligence can produce positive results. Leaders who are emotionally intelligent play a significant role in lowering their work environment's stress level, while employees can also leverage emotional intelligence to reduce their own stress.

As the American Management Association notes, self-regulation is a critical aspect of emotional intelligence that can help people control emotions and recover from many stressful situations. Self-regulating helps a person relax, focus and stay productive, thus optimizing their performance.

Another component of emotional intelligence is self-awareness, which allows you to recognize your emotions and the impact they have on yourself and others.

Lastly, emotional intelligence involves relationship management: helping to inspire and influence others in situations that may involve diffusing conflict. So much of stress can come from miscommunication; this component of emotional intelligence creates a common ground based on logic, not emotion.

Improving Your Emotional Intelligence at Work and in Life

There are a number of tactics you can put to work in order to cultivate these aspects of emotional intelligence and reduce stress. I've used these both professionally and personally, and I have found that my reactions to situations have changed, helping me to combat stress or even stop it from starting in the first place. Here's what works for me:

  • Recognize when you feel tense or stressed, and identify how you usually respond to these feelings. Maybe it's a particular fight or flight reaction. Whatever the case, becoming more mindful and stopping to think about your response can help you calm down and actually re-energize you.
  • Use sensory experiences to calm down. For some, this could be through sight or taste. I relax through sound: Listening to some soothing music instantly calms me down. If you prefer touch, try getting a massage to relieve the physical aspects of stress. Or maybe you'd find aromatherapy or meditation beneficial. Try different things and see what works for you.
  • Think more about the body language and nonverbal cues you see in those around you. These provide a clearer understanding of what's going on with others and can help alleviate those miscommunications and misunderstandings that often lead to stress, particularly in the workplace.
  • Consider adding more humor and laughter to your life. Nothing is better than having a good laugh to lighten the mood in an office.
  • Avoid arguments at all costs. Find a way to communicate calmly. This will not only keep you from stressing out but it will also diffuse feelings of anger within the other person.
  • Resolve any conflict as quickly and constructively as possible to prevent situations from escalating. This prevents creating a tension-filled environment and helps minimize feelings of resentment, which can carry on into the future.

All of these tactics are tied to attributes of emotional intelligence and provide a framework for a tranquil and productive life and work environment.

Peter Daisyme is a special adviser to Due, a payments invoicing company helping small business owners transact money online. He's been a CPA for the past 18 years. He recently sold his previous company Hostt