Mindset Moment: Emotional Intelligence & moving through your feelings faster


Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate our own emotions, and the emotions of others.


This topic has come up both in my personal life and with a few of my clients lately, so I thought I’d bring it to the table here and we can chat about it!

 

I’m not a mental health professional. I’m a wellness and nutrition coach with her own mental health struggles, who has learned some tools along the way, and who (I’d like to think) has actively worked on increasing her own emotional intelligence

Having emotions is normal; big ones, overwhelming ones, scary ones, happy ones, scared ones, irrational ones - it’s normal to have all of them. It’s not wrong to feel what you feel when a feeling pops up - you didn’t create the feeling, it just popped up! Maybe it was triggered by your environment at the time, by an event that happened, or by some kind of intrusive thought.


This happens to everyone - kids, parents, CEOs, celebrities, and everyone else. Everyone feels big feelings. Everyone handles failure, disappointment, stress, nerves, fear, and sadness.


The difference I want to share with you today, the thing that separates those who seem happier and those who are burdened by their feelings, is how quickly you are able to move through those feelings.

Now, important note: I didn’t say ignore those feelings. I didn’t say pretend they’re not there, or avoid thinking about them in order to appear happy or continue being productive. I said move through them. And the first part of moving through them is acknowledging that they’re there. EI would call this “perceiving” them. You first have to stop and take note of what you’re feeling. Cry if you want to. Scribble a bunch in your journal. Take a hot shower or a long walk and sit with whatever it is.


But then, moving through them means starting to decide if those feelings are based on things that are true or not. You can decide if the circumstances surrounding those feelings are actually happening or just being worried about in your head. Are they helping you do the things you’d like to do, or are they getting in your way? EI would call this “evaluating.”


Let’s do an example: It’s not uncommon at all for a client to come to me feeling like they failed at their health goal. If the goal was to eat whole food meals, and they got "snacky" in the afternoon and ate some chips, they might feel like they failed at their goal. Feeling failure is okay; that’s just your feeling. But is it true that you really failed? Eating chips doesn’t take away that amazing breakfast and lunch you had. It doesn’t have to change your dinner plans. It doesn’t impact tomorrow. It was one moment. And it’s totally okay if you don’t feel great about that moment or that choice; acknowledge your disappointment, then tell yourself, “My next choice will be one that makes me feel good about myself and my goals.” And then that’s that.


You get to change the thoughts you have surrounding your feelings.


You may have heard me say before, “We can’t always control what happens around us, but we can control how we respond.” It’s kind of like that. It’s okay that you felt something. But it’s your job to decide what kind of story you’re going to tell yourself, what actions you take next, and how the next feelings unfold.


I would never try to tell you that this is immediately easy. It’s a practice, just like a yoga practice, a meditation practice, a nutrition practice… You get to have a “thoughts & feelings” practice.


Maybe start practicing by just bringing awareness to your feelings. Notice how you feel when there’s a change, take note of the thoughts that are popping up. This is working on your perception. “I notice that I’m overthinking this. I notice that I’m disappointed. I notice that I’m stressed out.” That’s the first step!


When you have increased awareness, you can start to evaluate, start to talk to yourself about what you’re feeling, in a real, matter-of-fact, truthful way. “I’m disappointed in myself for eating those chips, but in reality that was just one choice.” or maybe “I’m stressed out by everything I have to do this week. In reality, though, only some of it is important.” “I’m overthinking the way someone replied to me, but in reality I have no idea what THEY are feeling, so there’s no need for me to make up assumptions about it.”


The faster you become at noticing your feelings, evaluating them for what they are, and replacing them with things that are truthful and gentle, the happier and more peaceful you will feel. Moving through your feelings is a way to honor what you feel, but to remember that most things in life are much more temporary and much less important than we tend to think they are.