Part 4: Developing your Emotional Intelligence through Self-Management
This week the focus is on taking control of your life by managing your emotions and your actions, self-management. I was reminded this week that to act differently we must think differently. Thought precedes action. When you react to your emotions, there is no telling what might come out of your mouth. When you take a moment to pause and recognize your feelings and emotions, then you can choose to act differently instead of reacting to your emotions and allowing your feelings to take control.
What exactly is self-management? Self-management is exactly as it states- managing the self. Self-management is your ability to choose what you say and do. To do this, you must first be aware of your emotions, self-awareness, which is what I discussed last week in part 3.
What does self-management entail? Self-management may seem straight-forward, but it might be more difficult than you think. Self-management is not just about self-control and holding your tongue. Eventually you are going to blow or the feelings will manifest somewhere in your body if you keep them bottled up. Self-management is also about recognizing and taking risks (that you would not normally take) to help you reach your goals. Have you ever allowed fear of failure stop you from trying something new? Maybe you didn’t think you would be any good at it, so why even try? Self-management can help you stop fear in its tracks so that you control your emotions and not the other way around.
How do you increase your self-management? Self-management is something that must be practiced daily, just like self-awareness. Over time, your practice of self-management becomes a habit and a way of life. You cannot help but increase and improve your self-management with daily practice; it just happens. The more you keep peeling back the layers of you and understanding how you work, the closer you come the core of you and understanding your true nature. Here are three easy exercises you can try to better manage your emotions instead of them managing you.
Exercise 1: Deep breathing. Breathing deeply does several things for you. Focusing on breathing allows you time to pause to check your emotions and possibly choose to act differently. Taking deep breaths also sends more oxygen to your body, which sends a signal throughout your body that it is O.K. to relax. Breathing deeply also enhances your mental capacity as you provide more oxygen to your brain instead of sending it to your limbs like in the fight or flight (stress) response. The deep breathing may also help distract you while you focus on centering and calming yourself.
Try it! Simply take a long, deep inhale, in through the nose, ensuring the chest and belly rise as your breath becomes completely full. Pause briefly for a second or two. As you release your breath, exhaling slowly through the mouth, allow your belly to fall as it moves in towards your spine and your chest slightly and comfortably collapses. Continue this deep breathing for 1-5 minutes and notice how much calmer and clearer you feel. You may also incorporate counting to 10 with each exhale.
Exercise 2: What are you telling yourself? By allowing yourself time to reflect and check your self-talk, you can choose to talk to yourself differently. Self-talk is what you say to yourself as if you were talking to yourself and it is your running commentary on life. Positive self-talk is great and usually helps to motivate you such as, I know I can do this, just a little more and I will be done, or I love this! However, negative self-talk can send you in a downward negative spiral and act to keep you down such as, that was a stupid move, I always screw things up, or I hate the way this or that is.
Try it! Next time you find yourself talking negatively to yourself or speaking negatively about something, try just stating the facts and being specific. Imagine you are the manager of an employee, and you are providing feedback on the employee’s performance (yours). As a manager, you know the proper way to provide feedback is to state the facts (you made a mistake) instead of being judgmental (you were stupid for making a mistake or you make mistakes all the time). Be specific, (sometimes you make mistakes). Let yourself know that life is all about learning from our mistakes, (so what did you learn from this and what will you do differently going forward)?
Exercise 3: Visualize success. Visualization is a powerful tool to have in your tool belt as it allows you to experience success without actually having achieved it yet. By doing this, you establish the neural pathways needed in your brain for success. The mind knows no difference between what you actually see with your eyes and what you see in your mind’s eye.
Try it! Find a quiet space to relax where you will not be interrupted for at least 5 minutes, longer if you can. Identify a situation or person that charges you. Close your eyes and visualize the situation that charges you by imagining what you would see, hear, and feel. Brighten up the image as you focus on your surroundings and the details that charge you. Now imagine acting the way you would like to, perhaps breathing deep and slow, saying exactly what you want to in a calm way, respectfully disagreeing, or speaking confidently in front of others. Imagine yourself succeeding at managing your emotions and your behaviors, acting the way you want to instead of reacting. Focus on feeling good about the interaction and the way you brilliantly handled yourself.
It is important to reiterate that self-management is a daily practice and not just something that you achieve and then move on. Schedule time for yourself daily to practice self-management whether it is a visualization exercise, spending some quiet time to reflect or problem solve, or finding something that will lift your mood like a funny movie instead of bringing it down. Allow yourself to learn and grow focusing on possibilities rather than impossibilities by constantly checking yourself, being aware, and choosing to act in a way that serves rather than judges.
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