What time does the frustration kick in for you?
That’s the time I start screaming inside, because I actually wanted to get started at 8:30. But I had to help get the kids set up for homeschool. And answer a million questions. And clean up the kitchen because my wife and I didn’t have the energy to do it the night before.
But one day, I came to a realization:
Why am I adding all of this stress to myself?
So what if I don’t start work until 9:45? Or, some days, until 10:30? Of course, it’s not ideal…But this isn’t an ideal world we’re living in.
And that’s why emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotional reactions, offers such a huge advantage in uncertain times:
Because emotionally intelligent people know how to adapt.
I spoke about this recently with Claudia Fulga, Senior Vice President of People and Leadership Development for Fivestars, a company that provides solutions for local small businesses.
“Mental Health has become a very prominent topic for so many of us working from home, alone, stressed, short-fused, managing large teams in all parts of the world, managing the complexity of families, colliding our work and home worlds,” says Claudia. “We’re told that work-life balance doesn’t exist anymore, so how do we manage?”
Here are some of Claudia’s tips, along with some insights that emerged from our conversation.
1. Accept the madness.
These are not normal circumstances. There’s nothing normal about learning to adapt to pandemic life.
But it’s helpful to accept that fact, embrace it, and learn to move forward by simply trying your best.
“It’s important to acknowledge that we may not do everything right and we can’t give everything to every area of our life, every single time,” says Claudia. “Some parts of our life will suffer. Acknowledge and be vulnerable.”
For example, you and your people won’t always start work at the same time, and that’s ok. Your best on a good day will look much different than your best on the bad days.
But it pays to have honest conversations and find ways you can support each other. It makes the good and bad days better.
2. Tame the ANTs.
We all have ANTs, says Claudia: Automatic Negative Thoughts.
But while ANTs may plague your mind, they don’t define you, says Claudia. “90% of the time, these thoughts aren’t true or real. And while you won’t be able to kill all those ANTs, you can certainly take control and tame them.”
Remember that whenever you get bad news or encounter a difficult situation, you likely have two responses:
Your emotional response comes first. Then comes the more rational response.
The key is learning to survive the emotional response. Acknowledge it, accept it. Sleep on it if necessary.
Then, once your emotions have returned to balance, work through it.
3. Have a “calming routine.”
All of us have an emotional breaking point, a moment where it all becomes too much and we react in a way we aren’t proud of. (There’s actually a scientific explanation behind the emotional hijack and how it works.)
With practice, you can increase self-awareness and recognize when you’re working towards that breaking point.
What should you do then?
“Everyone’s different; It’s important to find what works for you,” says Claudia. “Is it going outside? Going for a drive? Writing a worry journal?
“Getting creative, cleaning up, hiding your phone for an hour, or connecting with someone that needs your help–these are all different methods you can pursue to find peace and calm. Find up to three things that make the most impact and do those things, nothing else.”
4. Share your journey.
As hard as some of your moments are, everyone else is experiencing them, too.
It’s important to remember that we’re all in the same boat–not just so you can relate, but because it’s a great chance to build stronger relationships.
“Sometimes you can get clarity by getting out of your own head, by sharing your experience with others,” says Claudia. “Help others do the same. Take a break and share what you’re going through. Have a sense of humor about it.”
Claudia recommends creating a daily “sharing moment,” where you take time to check in with someone else and give each of you a chance to share your experience.
“It really helps to say it out loud. Sometimes we get surprised by how many people feel the same way. That what leadership is, being an example for others and normalizing the darkness that exists in all of our lives.”
Don’t get overwhelmed by how much there is to learn; simply choose one tip and work on it. Then, move on to the next.
Because you’re living in a mad, mad world. But emotional intelligence can help you make it through, one day at a time.