How are your stress levels? Are you managing them well? Maybe you’re so used to being under stress that it feels normal… until you have a holiday to wind down when, irritatingly, you get sick. Why does that happen?
Known as the Let Down Effect, it’s because your cortisol levels and stress hormones were working hard to keep your immune system going – and you healthy – during your time of high stress. And then, as soon as you relax, your cortisol levels plummet and you become vulnerable to infections.
One way to help stop this frustrating cycle is to learn to manage your stress. And arguably the most important way to do that is to improve your emotional intelligence.
Fight or Flight
Early man survived dangerous situations, like charging elephants, thanks to our Reptilian Complex. This part of our brain enables survival by identifying dangerous situations and defending territory – a process we all know as Fight or Flight. We still have these instincts today during times of stress.
In many cases, both at work and home, you may find yourself reacting too quickly to pressured situations. Your pulse has probably risen. These fast, instinctive reactions to “get the job done” are predominantly driven by the reptilian part of the brain. But the more you do this, the more your stress levels rise. Urgent deadline looming – just do it! Elephants stampeding towards you – run!
It’s the same physiological and psychological reaction: the need to save yourself. But these days, it’s important to slow down a bit, for the sake of your mental health. Too many chief executives, leaders and managers are driving themselves to an early grave with the pressure they put on themselves. Don’t let this be you.
This is where emotional intelligence coaching can really help. Slowing down enables you to register your thoughts and reflect on what’s happening, and then make a conscious decision on whether to engage or move away. The reptilian brain doesn’t – it treats those thoughts as reality, affecting the way we choose to act. When we feel stressed, tempers can fray. This can massively affect productivity, with managers wasting time dealing with petty squabbles because people aren’t dealing with their emotions.
Relying on the reptilian brain more than we should affects time management, creativity, and the ability to be emotionally intelligent. Reptiles don’t have feelings or live in groups. Similarly, when we get too stressed, we disconnect from our communities – families, friends, colleagues. Mindfulness, learnt through emotional intelligence coaching, allows you to pause, consider different options and be more inclusive.
Fixed mindset to growth mindset
Having good emotional intelligence allows you to become more mindful, which in turn helps you to: make effective choices – e.g. not rush things; be more efficient; enhance your performance; recognise when stress is at play, and notice what’s happening in your body; know when you need to put a pause in place, slow down, focus.
Having emotional intelligence reduces stress and, consequently, improves your immune system – which in turn should allow you to enjoy your time off without getting sick.