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Importance Of Emotional Intelligence In Mental Health

Written by: Maureen Chiana, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

High rates of mental health problems have recently been documented among employees, managers and even university students. As a result, employee wellbeing has emerged as a massive priority for organisations, as many workers complain of dissatisfaction and burnout, resulting in low employee engagement, an increase of 'quiet quitting', and the 'Great Resignation'.

Depressed woman sitting on a chair in dark room at home.
“Our history is not our destiny.” — Alan Cohen

Many people spend too much time focusing on their physical health, and forget to work on their mental health, because unhealthy thoughts lead to an unhealthy life, even if you exercise daily and eat well.


What actually is mental health?


It is how well we process our thoughts, emotions, and actions by deciding how we handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions.


The ability to intelligently manage the emotional brain is a fundamental mechanism in wellbeing and developing high Emotional Intelligence skills plays a key role in this by enabling individuals to cope more effectively with challenging situations, resulting in improved mental and physical wellbeing.


Mental health problems have become prevalent and psychosocial stress and the feeling of rejection are strong contributing factors. In addition, many workers are dissatisfied in their jobs with a feeling of not being able to speak up, resulting in them leaving or decreasing their effort while suffering in silence, ultimately causing mental and emotional health issues which negatively impact on the workers and the organisation.


Unrealistic expectations, accompanied by excessive workloads and tight deadlines, increase workers stress levels, especially when they have not learned to control their brains narrative. This is currently leading to many work days lost to anxiety, mental fatigue, stress and depression


The workplace is a community of people with diverse brains so it's become essential for leaders and organisations to understand how to support their and their people's mental health for sustained high performance, productivity, creativity and effective decision-making.


Emotional Intelligence


Research has shown that emotional Intelligence (EQ) can largely prevent symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress (mental health problems) because those with higher emotional Intelligence have developed skills to manage their emotions to typically have more positive moods. This results in psychological, mental and emotional wellbeing, an ability to thrive and not just survive.


The right hemisphere of the brain is normally responsible for processing emotions of our thoughts — is it happy or sad, angry or calm, so it has become crucial to understand the role of Emotional Intelligence for prevention and treatment.


"Emotional intelligence (EQ) includes "the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions" (Mayer et al., 2004).


Each person has their own way of looking at the world (perception) and responding to it (behaviour). Those recurring responses – partly inherited and part learned fall into patterns, referred to as behaviour preferences.


Emotional Intelligence is also involved in the shaping of social functioning. Individuals who are better able to recognise and regulate their own emotions appear more able to establish and maintain healthy social relationships.


A Sense of Belonging


Having a sense of Belonging is an important aspect of social functioning because we human beings are wired to establish a certain amount of stability and develop positive interpersonal relationships.


People with higher levels of Emotional Intelligence, experience a higher sense of inclusion and less rejection which, in turn, is associated with lower overall mental health problems.


The same person can experience high levels of inclusion and rejection at different times, and our brain experiences negative emotions more strongly and for longer, this is why better leaders don't just focus on creating a sense of belonging at work but to also work on reducing the experience of rejection as well for better impact.


Strategies For Mental Health


Leaders Need Good Mental Health to Be Empathetic


When you feel stressed and fearful from consistent change, challenges, and working under pressure, it's difficult to feel empathy for others because your emotional brain activates the stress response keeping you focused on the problems and your survival. But being empathetic under these difficult circumstances is the edge that will make you a great and high-performing leader.


When you care about your team and understand their perspectives, you build rapport, trust and credibility. This is where developing Emotional Intelligence is vital to help you manage your emotions, thoughts and behaviour so that you can then have the mental and emotional ability to care for others.


Without this, you run the risk of being an absent, unavailable leader that loses peoples' trust and your credibility.


Minor issues can become magnified in the brain to become major when an individual has not learned the skills to manage their thoughts, emotions, or actions resulting in mental health problems.


Regulating emotion needs to be practiced consistently and some common strategies include:

  • setting goals

  • mindfulness

  • self-compassion

  • meditation

  • positive self-talk

  • nutrition

  • reflective practice.

You can regain your motivation and focus to complete tasks when you set goals correctly, enabling you to regain emotional control when achieved.


Mindfulness enables us to stay in the present because, as humans, we tend to hold onto the past and worry about the future. But, in reality, we can determine our present because the past has gone, and the future isn't here yet. So being mindful will enable you to see current opportunities and set and act on small goals that can be achieved.


Self-compassion


Many people get trapped in vicious cycles of having unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, setting themselves impossible standards, failing to reach them, and living in self-blame, shame, and self-doubt.


Self-compassion is the most effective way to eliminate these limiting feelings and emotions by giving yourself the same kindness you would give to other people.


Meditation can be effective when done appropriately by providing scope and focus for example, when deep breathing and movements are practiced, leading to increased energy. A common mental health symptom is low energy, so meditation can help increase energy levels and motivation.


Positive self-talk is essential to eliminate what Daniel Amen describes as ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). It's an ability to replace these negative thoughts with positive believable ones.


Negative thinking or undisciplined thoughts are formed from bad habits you engage in because they attack and take over your mind. These negative thinking habits form through a process called long-term potentiation as neurons fire and wire together, and the negative thoughts become an ingrained part of your life to the extent that you start believing that they are your reality.


Don't believe every thought you have. Emotional Intelligence becomes essential to enable you to develop this skill of guiding and directing your thoughts. This is a key step in developing strong mental discipline.


For best results, start with small, subtle changes such as reframing 'I can't do this, to 'I can’t do this yet.' Or "I can't ask for help" to I can ask for help when I need it.


Nutrition: The gut bacteria in our digestive system don't just function to help us break food down. There's a close association between the brain and the gut, which is incredibly important in mental health. So make your gut health a priority by listening to your body and watching what you eat.


Eat low-sugar foods and reduce or eliminate processed and refined sugars and carbs.


Learn to let go of mistakes quickly when things don’t go the way you expect. Be persistent, and do not allow frustration to undermine your confidence or focus.


Aligned to all these strategies is the use of the reflective practice. Reflective practice will facilitate your ability to develop mental and emotional well-being. Reflective practice will give you an opportunity to self-assess your thoughts, emotions and actions so that you can adjust/shift quickly when required.


Coaching:


One very good indicator of progress is the growing practice of appointing performance coaches to help leaders, managers and team members increase in performance by helping them maintain their mental and emotional wellbeing to enable them make the right actions and take appropriate actions.


Conclusion


To stop yourself from getting into a self-defeating, downward spiral, it's essential to learn to be kinder to yourself by choosing self-compassion over self-criticism, practice mindfulness to ride out emotional waves, and develop high emotional intelligence skills.


Pay attention to yourself to determine whether you spend more time during your day reacting to situations or responding. When you react, you create toxic thought patterns that negatively impact your mental health. On the other hand, responding enables you take time to analyse the situation before speaking and gives you control.


You lose control when you react because you give control to someone else or something else over you.


No matter what challenges you encounter in life, when you master the art of mental self-care, you will boost your mind, mood, and mental health and achieve extraordinary success in life.


Follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram, and visit my website and Academy for more info!


Read more from Maureen!

 

Maureen Chiana, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Maureen is the CEO and founder of The Mindsight Academy and host of Lead To Excel Podcast. She is a NeuroCoach, delivering Performance Enhancement Treatment [PET] by rewiring the brains of leaders to perform at their optimum.

She is a High Performance Coach, Corporate Consultant, Neuro-Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Specialist, an Award Winning Speaker, that leverages on Neuroscience insights of how the brain works, to empower leaders, executives, female founders and business owners to perform optimally and transform how they lead, work and live.


Maureen is passionate about helping people mitigate the biases that negatively affects them and their decisions, and her framework focuses on the Human Central Processing Unit – THE BRAIN, which helps leaders make better decisions ‒ especially under pressure ‒ thereby improving their overall or targeted performance.

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