In the new Covid-19 world, we’re all dealing with intense emotions and huge levels of anxiety. These emotions aren’t bad; they can actually help us if we know how to handle them. But if we let them get out of control, they can paralyze us or send us into a downward spiral.
Emotional intelligence isn’t about trying to remove emotions from the decision-making process; rather, it’s about understanding and managing those emotions. That’s especially helpful during a time of crisis because it can help us to think rationally and balance our emotions with rational thought, so we don’t act in a way that we later regret. I like to call this, “Making emotions work for you, instead of against you.”
For example, while it’s one thing to understand that you have to work from home from an intellectual standpoint, it’s a completely different thing to adapt to that fact emotionally. Let’s say one day you schedule to participate in Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting. You would never schedule this many back-to-back meetings in person. But in an effort to be as productive as possible, you don’t imagine how much of an emotional toll it will take, and that it’s just not reasonable. Emotional intelligence helps you to realize these types of things, and to make needed adjustments–like scheduling more buffer time between meetings.
Another example: When you’re battling negative emotions, which all of us are in the midst of this pandemic, there’s two ways to respond. You can revel in those feelings and even spiral down into a pity party. Or you can use those negative feelings as motivation, to find a situation that you do have control over and take action. This could mean anything from newfound time to pursue a hobby or project that you’ve always wanted, or to reach out and connect with family or friends you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Emotional intelligence can also help you in your relationships with others. Remember that empathy begets empathy. When you take time to carefully listen to your partner, your family, your friends, or your colleagues–when you try to relate to their feelings–they will feel understood. And when a person feels understood, they’re far more likely to reciprocate your efforts and try to be more understanding to you.
Remember, you can’t always control how you feel. But you can control the way you process and react to those feelings. And doing so can help you immensely during this challenging time.
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.