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« 17. Anxiety: EI tips on reducing it »

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and internationally recognised Emotional Intelligence Coach.

Emotional intelligence relates to all emotions, including anxiety. Anxiety is common to most people and it varies in intensity and duration. However, anxiety can be frightening and overwhelming.

Developing your emotional intelligence skills to manage and reduce it can be very rewarding and valuable.

I have suffered and overcome debilitating panic attacks - a severe form of anxiety which often produces horrible feelings of dread. Here are my tips for managing and reducing the anxiety from my personal experience.

(However, I am not a psychologist, so if your anxiety is severe or significant please seek professional help. Seeking professional help in such instances can be emotionally intelligent.)

Reduce anxiety tip 1: Sit and observe it.

If you can simply sit out anxiety and watch it arise and fade away you are less likely to make it worse. When you feel anxiety, and panic about it, you are more likely to make it worse. Panic about panic doubles the panic!

Reduce anxiety tip 2: Describe the symptoms objectively.

Notice what is happening and describe it in a measurable, objective way. For example, if your heart is pounding simply say to yourself "My heart is beating at 170 beats a minute, now it's 175 beats a minute."

Reduce anxiety tip 3: Become curious about the symptoms.

Become curious rather than scared by your symptoms.

Ask yourself questions about them. For example, if you're sweating, become curious about all the water dripping from your body! I know it can sound funny and it can be. Asking questions can help you become more detached. The types of questions I asked myself were, "So how much water can I leak out?"; "Where does all this water come from?"; "How fast can a heart beat?" and so on.

Become a body professor!

Reduce anxiety tip 4: Be patient.

Okay, I know the idea of being patient while in the grip of anxiety is probably the last thing that you want to do... but patience is more likely to help you than getting impatient and irritated.

One of my favourite sayings is "This too will pass". And it usually does!

Reduce anxiety tip 5: Focus on something else.

Bring to mind a contented or beautiful image and concentrate on this.

It is impossible for the mind to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. It can "kid" you though by jumping from one thing to another and back again, very quickly. If you practise focusing on something serene and calming you will get moments of rest from the anxiety.

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Reduce anxiety tip 6: Talk to someone.

Being anxious and not telling anyone about it may make it worse, as the anxiety may become all "bottled" up inside you.

There's no need to be embarrassed by it, normal people experience anxiety. Telling someone like an understanding close friend, a doctor, a counsellor, a crisis-line counsellor, a psychologist, a priest, anyone you think will listen, can help relieve the tension of it.

Reduce anxiety tip 7: Breathe deeply.

Anxiety often changes our breathing. It can become irregular, shallow or more rapid.

If you learn breathing techniques at times when you're not anxious, then while you're anxious it may help you to focus on helping your breathing to slow down and go deeper. Gently breathing in and out while you put your hand on your belly so you can feel it rise and fall with the breath, may also help.

Reduce anxiety tip 8: Catch it early.

What is the first sign that tells you your anxiety is starting or about to increase?

I used to find that my belly would have a slight flutter in it, as the first sign of anxiety. What I came to realise was, that how I reacted to that initial flutter determined what happened next. What's your first symptom? Can you react calmly to it?

Reduce anxiety tip 9: Accept it.

When you notice your first symptom, accept it. "There goes my stomach having a flutter".

If you speak like this about it, you are more likely to stay calm than if you say, something like, "Oh no, I'm about to have a panic attack, how will I cope, I might faint, what will people think?"

Reduce anxiety tip 10: Get help.

There is plenty of help around for people with anxiety. Make the most of it. It is there for you.

There are self-help groups, doctors, medications, psychologists, meditation, Feldenkrais, lots of help.

Strong people seek help. Emotionally intelligent people seek help. Seek it and benefit from it.

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