18 Jun, 2020
Emotionally Intelligent Coping Strategies in Times of Uncertainty
This informal CPD article on Emotionally Intelligent Coping Strategies in Times of Uncertainty was provided by Stochos, an organisation which aims to develop, guide and coach organizations in the process of Excellence & Capacity Building.
Emotionally Intelligent Coping Strategies
“Change”, be it sudden, constant or lasting is alarming and results in uncertainty. Uncertainty raises many questions that, when unanswered, lead to reactivity and, possibly, over-reactivity. It is statistically verified that when we are uncertain of what is coming up and when we feel “not in control”, we react instinctively! This reaction is instinctive; an innate and automatic response in self-defense. It is the “fight-or-flight” response.
The fight response is our decision to hang on and address matters. This gives us the determination to strive and pull through. Conversely, the flight response is the act of fleeing away from the threat- disregarding our concerns- and it could be massively hazardous. Should we decide to hang on and fight, it is fundamental to learn how to acknowledge, regulate, manage and transform undesired emotions. Our decision to persevere, enforces determination which, in its turn, polishes the process through which we reach decisions, act, endure and survive.
However, if and when we give “control” to the situation and to our undesired emotions, we get stressed and, consequently, allow stress to manage us and jeopardize our confidence. Although low levels of stress are useful, because they trigger our energy to perform; nonetheless, when stress level increases, it jeopardizes our ability to think constructively! The higher the stress, the more unhelpful our thinking gets. Emotions have a domino effect on us. Emotions are a loud vibration of how much we allow our “Inner Genius”- the incredible force that holds a resolution to every situation- to lead us. Therefore, our ability to regulate our emotions is fundamental! Emotion regulation is a skill that can be learned and enhanced through practice.
Awareness of how our mind connects to our body
Awareness of how our mind connects to our body- what impact our emotions have on our systems- is essential. As responses to stress differ from person to person, it is key to know how our own body answers to feelings and thoughts. It all about AWARENESS!
Each one of us possesses those strong positive skills required for coping, but they are hidden somewhere and we just need to find and employ them. This would be the stepping stone for building resilience. Building and maintaining resilience is an ongoing journey that could be challenging at times. It takes determination and a great deal of effort, but it is an investment! An investment to building healthy ways of dealing with challenges and coping.
As much as it is a fact that we can neither predict the future with certainty, nor we can control what we feel, research ascertains that we are able to influence how we feel. Learning how to manage, regulate and transform undesired emotions and learning how to control the process through which you reach decisions, behave and perform are essential to gaining control. If and when you get caught up in a cycle of worry, fear, anger or stress, you are significantly restricting your access to the insight, direction and control and, hence, you lose track!
Knowing and acknowledging how you feel
Managing, regulating and transforming your emotions starts with identifying them- knowing and acknowledging how you feel. To be in control of your emotions, your behavior, your decisions, it is key to well understand, well manage and well utilize these unhelpful emotions you tend to get in times of uncertainty.
Firstly, you need to concede the reality that you cannot change anything unless you accept it! The first step in solving a problem, is recognizing that it exists. Therefore, it is key to recognize and admit that you are under pressure. However, knowing the threat and not addressing it, is a big risk and could be very hazardous. Therefore, it is crucial to build an approach to overcome the pressure. As approaches differ from one person to the other, it is important to construct an approach that works for you! Do not try emulate others! What works for them, might not work for you. The approach that you come up with will eventually become seamless, with practice, and the more coping strategies you build; the easier handling pressure and stress gets.
Build coping strategies, keep going and persevere.
It is all about you, your own solidity, and your resilience!
Resilience, is the ability to cope under pressure, to manage stressful situations and to recover from difficulties so that it is possible to successfully function despite significant life adversities. It is the protective process that contributes to improved outcomes despite difficulties. Resilience guards both physical and mental health. Resilience drives the willingness to take action- to manage stress- simply, to do something about it! It is surprising how resilience helps you cope and recover in ways that are often quite unique and amazing! When someone trips and falls, he/she automatically tries to get up again. This is a reflex, a natural drive. Similarly, resilience is this act of standing up and “bouncing back” from adversity. The good news is that everyone can build greater resilience through practice.
Think of Resilience as a spring. The stronger and harder it is pushed down, the farther it jumps and bounces- recovers. Analogously, the bigger the stress and the pressure, the stronger your ability to cope and recover. With that said, to get to this point of control, the key is to know your stressors and your degree of tolerance, as a pre-requisite to building your coping strategies.
Building coping strategies and putting into practice
Building coping strategies is outstanding, but putting them into practice remains the turning point. By acting on the urge- your desire- to regain control, you will be able to stand up again and move forward. It could sound easier said than done!
However, building resilience skills is a personal decision that needs to be willingly pursued, for resilience is a strengths-based approach. It is necessary to bring about your strengths and personal power in order to bypass negative and unhelpful thinking. Being self-aware- knowing your emotions, feelings and thoughts and what they lead to- is what you need to act upon. There is a massive opportunity to improve your resilience through practice- through training your mind to constructively respond to the dares of life.
Negative thoughts affect what you hear, what you say and how you interact with those around us, because all your focus would be on “how unfair the situation is”. Negative thoughts inflate the obstacle, make it worse and may even lead to more and other new problems. The more negative thoughts you get, the bigger the problem seems. Therefore, to break this vicious cycle, you need to gain control! To gain control, you need to adopt a solutions-oriented mindset and start creating solutions.
I say creating solutions, because solutions are individuated; what works for one person, does not necessarily work for the other. The starting point to building resilience and coping is “not to internalize”, “not to trap feelings inside”. Opening up and letting your identified feelings out, is essential. Equally important, expressing appropriately and away from anger is indispensable. With that said, you need to realize that, “not internalizing” does not necessarily mean that you will not experience stress. “Not internalizing” is the initial step of expressing your feelings so that to manage the undesired emotions you experience.
Building healthy habits
Making the decision to start the process of building healthy habits and adopting resilience practices is an achievement that starts with changing your attitude towards handling uncertainties! Resilience strategies do not have to be complicated! They could be simple ones, as long as they work. Many times, the simpler, the better, as they are easy, not complicated and handy. Strategies that are built consciously and willingly, lead to effective practices of dealing with pressure and stress. Strategies that work for you! What is even more rewarding, is that these practices will eventually become habits and will draw you out of the vicious cycle of stress.
It remains essential to know that things do not always happen the way you like them to. Therefore, it is your responsibility to find ways that get you through, ways that works for you. By shifting your energy from trying to control and change things that are beyond your control, to accepting that you cannot change bitter facts, is a starting point to utilizing your energy constructively. Hence, employing your efforts to manage the things you can (like your reactions, the way you address things, your approach, etc.), helps you cope with the issues you cannot control or change.
Once you have reached the acceptance that you cannot control the uncontrollable, it is then time to harmonize your expectations with the situation- to accept and adapt to what is “good enough” for you! To do that, you need to shift your attention from being overwhelmed by the challenge, to finding a way out.
- Learn to look for the upside. Each situation has a down side and an upside, but it is all left to you to find that upside! Find it and embrace it! It only takes you to look outside the situation, above the situation and around the situation, in order to find that other side. When you expand exploration, you naturally start coming across other avenues, that were already there, but just needed you to find!
- Break the harmful thinking. Any change can cause stress, depending on how you interpret it. The way you interpret the situation impacts how you judge it and how you react to it. Renovate your internal milieu and refurbish your thinking and situation analysis. Resist distractions, ruminate on positive thoughts and focus on making efficient favorable decisions.
- Be creative. “Think outside the box”, draw your attention and thoughts out of the challenging situation and look for that path that takes you to where you want to be.
- Talk about it. It is extremely helpful to talk about how you feel, to voice what you are thinking and to evaluate what you plan to do. Make sure that the person you talk to is a person you trust. A person that makes you feel safe and understood. What you need is support and empathy, not sympathy!
- Clear your mind. To get yourself out of the cloud of undesirable thoughts, you need to clear your mind and start thinking right! To win over unproductivity, you have to take charge of your thoughts, transform your mood and get rid of the negative energy that controls your feelings and judgements.
Start with making the effort to get up, refresh and move! Stagnation is a severe opponent to initiative. Do not let inertia overpower you… Defeat it! Remember, coping is a conscious decision to manage stress, by finding creative personalized solutions to combat challenges.
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Stochos, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.