Our recent posts examine the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in personal branding and how it significantly contributes to becoming a star performer. The last post started to unpack strategies to help you develop the various components of EQ, the first being self-awareness. This post focuses on strategies to develop the very important skill of self-regulation.
Self-regulation is largely about self-control and personal accountability. For example, highly self-regulated individuals rarely explode or verbally attack others, make rushed or emotional decisions, or lose sight of their values. As a psychologist, I’ve come across many different strategies to help clients develop self-regulation. Ultimately, it’s important to go with techniques that best suit you as an individual – and ones that you are realistically going to use! Here are five practices to try out:
- Be mindful – Mindfulness is an Eastern approach that uses attentional training to help us better connect to the present moment. It requires non-judgmentally observing the moment, including thoughts and feelings. Studies show that mindfulness not only helps with emotional regulation, but it can also bring about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and well-being. Mindfulness is often cultivated through formal and informal meditation exercises. It can be used to “turn down the volume” on negative thoughts (e.g., self-critical messages, regrets, fears) by practicing how to just notice them and redirect your attention, instead of getting “hooked” on these thoughts and following them into a downward mood spiral. If your negative thinking is about the past, remind yourself that you are not able to change the past, and that what should have happened doesn’t matter – what matters is right now. There are some great resources on mindfulness out there, including the work of Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Also check out Sit. Breath. Love. for ideas on incorporating mindfulness into your daily life.
- Live in accordance with your values – Once you’ve identified your core values (see my last post), try your best to live in congruence with them on a daily basis. In other words, behave in ways that align with your personal values. You can turn to your values to keep you “steady” during difficult times by remembering who you want to be and what you want to stand for in the situation. Use your values like a compass to direct your decisions and behaviour when faced with challenges. By setting your own course using an internal compass, you avoid simply allowing the “winds of change” to direct your behaviour. Check out my post on values for more on this.
- Practice personal accountability – Refrain from assigning blame to others and making excuses when something goes wrong. Instead, make a commitment to own up to your mistakes, directly face the consequences and offer a genuine apology when needed. Evaluate your actions by asking, “What am I doing (or not doing) to contribute to the problem?” “What solution can I offer?” and “In what ways will I be accountable for the result?” Taking responsibility for your actions, being honest, and admitting to your mistakes will go a long way in preventing and decreasing emotional reactivity.
- Practice stress reduction techniques – The ability to stay calm and in control in difficult situations is an important quality in both our professional and personal lives, and so learning strategies to cope with these pressures will serve you (and those around you) well. Really notice how you respond to your next challenging situation. Take a moment to practice mindfulness and stress reduction techniques such as deep-breathing (i.e., diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing) to calm yourself so that you can react more effectively. Take stock of situations that generally create pressure and stress and determine what you can change or learn to accept. Remember to recharge at the end of the day by practicing stress reduction to “switch off” and having a wind-down routine before bed. Ongoing practices such as mindful meditation and yoga can also be helpful in maintaining emotional balance. See our posts on stress reduction for more on this.
Hopefully this gives you a few ideas to enhance your emotional regulation skill-set. Up next, we offer strategies to build the next component of EQ, Motivation!