Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Sarah Buttle

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

A crucial and empowering self-taught skill which can help manage and control stress and other emotions

We are inevitably living in a global societal structure filled chaos and uncertainty. A world that is filled in all corners with sums of negativity and ego. Emotional intelligence has never been more valuable to the human population. It is a skill that requires perseverance and hard work, but with invaluable rewards.

From a scientific view, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own thoughts and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and other’s emotions.

Dr. Susan David contributor to ‘HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence’ describes dealing with emotions as being a key leadership skill to acquire. She states how many find the simple task of labelling how and what we feel to be much harder than previously thought.

“Anger and stress are two emotions we see most in the workplace- or at least, those are the terms we use for them most frequently. Yet they often mask for deeper feelings that we could and should describe in more precise ways, so that we develop greater levels of emotional awareness & agility, a critical capability that allows us to interact more successful with ourselves and the world”, Dr. Susan David.

She continues to explain how it has been proven that when people do not acknowledge and address their emotions, they can begin to display a lowered sense of well-being and an increase in physical symptoms of stress.

Now that we are aware of emotional regulation and know why it’s important, where should we begin?

It is common knowledge that it is impossible not to feel stressed at some point in your life, it is unavoidable and should be- it is a natural emotion in-heritably rooted in our DNA. What is not in-heritably rooted in our DNA is feeling so stressed that it begins to interfere with everyday tasks and social encounters. As stress affects us all, I believe it is a good starting place- You can call it the perfect emotion to tackle first.

Stress is said to be an emotion that is quite underrated with regard to the damage it can have a person’s well-being if it is not regulated. Too much of anything is bad as they say, ‘everything in moderation’, stress can be a silent killer to a clear and healthy mind. It is an emotion that is unrecognisable by most.

With these guidelines I hope to expand your knowledge and in hand give you tools and a starting point to becoming emotionally intelligent, aware and in control of your emotions, with an emphasis on stress.

The ‘Stress Control’ Programme 

Pioneered by Dr. Jim White back in 1986 ‘Stress Control’ is the most widely used stress management course with the HSE and NHS. It is used extensively in companies; in Universities; in Local Authorities and in community settings with repeated success rates.

Over 1,000 teachers have delivered Stress Control classes to hundreds of thousands of people. With the largest Stress Control attendance recently obtained by 400 participants in Malahide. It is now available over a vast array of countries including Ireland, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Korea, Mexico, Canada and USA.

‘Stress Control’ is a six session programme, each lasting 90 minutes. Each step is said to be a part of a jigsaw, with each session linking to the next. To give you an idea as to why it is invaluable that we all learn about emotional regulation I have reviewed the first session of ‘Stress Control’ briefly. Stress in one emotion we can take back control of and regulate. The first step to emotional regulation is self-awareness and basic understandings of our emotions.

Session 1: What is Stress?

The most common form of stress is a mix of anxiety and depression. It often comes with sleep problems, panic feelings and anger, resulting in people creating their own coping mechanisms which can result in negative behaviours and habits. Dr. White explains that stress becomes a problem when we feel we can’t control it, and this is as a result of the human population not being emotionally intelligent. This happens when the pressures on us outweigh our ability to cope. He has perfected his ‘Stress Control’ programme with the objective to help people learn better ways of coping with stress.

Right this minute, one in five of us have a stress problem that is affecting their day to day lives, and subsequently those close to them. This makes stress one of the biggest problems in the world today as this 1 in 5 is found right across the world. It is a problem that is increasing, as more people now go to the GP with stress than with any other problem, Dr. White

Dr. White has divided stress into four parts: what you feel, what you think, what you do and how your body reacts. He demonstrate how often stress can affect how you feel, think, act and have physical effects on your body as seen below.

How stress can affect your feelings:

You may feel uptight, flat, easily upset, guilt keenly, easily embarrassed, feel low, full of anger, get jealous easily, discomfort easily, insecure, have lost your sense of humour, hopeless, tearful or that stress brings out the worst in you, making you small-minded, petty or resentful.

How stress can affect your thoughts:

You may worry or brood about things you know you shouldn’t worry or brood about, lose self-confidence, poor memory, self-conscious, abandoned, poor concentration, lack of motivation, easily startled and distracted, waiting for the worst to happen, easily confused and the feeling you have no will to get up.

How stress can affect your actions:

You may avoid doing things or going places as you fear you will not be able to cope with them, you may be more quick tempered or angry, begin withdrawing from life, unable to sit at peace, making more mistakes, avoiding responsibility, substance abuse, over eating or diet restriction or you may let others walk all over you.

How stress can affect your body:

You may have a lot of aches and pains due to tense muscles, prone to colds and flu, drained of energy, loss of grain weight, headaches, breathing changes when tense, feeling uptight or may find it hard to fall asleep or to stay asleep.

After reading Dr. White’s list of the different feelings, thoughts and physical symptoms caused by stress, it is clear that emotional intelligence is a skill we must acquire.

The next question is what forms of help and support are there for people who want to tackle their emotions and to become emotionally intelligent? For more on this, please read another post I wrote ‘An Insight into Psychotherapy‘, where I discuss further the different therapies available and the different services and resources available for getting support.

Having now learned about emotional intelligence it is clear it is a skill that all of us can learn and improve on. It will allow you to determine your weaknesses and strengths,  help you to become more in control of your actions and most importantly it can help you bounce back during tough times. I like to call this our bounce-back-ability.

The remaining 5 sessions of the ‘Stress Control’ programme concentrate on areas such: controlling your body, controlling your thoughts- cognitive therapy, controlling your actions- behaviour therapy, controlling panic, controlling sleep problems and looking to the future. For more information on emotional intelligence I would recommend you www. stresscontrol.org and ‘HBR Guide to Emotional Intelligence’ which was published in 2017 by Harvard Business Review Press which both gave me the foundations and inspiration to write this feature.


If you are in need of support or wish to seek further advice there are several organisations that can help:

  • Aware is a service for people experiencing depression. You can contact the organisation on their website www.aware.ie or email info@aware.ie
  • Grow is a mental health and personal growth organisation aimed at prevention and recovery of mental health illness. You can contact the organisation on their website www.grow.ie or email info@grow.ie
  • Pieta House is a centre for the prevention of self-harm and suicide. You can contact the organisation on their website www.pieta.ie or email mary@pieta.ie
  • Samaritans offers a confidential 24 our emotion support service for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair. You can contact them 1850 60 90 90 or 116123 which is a new free number for all calls. You can also email jo@samaratans.org or text 087 2609090

/ 4 Articles

Sarah Buttle

Mental Health Youth Advisers for the Milestone Study