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We’ve learned to recognise the signs of stress and our coping patterns and we’ve also learned some healthy ways to cope with stress.

Next up: learning to build emotional intelligence. Sounds chim (difficult)? To put it simply, having emotional intelligence means you’re able to recognise, understand, express, and manage your emotions.

Why Build Emotional Intelligence?

Woman using her mobile phone with a smile on her face

With emotional intelligence, we can better handle stressful situations.

Emotionally intelligent people can identify and differentiate between emotions, and use that information to make effective decisions and take appropriate actions.

For example, an emotionally intelligent person would recognise when he or she feels angry, and use deep breathing to calm down before speaking.

Related: Mental Health – Emotional Intelligence

Recognise: Listen to Your Emotions

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When you’re feeling unpleasant emotions like sadness or anger, don’t ignore or get into the habit of suppressing them.

It’s easy to dismiss emotions as an inconvenience or something silly. Try to overcome these instincts! Focus on your emotions and figure out why you’re feeling them.

Related: Be Mentally and Emotionally Tough

Understand: Write Down Your Emotions

Stressed young man focusing hard on completing his work

The thoughts in your head may seem jumbled up like rojak when you’re feeling a mix of strong emotions. Organise your thoughts by writing down what you feel, and the events that happened that might have made you feel this way.

Not in touch with your emotions? Start keeping track with a daily mood journal. Note the basics: are you mad, sad, glad, or scared?

Related: When the Brain is Ill

Express: Communicate Your Emotions

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Learn to express your emotions. When feeling overwhelmed, share your feelings with loved ones by using words like “I feel...”, and ask for their help in problem-solving.

Communication isn’t just about what you say, but also how you say it. Pay attention to body language (e.g. eye contact, posture, hand gestures), both your own and other people’s.

Do you unknowingly tense up when angry or slouch when you’re sad? Consciously adjust these cues, and use inviting, open body language when sharing with your friends and family: keep arms uncrossed, palms relaxed, and eye contact frequent.

Related: Expressing Yourself Through the Arts

Manage: Be Healthy, Be Happy

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Once you’ve learnt to recognise, understand, and communicate your emotions, you can manage them. The key here is to consciously choose things that help you stay healthy and relaxed.

Instead of eating to soothe feelings or turning to drink to “drown your sorrows”, choose healthier activities like going for a walk at a nearby park or heading to the beach to swim or cycle.

And make sure you continue to do the things that make you happy and relaxed regularly — don’t neglect them during difficult times!

Regular R&R will help you be in a healthier state of mind, making it easier to handle stress and negative emotions: this could be simple activities like reading, chit-chatting with friends, or getting a mani-padi.

Preventing Diabetes: Beat Stress

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  1. How to Express Feelings... and How Not to. Psychology Today.
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