The holidays put me behind at work. I took some time off, and now that I’m back, I’ve got a magazine to get out, performance reviews to conduct, presentations to prepare, etc. It’s challenging to focus on any one task, making it difficult to complete anything. I can feel my stress level rising.
In this issue’s “How’s Your EQ?” author Mike Jacka considers how internal auditors can use their emotional intelligence (or quotient) (EQ) to build better relationships throughout the organization. But a recent article in the Harvard Business Review says we can also use EQ — particularly, self-awareness and self-management — to reduce our stress and help us focus.
According to the author, Kandi Wiens, “one of the reasons why some people get burned out and others don’t is because they use their [EQ] to manage their stress.” In “Break the Cycle of Stress and Distraction by Using Your Emotional Intelligence,” Wiens encourages readers to use their self-awareness to notice when they feel stressed and then take several steps to keep focused. One step we can take, she suggests, is limiting our digital access.
The American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) 2017 Stress in America report says those who check their email, texts, and social media accounts constantly have higher stress levels than those who don’t check as frequently. And those who check their work email constantly on their days off have even higher stress levels. According to the APA report, 65 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree that periodically “unplugging” is important to their mental health; however, only 28 percent of those respondents actually report doing so.
Other suggestions offered by Wiens for reducing stress include committing to the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, practicing mindfulness and resisting knee-jerk reactions, and paying more attention to others’ feelings and needs. “Studies … show that shifting our focus to others produces physiological effects that calm us and strengthen our resilience,” she writes.
Maybe the best advice I’ve received on lowering stress and staying focused came from my boss: “Live one day at a time.” You can’t change the past; you can’t control the future. Live in the present and take each day as it comes. Here’s to a productive, focused, stress-free 2018!