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Emotional Self-Awareness

Emotional Self-Awareness

Goal: Emotional self-awareness is the foundation for being able to perform and communicate most effectively when under stress.  When we are stressed, stress hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine) are released.  These cause our blood pressure and heart rate to increase, and decrease our ability to make good decisions since we are primed for just a few choices: fighting, fleeing, or just shutting down (freezing).  If we are aware that we are getting stressed, we can make choices that can decrease the stress level and improve the chances that we will respond appropriately.  If we are not aware, we may just react out of feeling stressed. 
Technique: Pause when you are stressed and notice how it feels in your body.  Where do you feel it most? Some people feel stress in their jaw or neck, others in their chest, and still others in their belly or abdomen.  Alternatively, close your eyes and think of a recent stressful event. Where do you feel it?  Try naming the emotion that you are feeling to yourself- is it anxiety, anger, frustration, or something else?
Present the evidence: Emotional intelligence, which is based on this type of self-awareness, has been shown to have a significant impact on job performance that is in addition to IQ and personality (Journal of Organizational Behavior 2011; 32:788–818).
Suggestions for use: Practice pausing to notice how you are feeling throughout the day. The more you are aware of your stress level, the easier it can be to manage it.  Remember, emotions arise from an older part of the brain (midbrain) that we don’t have conscious control over so it does not make sense to think we should not feel a certain way. Rather, once we recognize how we are feeling, then we can decide how to act.
Barriers and how to overcome them: accepting how we are feeling can be challenging because we wish we felt differently.  However, it’s more likely that we will respond appropriately to our feelings -if we recognize and accept them than if we try to suppress them.