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The Danger of Suppressing Emotions and How to Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

When you’re feeling upset, angry or anxious, what’s your initial instinct? If you’re like some people, you have an emotional outburst and wear your emotions on your sleeve. Or if you’re like others, you avoid negative emotions entirely, pushing them deep down in a place where you don’t have to face them.

However, suppressing emotions doesn’t make them go away. On the contrary, they can build up over time and manifest in the form of mental and physical health problems.

Why Bottling It Up Is a Bad Thing

Science confirms that suppressing emotions negatively impacts your health. While bottling it up may minimize the outward display of emotion, it creates a more intense and painful internal experience.

To put it simply, suppression doesn’t get rid of the emotion; it lives inside you and creates more psychological and physical suffering. In severe cases, research shows “emotion suppression may convey risk for earlier death.”

If we aren’t mindful of how we feel, it can have serious consequences. As it turns out, many of our health problems are connected to our emotional state with “over 80% of all physician’s visits having to do with a socio-emotional challenge” and “84% of 567 complaints, such as dizziness and chest pain indicated no medical diagnosis.”

These findings indicate our emotions play a vital role in our overall well-being, and failing to regulate our emotions can have a negative ripple effect.

The Importance of Regulating Your Emotions

Now that we’ve covered two ways to handle emotions – chronic reactivity or suppression - the third (and healthiest) option is learning how to manage your emotions.

Did you know the lifespan of an emotion in the brain and body is 90 seconds? In other words, when you feel a wave of anxiety or sadness, you have the power to let it pass through.

And here’s another fun fact: animals naturally shake after they’ve been attacked to release negative emotions. This is a primal instinct which helps them return to a more balanced state.

So, feel the emotion in the moment, process it and let it go. Your mind and body will thank you in the long run.

“Taking the good and the bad together may detoxify the bad experiences, allowing you to make meaning out of them in a way that supports psychological well-being,” psychologist Jonathan M. Adler and professor Hal E. Hershfield reported in a study.

The bottom line is this: feeling bad isn’t a bad thing. Like all emotions, it’s temporary. The more you practice letting the emotions pass through, the more resilient you will become.

Raise Your Emotional Intelligence to Effectively Process Your Negative Emotions

While emotional intelligence comes naturally for some, the good news is that you can increase your EQ, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum.

In order to raise your EQ, the first step is to understand the five areas of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Self-awareness is being conscious of your thoughts and emotions. It’s recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, and what drives you on a deep level. Can you identify what you feel and more importantly, how those feelings influence your behavior? 

Self-regulation is the ability to control your impulses and negative emotions. It’s also measured by how well you adapt to new circumstances, and your level of discipline when it comes to achieving your goals.

Motivation is your driving force for everything you do. It’s your “why.” What’s your reason for going after what you want? What do you desire most? People with high emotional intelligence are driven by their passion, not money or status. Fulfillment is tied to what fuels them internally (joy, excitement, inspiration) - not externally.

Empathy is the ability to sense the emotional needs of others, and respond accordingly. Empathetic people are naturally intuitive and good at reading a room. Their emotional receptiveness makes them great friends, partners and coworkers.

Social skills involve knowing how to use your emotional intelligence in day to day communication. Your social skills determine how well you can get along with coworkers, make friends and connect with others.

How high is your EQ? To learn more, check out this emotional intelligence test

Raising your emotional intelligence is the key to a happy and fulfilling life. In the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt, “no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

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