How Stressed Are You?

The other morning before dawn my wife and I were awakened by a blaring alert on our cell phones – a tornado warning. We were pitched into a state of high anxiety while rushing to a safe room in our house and waiting to see what was coming our way. Luckily the tornado never materialized.

Our mental and physical state during that anxious time was high stress. Our bodies were flooded with stress hormones that, if unchecked, damage our immune strength, our thinking abilities, our openness to the people in our lives and even to new ideas.

If our lives are filled with stress we just can’t be at our best.

Welcome to the “new abnormal” where stress has become greater than ever. We all need emotional balance. Which is why my colleague Richard Boyatzis and I have put together a Personal Sustainability Index (or PSI) so you can assess if you are managing stress well – in ways you can sustain – or if stress is doing you in. Beyond that, the Index suggests ways you can better balance the stresses in your life – which are hard to change – with activities that renew your resources, not drain them.

The renewals in the PSI are offered as a menu of ways to counter stress. Research tells us that each one of these activities puts us into a recovery mode, one that reverses the ill effects of stress. We can think more clearly, our body becomes more resistant to viruses and less inflamed, we can enjoy being with the people in our live, we’re more creative and relaxed.

These renewals range from playing with a kid or pet and talking to a close friend to prayer or meditation and a walk in nature.

The greater the variety of these renewals you fit into your week, the better off you will be.

Think of the renewal list on the PSI as ways to get stress-busting uplifts into your life, lessening the toll of the stresses you have to put up with.

And, of course, you may find ways to rest and recover that research has not yet validated – maybe you know that a weekly zoom call with a group of buddies or BFFs makes you feel great.  Wherever you find renewal, go for it.

P.S. how you answer the PSI is confidential – only you see that data. But group scores can be averaged so an organization can use the PSI to assess its overall stress level and offer ways people can counter their stresses.

To see your ratio of stresses to renewals, click here.

Onward…

 Corrections To Myths About Emotional Intelligence

As emotional intelligence has spread far beyond my control, abuses have flourished. In this recurring newsletter feature I share my main grumbles and uneasiness with misuses of the EI concept.

Some of what goes under the banner of “emotional intelligence” I see as, at best, hyperbole – and at worst as pure BS.

For instance, Emotional Intelligence does not ALWAYS matter more than IQ.

This might be among the most common mistakes people make about emotional intelligence. Here, I might be the culprit (though, I would plead, inadvertently). The sub-title of my original book on the topic read: “Why It Can Matter More than IQ.” The operative word is ‘can’, in the sense of “might sometimes”. Too many people have misconstrued this to mean that emotional intelligence always matters more than IQ. Not true.

For instance, IQ offers a far better measure of achievement test scores than does emotional intelligence.

And an academic career is one clear exception to the power of emotional intelligence in career and performance boosting.

Then there are realms of life, like romance and relationships, where IQ seems to have less value than emotional intelligence. Tuning into your partner’s feelings and relating in a way that creates harmony, intimacy, and closeness are all emotional intelligence abilities, not IQ ones. A brilliant intellect in and of itself does not make you a desirable romantic partner.

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