Emotional Intelligence during times of distress

Emotional Intelligence during times of distress

Some time back, I faced a harrowing situation. Along with my daughters, I was returning home from my parents’ place. The evening had witnessed a very heavy downpour. In spite of my worst intuitions and those of my better half who had warned me not to take any inside roads as these roads get flooded very soon, I was tempted to come into the same internal roads – the wind tunnel road in Bangalore. I knew that the main roads would be jam packed and would delay my trip considerably.

Initially it was good going till we reached a stretch which had waist deep water. Other vehicles were crossing slowly and I was confident that my driver would also be able to cross over without much hassle. But lo behold! Hardly had the car entered the water, as if to resist the driver’s attempt to drive fast, it stopped in the middle of waist deep water. It was late evening and the road did not have any street light, though there was a fairly good flow of vehicles on the road. Suddenly, I felt cold water on my feet and almost jumped. The water outside had started gushing into the car through the corners of the closed doors. A surge of emotions – panic, fear and shock rushed in together, almost numbing me. The driver had gone out to get help and the water level outside went on rising as cars passed by. The water level inside the car too was rising. I was worried that if the water level rose further, we would not be able to open the car doors and come out.

On 26th July, 2005, during Mumbai floods, I had faced a similar situation and the memories of that day started playing its tricks on me. The same feelings – all negative emotions, started gripping me in their hold. Suddenly my logical mind asked me to cool down. I took a deep breath and asked myself whether this was the frame of mind that could help the situation become any better. I instructed my heart to calm down and beat slower. And surprisingly, it did. Then with the help of a few people on the road, my driver pushed the car to an elevated side where the water level was lesser. He then started the car gently. For the first few times the engine purred and died down. Then, all of a sudden, as if by magic, it started. With a mini swimming pool inside the car splashing at every movement of the car, we started moving ahead slowly. And believe me, slowly but steadily we reached home. My dear car which helped me reach home on that day, refused to start thereafter and is currently in the workshop undergoing some major repairs.

In times of distress, our mind plays these dirty tricks. All past negative experiences flood us and we start thinking of the worst. This further deteriorates the scenario and getting a solution becomes more difficult. So what is required in such situations? I coach and take sessions on Emotional Intelligence, but it struck me that at that moment, I was not applying my knowledge of EI to alleviate the situation, and that is when I turned myself around.

We are faced with such situations day in and out. Especially in the corporate world, such storms and getting stuck in them are very common. So, what do we do in such situations?

Take a few deep breaths and stabilize the hammer beating inside.

Get aware of your feelings: more than in normal situations, being aware of our emotions during such distressing scenarios really helps in controlling them.

Sensing where the feelings are coming from: has there been a similar situation earlier, where the experience was unpleasant? Or even worse? If so, we have to remind ourselves that, that was at a different time and a different situation. I control today’s situation.

Taking our emotions into control: yes! command your emotions to stop doing the surging dance. They will still remain there, but within their bounds. For, it is these emotions only which will show us our way out.

“What worse can happen”: talk to yourself… and you’ll feel that it is not as bad as you really thought it to be…

Seeing the bigger picture: this situation is much simpler than many other situations!

Looking pragmatically at the options: now my mind is ready to think pragmatically instead of becoming a victim to the mad and overwhelming flow of emotions

Choosing the apt option: here you go, you have already won half the battle…

Self-awareness and Self-management are the key to success in all adverse situations. And yes, that little voice inside, needs to be heard. We have to do this self-talk to help ease all such situations….

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