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October is Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month, and in case you didn’t know, emotional intelligence is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a type of intelligence that involves the ability to process emotional information and use it in reasoning and other cognitive activities.” In other words, someone with high emotional intelligence can not only identify and process their emotions but use them as tools to solve problems. It’s extremely beneficial to learn how our emotions affect our thoughts, actions, and relationships both for the well-being of ourselves and of others. Emotional Intelligence Awareness Month is a time for self-care and reflection, and with that in mind, I’ll be sharing my top three questions to practice asking yourself to improve your emotional intelligence and overall mental health. 

  1. What Emotion(s) Am I Feeling?

This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a real game-changer when it comes to emotional conflict. Dealing with stressful situations is hard as it is, but when we aren’t able to identify or describe the emotions we feel, it can be even more difficult to escape or cope with the spiral. 

I know I still struggle to handle my emotions, but I’ve found that meditation and journaling help me explore my experiences. By dedicating time and energy to reflecting on how I’ve felt throughout the day, I can begin to understand what issues or events, either on a daily basis or in special circumstances, affect me. More importantly, I can explore why and how these things affect me. Especially during stressful times, learning the relationship between your experiences and your emotions will give you a better idea of how to handle certain situations whenever they reoccur.   

The Lalagirl Writing In Notebook
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  1. How Are My Emotions Affecting Others?

Understanding your emotions and what triggers them is one thing, but realizing how those emotions affect other people is just as important for emotional intelligence. Generally, we’re very empathetic towards other people, especially our loved ones, which makes it easy for us to be affected by their actions and thoughts, and vice versa. 

It’s natural to act differently when we’re in a bad mood, but increasing our awareness of how our emotions impact our social interactions is a great way to decrease the likelihood of affecting those around us, especially through displacement or projection. Displacement is when we take out our emotions on an “easier” object than our actual source of frustration, such as punching a pillow instead of punching someone who upset us. Projection is when we “assign” our own beliefs and emotions onto others, oftentimes to avoid discomfort and responsibility, such as claiming someone hates you when you’re actually conflicted about them. It’s no secret that our emotions affect our relationships, but by reflecting in the moment (seeing a theme here?), it becomes easier to set boundaries within ourselves so we don’t hurt other people and also set boundaries outside of ourselves to put our well being first. 

  1. How Can I Take Better Care of Myself? 

This is pretty much the most important question, but I think it’s essential to explore questions #1 and #2 beforehand. Once we gain perspective on how our emotions are related to our thoughts and experiences and how those emotions are related to the people around us, we can finally learn what works and doesn’t work for our mental health. If spending four hours with a friend helps me de-stress and feel happy, then that’s great! But if spending four hours with a different friend makes me anxious or upset, is it because of my relationship with this particular person? Or is it because of an external factor, such as using the hangout as a way to procrastinate on an assignment due at midnight or to avoid having a serious conversation with my parents? 

Depending on what you’ve learned from your own reflection, it becomes easier to understand how to approach certain people and situations in the future. For example, being surrounded by support systems can greatly decrease one person’s stress, but it can greatly increase someone else’s stress. The more you learn about who and what affects your stress level, either by increasing or decreasing it, the better you can take care of yourself, especially if setting boundaries is something you need to do for your well-being. 

Self portrait in nature
Original photo by Ann Hutsell

Of course, mistakes happen, and while you can promise you won’t snap at your mom again out of displacement (something I’m guilty of and learning to prevent), that doesn’t mean everything’s suddenly “okay.” Being “okay,” especially when it comes to mental health, is not a destination or an accomplishment that’s met and stays for life, but a process that takes time, energy, and self-compassion on a daily basis. In fact, it’s practically impossible to define being “okay” because our emotions and circumstances are always changing. One thing is certain though: being aware of and increasing your emotional intelligence can be a great benefit to improving your mental health. The more you learn about your emotions, experiences, and coping mechanisms, the easier it becomes to take care of yourself.

Angelina Leanos

Cal Lutheran '23

Hi! I'm Angelina and I'm the Co-Senior Editor/Writing Director of HCCLU. I'm a Junior majoring in English and minoring in Psychology. I love traveling, cooking/baking, listening to music, and writing poetry. Instagram: @angi.lean
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