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Covid-19 and emotional intelligence

Covid-19 and emotional intelligence
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Covid-19 and emotional intelligence

Highlights

India is facing a brutal onslaught of Covid-19 second wave, and the pain is unprecedented. There is a massive emotional impact of this global...

India is facing a brutal onslaught of Covid-19 second wave, and the pain is unprecedented.

There is a massive emotional impact of this global pandemic not just on physical being, but on the human mind too. The negative implication of human emotions is all pervasive globally. However, the degree of emotional impact can vary from one nation to another.

As an eternal student, and an expert in Emotional Intelligence, I wish to highlight a few higher order emotions, which are impacting individuals during this pandemic, and consequentially leading to devastating behavioural outcomes.

Emotion is the core of human life. If there are no emotions, there's no life. Every single action you perform every day in your life, is simply to satiate a set of emotions. It's a big statement and I am making it responsibly.

Everything which is currently underway in your life is driven by a set of emotions, in reaction to a stimulus (environment). All feelings (synonymous to emotions) you are currently experiencing are either your reaction to the environment which is impacting you, others' emotions, or proactive decisions driven by your own. Either ways, your entire life can be summed up in 'Feeling - Thought - Action Cycle'.

Emotions are triggered by external or internal stimulus. Covid-19 is both an internal and external stimulus. Infected patients are impacted from inside-out, and those who have recovered or yet to be infected are impacted outside-in. Structured human societies across the world are going through historic and unprecedented emotional turmoil. It is leading many individuals, who lack emotional intelligence into making catastrophic decisions, with even serious and life-changing outcomes.

I am outlining only a few higher-order emotions, which are currently impacting emotional health across the spectrum globally. I will also recommend a few counter-measures to manage these challenging emotions, to effectively re-route them for positive outcomes.

Uncertainty

I feel 'Uncertain', is a higher-order, high-impact emotion. It can trigger many subsidiary emotions and drive disempowering 'thoughts'. Disempowering thoughts definitely lead to similar type of actions, if not managed well in time.

Individuals, families, businesses, institutions and even nations are heavily impacted by this higher-order emotion - 'Uncertainty'.

'Feelings of uncertainty' can lead to reactive and thoughtless decisions while trying to minimize damage. It can lead to wrong bets both in investments and savings. The flurry of negative thoughts driven out of lack of certainty can fog planning, for short, intermediate and even long-term. At a personal level, it can drive confusion, feelings of despair and helplessness.

Hope is a very powerful and empowering emotion. It can act as a countermeasure to all feelings of 'uncertainty'. In these challenging times, 'Hope' is a massive emotional anchor.

Reading positive stories, being associated with positive people, engaging in positive conversations and relating with people who invoke hope are some measures, critical to managing 'uncertainty'.

Uncertainty has the potential to drive negative thoughts of contemplation, confusion, indecisiveness, helplessness, misjudgment and even hopelessness. These thoughts are potent enough to push you to make or not make effective decisions in time, leading to immense pain, loss and failure.

I also suggest that you build 'multiple options' as a countermeasure to this disempowering emotion, whenever you feel it. Outline the top five options you have and reflect on them, before making any decision in a hurry.

Fear

Fear is a very powerful higher-order emotion too. It can easily override many subsidiary positive emotions. In fact, fear is one of the primal emotions, which our ancestors have used positively to survive complex natural challenges and environmental threats. It is one emotion which can work both ways. It can ensure your survival or lead you to extinction.

Covid-19 infection, painful symptoms and increasing number of deaths across the social spectrum is triggering 'fear' everywhere. On one end 'fear' is ensuring that people protect themselves from this infection by using masks, physical distancing and other cautious acts.

On the other end, 'fear' is leading people to trust rumours, over react to infection, be unempathetic to infected people, exhibit unprecedented selfishness and self-centeredness for survival.

Fear is also causing unwarranted trauma, pain through anticipation of infection, secondary illnesses, loss of natural immunity and severe mental distress. It is also leading few individuals to rush to hospitals, while they could very well manage under home care blocking precious hospital beds and other essential medical services. Extreme levels of fear can seriously impair the natural immunogenicity of the body to fight the Covid-19 infection, which can further lead to fatal outcomes.

Extreme fear can trigger primitive 'fight or flight' syndrome, leading to catastrophic actions by an infected individual. Mere possibility of getting infected can drive serious insecurities in few individuals, leading to physical and mental isolation.

Many of those who cannot manage 'fear' are prone to panic attacks, which can negatively impact heart rate, blood pressure and malfunctioning of many vital organs in the body. Panic naturally results in lowered defence and capability of the body to fight disease.

One need to understand that 'fear' is the least resourceful emotion, when it comes to fighting anything. Covid-19 is no exception to this fact. You can allow the emotion of fear to drive caution in you, but nothing beyond that.

The best way to override 'Fear' is to focus on positive possibilities. For example, if one per cent is the current death rate due to Covid-19 in India, it's important to note that there's a 99 per cent possibility that you will make it through successfully. Getting into the habit of always looking out for 'silver-lining in dark clouds' - will enable you to manage 'fear'.

Loneliness

This emotion can be quite dangerous, if not dealt in time effectively. You can feel 'lonely' even while being in a group. Being alone is not being lonely, it has nothing to do with the number of people around you. It is an emotion which will creep-in when one feels unsupported, invalidated, left-alone, deserted or isolated.

Loneliness can lead to many disempowering thoughts. During Covid-19 many people are experiencing this emotion quite frequently. Especially those in isolation after infection and those recovering at hospitals can go through severe impact of this emotion, which can lead to many self-defeating thoughts. Senior citizens and old parents staying away from their children will go through severe trauma of not being physically close to their loved ones. Even couples separated through isolation protocols experience similar distress.

It is very important to stay connected with people you love and care for, during times of infection, isolation and recovery. It is also incumbent upon the medical care-givers to have small conversations with the patients and give them emotional support and assurance. Though subtly, family and friends should stay engaged with infected individuals and reduce the emotional distress with kind words of reassurance and strength.

Extreme feelings of loneliness can lead to suicidal thoughts and serious deprivation. If unmanaged, feelings of loneliness can lower the natural immunity and defense of the body to fight disease.

Frustration

Long periods of forced lock-down with confinement to small living spaces with less privacy can lead to serious emotions of 'frustration'.

Feelings of lack of purpose, wasted time, unutilised resources, lack of revenue, loss of livelihood, losses in business, debt burden and related stress can lead to higher-order negative emotions of 'frustration'.

Frustration can lead to many aggravated thoughts. It can drive knee-jerk reactions, thoughtless decisions, impatience, incoherence, aggression, verbal abuse or even physical abuse.

This emotion is more rampant in young adolescents, young adults, career professionals, home-makers, mid-level and senior-level organisational managers and sole-salary earners in the family.

Disturbed daily routines, non-utilisation of time and skills, loss of earnings, excess spending on medical expenses, financial mess, relationship conflicts, confinement to home for longer periods of time, can trigger extreme levels of frustration during this pandemic.

Finding an alternate purpose, upgrading skills, enrolling into an online refresher course, reading books, exercising regularly and being engaged with the outside world through small conversations with friends, can help manage feelings of 'frustration'.

Those in businesses must plan methodically for short-term, near-term, intermediate and long-term counter measures to survive and continue in business. Those who lost jobs should rely on a support system to survive and target jobs in sectors not negatively impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns. It is essential to take up whatever comes your way, to ensure steady flow of income and occupational continuity to avoid 'frustration' to play havoc with you.

It is important to know that all frustration in your life is because of 'unmet emotional needs'. It is important to work towards satisfying your emotional needs and of those who depend on you. Fulfilling emotional needs to the extent possible consciously, will ensure that feelings of frustration don't arise.

Anger

This emotion is a top order negative emotion, capable of jeopardising and destroying everything you built in your entire life.

Anger is the least manageable of all emotions. As it's a top-order basic instinct, managing it requires a higher degree of emotional intelligence. This powerful emotion is triggered by accumulation of multiple negative emotions, which went unexpressed for a prolonged period of time.

Lack of emotional expression, especially of the negative and disempowering emotions can lead to accumulation and eventually results in an 'emotional outburst' through - 'Anger'.

Anger if unmanaged, will drive many unmanageable negative thoughts which in turn, can lead to regrettable mental and physical actions. Anger at its worst, can drive you to hurt yourself or others seriously. All those actions which you would regret in future, are driven by this highly actionable emotion.

Anger can be managed by a conscious individual who has the competence to withhold, delay or stall actions driven by this emotion. Individuals who are highly enabled by emotional intelligence have the capability to manage 'Anger' of any degree.

Being aware and extremely mindful of the consequences of your actions driven by anger is critical competence to manage this emotion. Forecasting the impact of anger on relationships, quantifying the actual loss in numbers, resisting the urge to act through 'positive-distraction' method, are some countermeasures to manage and reroute this emotion.

To conclude, the above five are not the only negative emotions human enterprise is going through for the last 15 months. These are just a few important ones. It is essential to understand and empathise with each other during this challenging phase, knowing that most people are going through serious emotional challenges.

It is not enough to manage your physical health during this surge of Covid-19, it is extremely important to also manage your mental and emotional health. If you are conscious of your emotions and manage them well, you will be equipped to manage your mind and body impeccably well too.

(The author is the chief spokesperson of the BJP Telangana State, an organisational strategist & a leadership coach)

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