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EQ and Resilience - Building Our Emotional Muscle to Thrive in a New World

May 29, 2020


People are talking about stress. They are talking about coping. They are talking about managing in a very new and sometimes scary world. How can we learn ways to build our own emotional intelligence, strengthen our resilience and help others to do the same? What do effective leaders do to build the coping skills of those around them?

Join Lisë Stewart and Natalie McVeigh as they delve into these topics and address some of the questions that leaders have posed. We hope to pique your curiosity and provide a few key pointers and valuable resources to support your personal and professional development.


Lisë Stewart: Hello, and welcome to the EisnerAmper podcast series. Brought to you today by the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance. My name is Lisë Stewart and I'm here with my very good friend and professional colleague, Natalie McVeigh, also from the Center. And we're going to be continuing a conversation that we started just a little while ago, about emotional intelligence. And today we're going to be relating that to resilience. Resilience is a topic that's been coming up a lot lately in these very tough times. And so Natalie and I thought it might be good to remind people about what exactly is emotional intelligence and how does it play into resilience and our ability to build resilience. So, Natalie, thanks for joining me today.
Natalie McVeigh: Hi, Lisë. It's great to be here.

LS: Good. Well, we're just going to jump right in because we've got quite a bit to talk about in a very short amount of time. So, in the last session we talked about EQ and what it is, and how to recognize and how to develop it. So I'm wondering, in these stressful times, how does developing your emotional intelligence impact resilience? And you might also tell us a little bit about how you would define exactly what resilience is.
NM: Absolutely. So it's easy to start with a definition of resilience. So resilience can simply be thought of as the capacity to prepare for and recover from as well as adapt to stress, during challenge or adversity. And so part of why emotional intelligence is really helpful for resilience is that right now, especially during the COVID crisis and in many times of crisis, whether it's a change in job, whether it's moving, all those typical, most stressful situations in our life, we start to have emotions. They start to show up and they start to feel like something.

And most of the time when we're uncomfortable with emotions, which is a way that less developed EQ shows up is we try to push those emotions down. We try to resist them. We try to make sure that those inconvenient, painful emotions, don't rear their heads. Now the challenge with that is, there's only one channel for our emotions in our body. There's not a channel for positive and a channel for painful. There's just one emotional channel. So as we're repressing, and as we're shoving down those inconvenient emotions, we're also creating a blockage that doesn't allow us to have more positive emotions show up there. So that joy that'll give us some energy, or just some optimism that'll have some resilience and rebound going on for us during these times gets shut out as well.
LS: So it sounds like there's probably some advantages for being able to recognize those emotions and create some space for the emotions that you'd like to have surface. Am I hearing that right?
NM:Absolutely. And one of the things about stress is, it is a whole body, whole being experienced. It impacts our physical, our emotional and our cognitive capabilities. And the way we internalize stress inside our bodies actually does something physical to us. It changes our physiology. It changes our sympathetic and parasympathetic responses. It cuts off certain parts of our prefrontal cortex to make good sound decisions. And so then we start having mistakes or making more mistakes. And it's this vicious cycle that unless we can actually deal with the anxiety, that's usually what's underlying stress, is we deal with anxiety. We name it. We understand what's trying to happen.

And we try to create what's called eustress or positive stress that motivates us, focuses energy helps us with our coping abilities. In fact, even feels exciting. We can, we can move from anxiety to excitement. There's a little hope for finding that elasticity and resilience. And instead we create distress, which can be viewed as long-term, seems to be outside of us. There's two ways to think about anxiety or problems. They're either permanent and pervasive, that's this distress or they're temporary and specific and that's that eustress.
LS: So I really want to make sure that our listeners today feel like they can get some very practical tips because that sounds fascinating. And I think that the greater awareness people have about their stress and their level of control, then we help them to build that resilience. So I have recently been doing some reading about this because I like everyone else, am trying to learn to cope with a very different world right now. And I've learned that sleep is extremely important. And at the end of the day, I've been trying to take a few minutes to write down those things for which I am particularly grateful. I've got to say that that really does help. In fact, I think you shared some of those tips with me. So first of all, can you maybe let our listeners know what are some of these really important things that we can be doing to build this resilience and perhaps learn how to deal with it, and turn this stress around?

You're absolutely correct. Rest is one of the most important things to do. So you can start with sleeping. Depending on the study, it says 1 - 3% of the population can sleep with less than five hours. Although most people believe they can. So that's kind of a mezzo rest, a longer rest, which is taking a day or sleeping through the night. That's very, very important. There are micro rests that are important to take as well, which could be reading, doing anything that isn't multitasking, and those need to happen about every 60 to 90 minutes to really reset. And then there are macro rests, which could be weekends or months or weeks of rest, which right now probably no one's getting those macro rests, but it's very important.

In fact, the four minute mile, I don't know if you guys all heard that people believe they couldn't break the four minute mile. And the one gentleman who did, the reason he did is he had to rest because he had an injury. So they've been studying that ever since with performance that rest really impacts how we can behave. Now, rest can be hard to get when we're anxious, when our mind's racing. So mindfulness is very helpful. There's a way that we can harness our anxiety with a simple mindfulness technique where we name five things that we can see in the room, name four things that we can feel, name three things that we can hear, name two things that we can smell and name one thing that we can taste. And really put your hands on those things that you can, tactile responses to anxiety are very, very helpful.

Absolutely, like you said, Lisë gratitude. Gratitude is a social emotion and it creates a cycle in which it’s self-reinforcing. So finding a way to have a gratitude journal. What I would say is start with three things that you're grateful for in the morning that you have to write down before the first half an hour of the day. It might be that you didn't sleep in today, or you didn't stub your toe, but then you keep adding to that list and finding three better things. So by the end of the day, you might have a hundred different things that happen.

Also, not just gratitude, but generosity. Generosity creates a self-enforcing loop as well and shows sustained happiness. So we might not be able to give money right now, but we may be able to give our full time and full attention. So if we single focus either on a work project or in a conversation with someone we really care about, there's a resonance that happens between people which impacts that emotional intelligence, but it also makes us enjoy those things more. So anything that you can increase your enjoyment at this time, is going to give you some dopamine and some energy,
LS:Right. Yes, I completely agree. And I recently heard a podcast where the speaker was talking about, you can help to develop some resilience in children by, at the end of each day, your own children, asking them what was the very best part of their day. Helping them to learn how to reflect on those real positives. So that really leads me to my final question. As leaders, what are some of the things that we can do to try to help others, people on our teams, our coworkers to develop resilience?
NM:One of the things is trying to work on psychological safety. That's having your team be open, curious, okay to ask questions, okay to make mistakes. And it's really important for you to model those things so that people feel like they have a place to belong. They feel like there are ways in which they can have some trials and errors. In fact, we've done some research to find out that there's something called anti fragility. The ability to make mistakes actually leads to people who aren't fragile, who are willing to go through challenges and succeed at the other end. You want to create that in the workspace.

The other piece, much like the person you heard on the podcast Lisë, is to have your teammates just mention one thing that they've done in that day that they're proud of doing. We found that if you just have one thing that you've accomplished during the day that you can name from your work, you become much more productive, much more positive, much more creative, and really finding a way to incorporate a culture that allows for emotional expression. Emotional safety to express joy and calm as well as safety and anxiety, because it allows people to see the emotional health of the organization. It allows them to understand that. And otherwise, if the organizations don't start having these conversations, what happens is, the negativity and the emotions don't dissipate. They actually intensify and they become an undercurrent. And many times we were able to before global pandemics kind of ignore disparate emotions because people weren't having them in the same intensity. But now we have intense emotions that are being felt differently by people, but in the same intensity.

LS: Yes. Especially for myself, I can say, why yes, certainly true. I've got a resource right here. Again, we always like to leave our audience with some resources. I've been enjoying a book by Rick Hanson called "Resilient, How to grow an unshakable core of calm strength and happiness". I have found it really useful. Are there any resources that you find particularly useful?
NM:Another book by Rick Hanson, I think it's called "The Buddha's Brain" is really useful. And there's another book called "Joyful" by Ingrid Fetell Lee, that's very helpful to really find small moments. Being able to increase your emotional energy and your positivity. There's a book called "Finding Flow" that's really helpful during work to understand what might be bringing you more energy and increasing your impact.
LS:Natalie. I completely agree. Those are wonderful resources, any closing thoughts for our audience?
NM: Yeah. The great thing about resilience is knowing our end limits. So, when we're pushing too hard, just like with the idea of resting is, what can you handle? So yes, it's great to learn new skills. Yes, we might think we can learn a language during this time, but also work we're coping with more stress than we ever have. And the 21st century problem was already stress. And now it's intensified. So really take care of yourself, go to that favorite book you haven't read in a long time. It's definitely time to play favorites and not tax yourself unduly. So if these tips work for you, great. If you want to go back to what you've been doing, as long as it's not costing you anything, that's perfect too.
LS:Great advice. Thank you, Natalie. Thank you all for joining us for the EisnerAmper podcast series. I hope you found it useful. If you'd like to have more information, please be sure to visit our website. Thank you.

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Natalie M. McVeigh

Natalie McVeigh is a Managing Director in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence Group within the Private Client Services Group and has more than 10 years of experience as a consultant and coach.

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