The rising levels of stress Americans experience was identified in the 2009 American Psychological Association's (APA) "Stress in America Survey." Concerned with the "prevalence with which Americans continue to report increasing and extreme stress levels," Dr. Katherine Nordal Phd., APA's executive director, expressed the need for tools to help people better manage their stress. The development of our Emotional Intelligence skills offers an approach that goes beyond just managing stress. Development of these skills helps us to transform the negative emotions related to stress and begin mastering rather than just coping and reacting to our environment.

The daily challenges we face both at home and at work bring about a certain level of stress. However, this stress can be compounded when those challenges grow and accelerate. And our stress levels compound exponentially as we face issues such as the healthcare reform, the financial meltdown and government bailout, our dysfunctional congress and catastrophic events such as the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan.

We tend to react emotionally as we are continuously assaulted with daily stressors whether large or small. We feel helpless as we find ourselves, in a perpetual state of negative emotional energy. Further, we are typically unaware that we are living in this negative emotional state. And because we are oblivious to our negative emotional state, we are unlikely to change. So what can we do?

Recognize Emotions
We can begin to change this situation by recognizing our emotions. Throughout the day we need to identify exactly what we are feeling, labeling each feeling with a specific name: sad, happy, hurt, anxious, afraid, etc. Then we can generate an emotional map of our feelings. We can use a four-quadrant grid where the lower quadrants are "low-energy" emotions and the upper quadrants are "high-energy" emotions. Then we can label the left side as "negative" emotions and the right side as "positive" emotions. Once our grid is labeled, we can place the emotions we identified throughout the day or week in the appropriate grid: excited in the upper right quadrant, fearful the lower left quadrant and so on. Once complete, we begin to get a picture of where we are investing our emotional energy.

If, at the end of the day or week, we find ourselves mostly in the "stress zone" (the left two quadrants), we gain an awareness of the need to move toward the "peak performance zone" – the zone where most successful people operate. With this awareness, we can start making choices to transform negative emotions into positive productive emotions and begin our journey to master our chaotic environment.

Author's Bio: 

Byron Stock guides individuals and organizations toward excellence by helping them develop their Emotional Intelligence skills to create resilient, high performing organizations. Byron offers high-energy, emotional intelligence training programs and speaking, coaching and testing services that focus on results.