How Emotional Intelligence Can Help you Get Your Life in Order
Life clutter is more than having cluttered spaces from keeping things that you have trouble parting with. The cause of clutter also goes beyond having items that you have from childhood or your youth. It can also look like a busy mind, misuse of time, or saying yes to too many projects or social commitments.
If you increase your self awareness and are better able to self regulate your emotions and catch them before you start to spiral down, then you are less likely to make decisions that are reactionary and that create clutter in your life. These reactionary habits also take you away from your intentions and values.
Emotional Intelligence: Raise your EQ Mastering Self Awareness & Controlling Your Emotions by Edward Benedict, is a great resource on this topic, and this blog serves as a summary of the essential points made by the author, making use of this information in the context of time and space management.
How Your Emotions Can Get In The Way
People who have High EQ are able to look within and remain calm cool and collected regardless of the situation they are in. They are checking in with how they feel on a regular basis and then seeing if what they notice needs attention or can be let go of. Putting a name to their feelings and reframing old stories helps them shift and regulate as well as grow out of old habits, beliefs and thought patterns that are out of alignment with their values and intentions.
When we don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on on the inside we get disconnected from ourselves and end up getting overwhelmed having not paid attention to how we were feeling. At times we may feel in control but if there is one small trigger it could totally set us off.
Below are a few examples that highlight how a lack of self awareness and self regulation can create clutter in your life:
Not noticing that you didn’t drink enough water or eat enough during the work day. Then getting tired and triggered by a co-workers comment. At the end of the day you feel emotional and are only partially in tune with this. You grab some fast food realizing how hungry you are. Feeling a bit low after eating, you pass by a clothing store and see a sale and buy a number of items you don’t need and leave feeling perky and happy again.
You don’t have any plans after work and live alone. You have your normal routine of turing on the TV as soon as you get home and watch your favourite show while making dinner. You promised yourself that you would go workout but feel down and can’t get yourself to go. After dinner you continue to watch TV and surf your social media which distracts you but doesn’t help you feel any better.
In each of these examples there was a lack of checking in to see what you needed in the moment and things got to the extreme because of it. Without self awareness of triggers we’re unable to gage whether or not an emotion needs attention or can be let go of. People with high EQ also continuously check-in with themselves to see what they need for self care and then can self regulate emotions before letting them get out of control.
I believe that our emotional reactions can cause clutter. If you are able to better regulate your emotions and catch them before you start to spiral down then you are less likely to make decisions that are reactionary and that can make conscious decisions that align with the goals you’ve set for yourself (say, to not eat fast food, or not go shopping.)
Steps For Becoming More Self Aware
Step 1 - Pay Attention To Triggers
A trigger in this context is a disproportionately strong emotional reaction to a situation, event, dialogue etc., that arises from past negative experiences and our association with them in the present situation. If these past emotions are not worked through, then they will continue to surface each time we are in a similar situation.
Noticing when you get triggered is the first step in becoming aware of your emotions. Next take note of why you were triggered, and what caused that emotion to come up. Once you’ve identified how you are feeling now ask yourself how does it make you feel. And is this emotion work your time and effort or is it something that you can let go of.
Step 2 - Observe
Observe yourself throughout the day and take some time to reflect on:
What important roles do you play in your life on a daily basis?
How many people rely on you?
How do you think others perceive you?
Next take some time to meditate and reconnect with yourself; mind, body, and spirit. This doesn’t need to look like sitting down, cross-legged for 30 minutes. It can be as simple as taking a deep breathe and doing a body scan. Doing this will help you observe your emotions without judgement and look at them from a place of detachment instead of being caught up in them. It also allows you to look at your emotions, and what triggered them. Remember to be gentle with yourself and look at your emotions from a distance instead of beating yourself up.
Being aware of your emotional state as it’s happening is key to being able to regulate your emotions.
Step 3 - Evaluate
Take some time once you’ve increased your ability to notice your triggers, what’s causing them and reconnecting with yourself, to evaluate your values:
Are you spending time wisely in the way you react to those emotions?
If you let those emotions consume you, why?
Was it worth exerting that much energy and effort over it?
Is the way that you’re reacting based on those emotions in line with your current beliefs + values?
If they aren’t then why do you keep doing it?
In becoming self aware it’s important to face those emotions and what’s underneath them so that you can learn why you get into such emotional states. You’ll gain a better understanding of why you get stressed and what you can let go of and change to better manage your emotions.
Step 4 - Reflect
Once a week take some time to sit down and connect with the emotions that came up during the week. Create a table that has the emotions you experienced in one column and the context that brought them up in the other column. Then ask yourself:
How many emotions did you feel this week that were positive?
How many were negative?
What caused such a reaction?
Remember that emotions are not always rational. Don’t get frustrated with yourself (this is just another negative emotion!). Be kind, patient, and simply notice. Most importantly, always celebrate your successes.
Edward Benedict includes additional steps to this practice, and if you are curious and interested in diving deeper, I invite you to read the book in its entirety.
The sooner you are able to identify your feelings and catch yourself from letting them take over, the better able you are to live a calmer and less reactive life. Instead you can respond to situations with presence and clarity making for a life that is less clutter in all areas.
Remember that when we make big changes on the inside they create big changes not only in our lives but in the lives around us and the world as a whole. This domino effect is a wonderful positive way to participate in creating a world built on inclusion, sustainability, and acceptance for all.