Work is the number one cause of stress for most Americans. Whether it's the excess workload, a lack of job security or people related issues, many suffer an overwhelming feeling of work-related anxiety. If not kept in check, chronic worrying can alter your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. 

Although it doesn't seem possible to live without some form of stress, we can still manage the effect that it has on us. To override our brain's natural response to anxiety, and to prevent our lives from being hijacked by stress, we have to shift our mindset intentionally. We have to choose to let go of what we can't control and make peace with managing what we can. 

This takes self-awareness and self-control. Both are by-products of developing emotional intelligence (EQ). TalentSmart, an EQ consulting firm, tested over one-million people and found that 90 percent of high-performers had high EQ's and earned on average $29,000 more per year. 

To boost your EQ, you have to practice good decision-making habits in the face of anxiety. Here are five ways emotionally intelligent people deal with stress. 

1. They give themselves a break. 

No one is perfect. This is common sense. We all know this, but why are so many people obsessed with the pursuit of perfection? This unrealistic quest creates a lot of added pressure. It's not possible to make the perfect decision or deliver a perfect work product every time.

Instead, those with a high EQ practice humility and understand that they won't always have all the answers. We're only human and once we admit it to ourselves, work will become a lot less stressful.

If you're in an environment where the fear of making a mistake or asking someone for help is palpable, you may need to reevaluate your situation. More often than not, the added pressure and need to be perfect is self-induced. The unrealistic pursuit of perfection can actually hinder your growth and performance. Focus on progress instead of perfection. 

2. They forgive others.

Holding onto grudges and resentment is counterproductive. It consumes time and energy, and is distracting. Confront the situation and then move on. Those with high EQ's don't give others the power to control their composure.

In the words of Jonathan Lockwood Huie, author and thought leader, "Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace." 

Don't let people related issues compromise your decision making and happiness at work.  

3. They practice contentment. 

It's easy to lose our sanity in pursuit of "winning." Often, we derive our value and sense of worth on things that in the long run don't matter. 

Those with high-EQ play the long game. They understand that the difference between winning and losing is a state of mind. Benjamin Franklin said it perfectly: "Contentment makes poor men rich; Discontentment makes rich men poor."

In business and in life, it can seem paradoxical to balance a commitment to excellence and contentment. It is possible to reconcile these concepts if we focus on contribution, growth, progress and gratitude. Being content is very different from being complacent. Focus on what is working and what can be improved. Set goals and recognize progress. This will create a greater sense of positivity and fulfillment. 

4. They pursue their values.

It's tough to live up to everyone's expectations. 

There are so many things to worry about and so many ideals to strive towards that it can become overwhelming.

Instead of deriving your worth from other people, develop a list of desired values and focus on adhering to them. There is a lot of truth in Einstein's famous quote, "Try not to be a person of success, but rather a person of value."

Rather than stressing about what everyone else thinks, focus on your integrity and the integrity of your work rather than pleasing everyone.

5. They set their own priorities.

It's counterintuitive, but by trying to do everything, you'll end up accomplishing nothing of substantial value. 

At the end of the day, you are only one person. You can only do so much. Don't let the weight of conflicting priorities paralyze you. 

This is one of my favorite quotes on the topic from Edward Everett Hale, "You are only one, but you are one. You cannot do everything, but you can do something. Do not let what you cannot do affect what you can." 

Instead of trying to handle every situation perfectly and second-guessing yourself constantly, stick to your goals. Then, regardless of the outcome, you can rest assured that you did your best.

Stress is a part of life, but it shouldn't rule it. Exercising emotional intelligence in the face of anxiety can help you compartmentalize stress and control its effects on other parts of your life. 

Published on: Sep 12, 2018