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Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand, connect with, and express their own emotions appropriately while understanding, connecting to, and acknowledging the emotions of others—appropriately.

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Emotional Intelligence Begins with Self-Awareness

We must identify emotions and interpret them accurately within ourselves first and foremost. If we are misreading our own emotions, then chances are we are also misreading the emotions of others. We often make the mistake of assuming others feel the same as we do in a situation. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 

This can be especially dangerous for an empath, as we operate from the assumption that everyone has the same level of empathy as us. In reality, many lack the ability to feel empathy at all, and our own empathetic nature makes up a target for such people.  

Many who lack emotional intelligence are out of touch with their emotions and are completely unaware. Disconnecting from emotions is a common coping strategy that can serve us in a crisis or traumatic situation, but it becomes debilitating in the realm of human connection if we never learn to reconnect with them. Even if we can see our disconnectedness from our emotions, we are rarely able to see to the full extent to which we have numbed out.

When we are out of touch with our own emotions, we may struggle to make healthy choices, experience ongoing health issues, and have difficulty relating to and supporting the emotional needs of others.

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Cultivating Self-Awareness

Below are just some thought-provoking topics to ponder in your quest for self-awareness and emotional intelligence. When working with coaching clients, the exercises I utilize are more in-depth, but digging too deep solo can be a dangerous endeavor. Take a few moments to identify a few things listed below and see where it takes you!

Before you begin the following exercise, take a moment to get centered. If at any point you feel stuck or simply cannot identify any of the suggestions or answer a question, pause. Take a break, move on, and return to this exercise later. This exercise can be especially frustrating if you struggle with alexithymia, which is a common characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as PTSD. Please be kind to yourself and never, EVER judge an emotion. (more on that later) And most importantly, remember that you do not need to venture on this journey alone…


  • Any physical or emotional sensations you experience while doing something you enjoy.
  • Any physical or emotional sensations you experience while doing something you dislike.
  • Any physical or emotional sensations you experience when you are angry.
  • Any anger or resentment you may be holding in and explain the cause. 
  • Actions you take or behaviors you have when you are feeling sad or down.
  • Do you believe your approach to navigating these feelings has been helpful or a hindrance?
  • The last time you felt a sense of relief and explain why.
  • Emotions and any physical sensations you feel when you are in conflict with someone.
  • How you handle conflict with others and identify any patterns in outcomes.
  • Where in your body do you feel physical sensations from stress, and describe them.
  • Any frustrations you may be experiencing and explain the perceived cause. 
  • Three things you often worry about and identify what the cause is.
  • When you have a perceived problem, describe how you typically respond.
  • The last time you got upset and the cause.
  • Fears have kept you stuck, and what you believe may help you to move past them. 
  • One change you could make to eliminate some stress in your life and explain why. 
  • Why you haven’t made the above change already?
  • Something you have felt insecure about, and identify where that comes from.
  • A time you had your feelings hurt and explain what happened. 
  • The last thing you did that made you feel good. 
  • The last time you had a breakdown or a breakthrough, and what the result was.
  • What are you most at peace with about yourself or your life, and explain why?
  • One way you could bring more peace into your life.
  • The last time you felt confident, and explain why. 
  • The last time you felt anxious, and explain why.
  • List three things you feel grateful for today and why.
  • One of the most emotionally painful things to happen to you, and how you coped with it.
  • How you feel around people who have a strong sense of self.
  • List five things you have learned about yourself from this exercise.
  • List five things you would like to explore further.

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Connect with Me!


Breathing and Anxiety

Anxiety is a physiological response to a stimulus which our bodies consider dangerous or life-threatening. Most people identify anxiety as an overwhelming sense of impending doom, sometimes resulting in shakiness, lightheadedness, chest pain, heart palpitations, tingling, visual, and auditory changes. The feelings may be so intense it can be mistaken for a heart attack.

When appropriately invoked, anxiety can be the driving force that helps us rise to many challenges. Unfortunately when this response is continuously triggered by less severe, day-to-day events, such as relationship problems, and concerns about money, career, friends or family.

Our emotions dramatically affect our breathing patterns, which in turn can intensify our emotions. It is a downward spiral that perpetuates itself, but the flipside is that our breathing pattern can also affect our feelings. This phenomenon gives us the power to take control of our emotions and how they affect us physically.

When living in a state of constant stress, our breathing patterns can become dysfunctional. We can get stuck breathing shallow and too quickly. Once this pattern becomes our new normal a lot of health problems can occur as a result such as high blood pressure, a compromised immune system, or depression and anxiety,

You have the power to control anxiety by learning how to breathe correctly!

For those of you who were taught that “good posture” means sucking it in and puffing out your chest, this will be a considerable challenge. Shallow “chest breathing” may feel normal to you, but it limits the diaphragm’s range of motion preventing the lowest part of the lungs from filling fully and getting a full dose of oxygenated air. Chest breathing can increase tension and anxiety, so it is well worth unlearning.

Chest Breathing is Bad.

Belly Breathing is Good.

When you breathe properly, the air coming in through your nose (not your mouth) fully fills your lungs, and the lower belly rises (not your chest, or shoulders). When you exhale correctly, you FULLY exhale ALL the air in your lungs. Doing this can feel crazy if you have never practiced this, so be gentle with yourself while you learn.

Diaphragmatic breathing can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.


.:Practicing Belly Breathing:.

Find a quiet, place to sit or lie down, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.

First, take a normal breath and observe the movement taking place in your chest, neck, shoulders, and abdomen. Then try a deep breath: inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully from the front and sides. Now breathe out slowly through your nose and exhale slightly longer than your inhale.

Once you have gotten comfortable, close your eyes and combine deep breathing with guided imagery or perhaps a focus word or phrase to help facilitate relaxation.

One tool I love to use when I struggle to focus is an app called Insight Timer.

There are are a myriad of relaxation techniques to try, but most importantly fine one that works for you. And if your practice begins to feel rote or ineffective, try something new. Just be sure to give each technique a chance before moving on…

Create a special place where you can sit (or lie down) comfortably and quietly. Schedule time and set a boundary, so you are not interrupted.

Practice. Progress. And remember, perfection is not attainable, so stop chasing it. Be kind and loving with yourself and allow yourself to enjoy this experience without judgment. Try to practice at the same time to enhance the sense of ritual and establish a habit.

Aim to practice about 10–20 minutes each day.
If 5 minutes is the best you can do, count that as a win!
There is no place for negativity in this practice!!