If your emotions and feelings were weather, what would your current weather be?
I frequently begin a presentation or training session with the question above. My goal is to create a pause and have a reflective moment to help individuals practice the skill of becoming more self-aware.
Self-awareness is our ability to accurately identify our emotions and to use those emotions in a proactive way. Through my career as an educator and in my life experiences, I have discovered three strategies to increase self-awareness that I encourage you to begin practicing immediately.
Identify Your Emotions
The first strategy is recognizing your emotions in the moment. Spend time identifying which emotions you experience, what triggers you may have and which emotion comes up when you are triggered in a particular way. Be aware of how stress makes you feel. Once you have developed a sound understanding of your emotions, you can begin responding in a proactive way.
I have found it helpful to practice self-checks or emotional check-ins throughout the day. This will allow you to identify what and whom you may be interacting with and how certain emotions surface as a response to those interactions.
I am a morning person. I love the morning, and I check in with myself as I begin each day. It’s important for me to understand where I am emotionally before I get started with my day. You will probably agree that if your day doesn’t start well emotionally, then it’s sometimes a recipe for disaster. When you use self-check ins, you can be thoughtful about what you need to do in order to get yourself where you need to be emotionally to have a positive, productive day.
Develop Your Emotional Vocabulary
Another strategy to increase self-awareness is developing your emotional vocabulary. Before I was on this journey to become more self-aware, when people asked me how I felt or how I was doing I would use words like, “I’m doing okay.” The reason why I chose those words was because I had a limited emotional vocabulary. In fact, there are dozens of emotions that we could feel in a day.
You could feel anywhere from serene to enraged in a matter of moments. The more time you spend investigating the vocabulary and what that means for you, the better you can respond in a proactive way. In fact, the more we as educators invest in developing our emotional vocabulary, we better we can model and teach our young people – and help them to develop their emotional vocabulary.
Imagine your kindergartener coming to you in the morning and saying, “Hey, Mr. Jenkins. I’m experiencing anxiety because I know we have a spelling test today, and I didn’t prepare for my test.” How powerful would it be to develop our understanding and our students’ understanding so that we can accurately communicate the emotion that we are feeling in the moment?
Investigate What Causes You Stress
A third strategy is understanding yourself under stress. Spend time investigating what stresses you. Which environments? Which tasks? Stress, when chronic or unmanaged, can have a significant impact on both physical and mental health. It can suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart disease and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, and even affect cognitive function and memory.
It’s key to address stress proactively to mitigate its potential impacts and maintain a balanced lifestyle. The more you understand your stressors and the emotions that you experience, the better you can manage how you respond. It might even allow you to decrease your exposure to the situations or people that cause stress to help you maintain a healthier state.
Emotion is not good or bad. Emotion is communication. Any time that we can manage stress and its impact on us emotionally, we become more productive, build healthier relationships and ultimately develop our EQ in a proactive way. By understanding our emotions as signals rather than directives, we create the opportunity for increased self-awareness. This reframing helps us respond to our feelings with intention, choosing actions that align with our values and goals.