83% of workers suffer from stress related to their work. And with more modern job postings requiring skills like the “ability to function in a fast-paced environment” or the “ability to make decisions under pressure,” it’s unclear how employees and their leaders are expected to manage work-related stress.
Building strong emotional fitness for your leaders and their teams might be the answer. Finding long-term ways to manage stress efficiently can enable teams to make better decisions, be more productive in their work, and get back into the flow of things after a setback.
Here we dive into all things emotional fitness and how to start building it into your daily routine!
- What is emotional fitness?
- Why is emotional fitness important?
- 7 traits of emotional fitness
- Tips for maintaining emotional fitness
What is emotional fitness?
Emotional fitness is so similar to regular fitness that we work on with our bodies, but emotional fitness instead involves our minds. In other words, emotional fitness is our ability to mentally bounce back from tough times and to weather through the highs and lows of life with relative emotional stability. Strong emotional fitness is built through continuous active choice, and takes a lot of inner strength to establish and maintain. It’s an always-on activity that can help you navigate through some of life’s challenges with ease and steadiness.
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Why is emotional fitness important?
Life has a lot to throw our way. It’s likely you’ve heard of the saying, “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” Emotional fitness is similar to this saying in that it encourages you to make the most of any situation. It’s part of a growth mindset as well.
When you build and maintain strong emotional fitness, you become very in tune with how you interact with the world around you. This self-awareness improves your ability to see challenges coming ahead, mentally prepare, and even handle spontaneous obstacles with more stability. In the long term, this ability is great for reducing your stress, maintaining healthy relationships, and helping you proactively manage future challenges. Emotionally fit leaders are able to better deal with tight deadlines, employees who aren’t meeting the mark, or sudden industry or market changes.
7 traits of emotional fitness
Communication is the center of emotional fitness. Being able to tell others about your stresses, anxieties, or sadness in a healthy manner is a great sign of emotional fitness. As well, it means being able to share your successes and happiness in a way that isn’t outright bragging to make others feel less successful. This ability is incredibly important for building relationships with others around you, as well as with yourself.
Communication comes in all forms, including verbal, written, visual, or even body language!
Empathy is understanding others’ emotions from your own previous experiences. Practicing empathy is important in emotional fitness because empathy helps you to understand when tough times are being experienced and you can respond appropriately.
You can practice empathy by asking questions, focusing on listening, and taking time to understand what the other person is saying before responding. It also means providing enough emotional space for coming to terms with the emotion rather than jumping to conclusions or suggestions on how the emotion should be handled. Therefore, it can take a lot of time and patience to develop empathy.
Curiosity is the trait of wanting to learn more; it ties into a lot of the other traits as well. Developing curiosity means taking the time to ask questions and to think deeper into why something may be happening. Diving beyond the surface level of an issue can help identify the true root cause and help you reach a solution faster. However, calmness, patience, and curiosity are all needed to find the root cause faster.
When building relationships, curiosity means showing interest in what others are doing. This makes the other person feel important and connected to you, which improves your relationship.
Self-awareness is an incredibly important trait for a leader. It means regularly reflecting on what you’re doing and measuring your action against what is acceptable or reasonable for that environment. As a leader, being self-aware can help you to identify if you have stepped over boundaries that you have set with an employee or if you have actually achieved the goals you set out for yourself.
In episode 95 of the Supermanagers podcast, Heidi Hauver shared this valuable insight:
“A lesson for any leader is recognition, you don’t need to have all the answers, you don’t have all the answers. And that self awareness is a superpower.”
Resilience is your ability to bounce back quickly from tough times. High resiliency means that you can face a challenge, calmly reach a solution, and sync back into your normal routine with ease. Low resiliency means that you’ll face difficulties making decisions, you’ll draw out your resolution time, and you might even circle back to the issue time and time again, even after it’s resolved.
Having high resiliency means you can efficiently manage challenges as they arise, which enables you to deal with more issues over time and create better solutions for each one. High resiliency also provides your mind an opportunity to rest and reset between emotional challenges.
You have heard that rest is an important part of maintaining great mental wellness, but have you heard how play can do the same thing? Channeling your inner child and expressing yourself in creative activities like doing crafts, drawing, and playing board games can be great ways to generate some creative, playful energy! Not only can play help your brain de-stress, but it can also help you get inspired for new ways to tackle problems and build relationships with those around you.
For leaders, you might choose to mix some fun into your work day by adding a small amount of gamification or creative brainstorming into your schedule each week.
Mindfulness is aligned with all the other traits of emotional fitness. Similar to what it means to be self-aware, being mindful means being aware of what is going on at all times while being actively mentally present in the current moment. It means paying attention to the environment and people around you so you can quickly respond appropriately. Mindfulness is important in your emotional fitness journey as being mindful enables you to be agile, in sync with the current environment, and available to contribute relevant solutions. Practicing yoga and active listening are two great ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine.
Tips for maintaining emotional fitness
- Identify unhealthy beliefs and counter them with positive ones
- Know how to work through uncomfortable feelings
- Set realistic goals
- Avoid comparing yourself to others
1Identify unhealthy beliefs and counter them with positive ones
Your unhealthy beliefs are the ones that are likely causing you the most stress. Maybe you’ve learned them from your workplace or somewhere else, but only you can resolve them and re-build more positive beliefs. A great modern example of an unhealthy belief is that to get everything done, you need to overwork yourself beyond what is manageable for your work-life balance. Instead of working late into the night to get ahead, focus on getting more productive hours into the workday and spending your night resting so you can tackle the next day with a refreshed mind and renewed ability to manage daily stresses.
2Know how to work through uncomfortable feelings
There’s an infinite list of things that could create uncomfortable feelings at work. From a deal gone cold to a shipment delay, or a total miscalculation on your project requirements, it’s important that you know what to do after these things happen. Knowing how to handle conflict at work is a master skill that everyone should try to learn early in their career.
If you’re new to building emotional fitness, you might consider writing out action plans. Think of this action plan like an emergency plan of attack for if your plan goes sideways. You’ll want to make this plan as early as possible so you’re prepared when a Plan B is needed. Planning for failure will help you build resilience, make you a better decision maker under stress, and improve communication in complicated times.
3Set realistic goals
Setting realistic goals for yourself is important for multiple reasons. To start, it’s a great way to ease into building emotional fitness. As well, in itself, setting realistic goals is helping you learn emotional management skills! Setting expectations and preparing well for them keeps you mindful, in the loop with your activities, and curious about new ways to prepare in case you face a challenge.
Using Fellow, you can set action items during your meetings to track the goals that you want to achieve for your emotional fitness journey.
4Avoid comparing yourself to others
Your emotional fitness journey will not be the same as anyone else’s. Throughout your life, you have faced unique experiences that will shape your perspectives on how to manage challenges, create solutions, and communicate.
Building self-awareness and mindfulness is essential as these traits will be helpful tools in understanding your personal growth. Tracking your progress with a journal or keeping an open dialogue in one-on-ones with a manager or trusted colleague can help you measure progress based on your own unique starting point and emotional fitness goals.
If understanding your emotions and managing them is new to you, don’t worry. There is no rush to find all the answers right away, and in fact, most people continue to learn more about their emotions over time as new experiences in life shape how they view and react to the world.
In your path to building emotional fitness, it’s important to remember to take it slow, find a way to measure your progress, and be open to feedback. Being open and honest with yourself and those around you will ensure that you’re held accountable for your own growth and development.