Emotional intelligence is identifying, assessing, managing, and intelligently controlling one’s emotions. It differs from emotional quotient (EQ), where the focus is on being in touch with one’s feelings and is also known as having a good handle on one’s emotions.
Research shows that high stress levels can affect our cognitive and emotional abilities, while low stress levels can improve them. These effects also depend on the intensity and duration of stressful situations. Below are seven effects of high and low stress on your emotional intelligence.
1. High Stress Affects Your Ability to Think Clearly
Studies have shown that high stress can impact a person’s thinking ability. When you’re stressed, the part of your brain responsible for reasoning and problem-solving gets suppressed, which means you may have trouble making decisions or thinking through situations rationally.
This is because when you’re under stress, your body releases adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline helps your body respond quickly to emergencies by increasing heart rate and blood pressure, enabling you to run away from danger or fight back against an attacker. But this process also affects parts of your brain related to emotional regulation and decision-making.
So when you’re stressed about something—whether it’s a deadline at work or a fight with your spouse—you might find yourself making snap decisions without thinking them through first.
2. High Stress Impairs Your Memory
The effects of stress on your memory are well-documented. When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which can impair your ability to remember new information. This is because when you’re stressed, your brain shifts from paying attention to what’s happening around you to managing the stress.
When this happens, there’s less room for working memory, the part of your brain that juggles information in the present moment—and more room for long-term memory, where all the stuff that happened before gets stored away for future reference.
This is why taking care of yourself when stressed out is important. If you don’t give your body the rest it needs from time to time, it won’t be able to perform at its best when things get tricky!
3. High Stress Is Linked to More Irrational Decision Making
When stressed, you might make decisions that seem out of character. You might snap at your kid’s spouse or a friend over something trivial. You might buy things you don’t need or eat more than usual.
What’s going on? It all comes down to how stress affects the part of your brain responsible for rational thought—the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher-level thinking and decision-making—planning, problem-solving, self-control, and impulse control. When it’s working correctly, it helps keep your emotions in check so you can make rational decisions based on logic rather than emotion. It also enables you to resist temptation and make better choices overall.
But when you’re under a lot of stress, using this part of your brain gets harder. Instead of being able to think clearly about what will help you solve problems or meet goals, what happens is that stress hormones flood your system with adrenaline and cortisol (which are often called “fight-or-flight” hormones). This makes it hard for your brain to function normally and can even cause physical changes in the structure of certain parts of the brain!
4. High Stress Can Lead to Depression & Anxiety Disorders
High stress can lead to depression and anxiety disorders in several ways. First, high levels of stress can cause changes in your brain chemistry. Your brain has receptors that respond to the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These two hormones are released when you’re under stress, which can make you feel anxious or depressed.
Second, people who experience high stress levels over long periods tend to have trouble sleeping well. This lack of sleep can also lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Finally, when you’re under a lot of pressure at work or home, it’s easy to start feeling like there’s no way out. That nothing good will ever happen again, and that kind of hopelessness can trigger depression as well as anxiety disorders like panic attacks or social phobia (where you fear interacting with other people).
5. Low Stress Improves Social & Communication Skills
Low stress can benefit those with difficulty with social interaction or communication. This can be especially true for people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
Often, these people have trouble reading the emotions of others and understanding the unwritten rules of social interaction. Low stress helps with social skills and communication by teaching people how to interpret nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. This makes it easier for them to understand other people’s thoughts or feelings. This can also significantly improve your relationships and communication skills at work or home.
6. Low Stress Can Spark Personal & Professional Creativity
Low stress is the body’s response to any demand or challenge. Feeling stressed out can be a good thing because it means you’re engaged and motivated to make things better. This is why the myth that stress kills creativity isn’t true. We tend to get more creative when under pressure to solve problems quickly and efficiently.
This is especially true when working under deadline pressure or when someone else is watching us closely (like during an important presentation). Moreover, it pushes us to try our best to do tasks given to us and use our full potential. This is why experiencing low stress can trigger our creative minds because this is when we see things from new perspectives compared to when times are peaceful.
7. High Stress Decreased Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction is a measure of how much employees like their jobs. It’s important because it predicts loyalty, productivity, and performance. Job satisfaction depends on many factors, including pay, benefits, work-life balance, and job security.
The most critical factor influencing job satisfaction is the perception that the organization gives workers autonomy over their jobs. Autonomy is controlling one’s tasks and activities and the methods used to accomplish them.
High stress levels can negatively impact job satisfaction by reducing autonomy at work. Stressed employees feel they have less control over their work environment and responsibilities than before they were stressed out. This can lead to feelings of helplessness, which is closely related to lower job satisfaction.
In short, managing your stress levels is a worthwhile investment, particularly if you have high emotional intelligence.