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Wednesday, 29 January 2020

OPINION: Surviving Suicidal Thought with Emotional Intelligence

By Ebere Florence Nnanwube

If everyone agrees that the recent recurrent suicide rate among Nigerian youths has become a social concern, then we should also agree that a tenable solution to this menace lies in teaching undergraduate students the art of managing their emotions by cultivating emotional intelligence. It is on record that many youths, especially tertiary institution undergraduates, do not know how to handle critical life issues like relationship break ups, rejection by peers, exam failures, gang bullying, drug use and abuse, rape, amongst others.

Emotional intelligence, also called Emotional Quotient (EQ) concerns being able to understand, use and manage one’s emotions in positive ways in order to obtain positive outcomes such as relieving stress, communicating effectively, empathizing with other people, overcoming challenges and diffusing conflict. EQ plays out in four major attributes, namely: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management.

Self-management:This entails being able to control one’s impulsive feelings and behaviors, managing emotions in healthy ways, taking initiatives, keeping to commitments and adapting to changes.
Ebere Florence Nnanwube
Self-awareness: Here, one recognizes his/her emotions and how they impact on his/her thoughts and behavior. It equally involves recognizing one’s strengths, weaknesses and having self-confidence.

Social awareness: Involves having empathy by understanding or trying to understand the emotions, needs and concerns of other people, picking up emotional cues, feeling comfortable in a social space, and recognizing power relations in a group or organization.

Relationship management: EQ also enables one to develop the capacity to maintain good relationships, communicate effectively, be inspiring and influential to other people, engage in teamwork and manage conflict.

The importance of any individual, especially young people possessing these critical skills cannot be overemphasized. It is cardinal to excelling in one’s occupation and also transiting through life’s phases successfully. For instance, as a student, emotional intelligence can help you navigate the numerous social complexities of school life and still graduate successfully. More precisely, it is the EQ that boosts your self-confidence to study harder when you realize you didn’t do well enough the previous semester. The same confidence enables you to develop high-self esteem to navigate peer pressures that could lead to joining bad gangs, taking to drug abuse, prostitution rings and other vices common among students. This same EQ also helps you recognize your self-worth when you have been rejected by the one you love, though at first, this may not be easy, but emotional intelligence will enable you to channel your emotions into positive actions and decisions that can improve and enhance your personality. In the end, you come out a better person.

EQ also teaches you how to maintain your physical and mental health through stress management, by informing you in the first place that managing your emotions better entails not overstressing yourself. Hence, the ability to control your emotions and stress means managing anxiety and depression better.

One quick way of relieving one’s self of anxiety is by not dwelling on negative emotions for long. As soon as it comes,recognize it, wave it off and engage in positive actions that make you laugh, play and dwell on cheerful memories.

Failure to manage one’s mental health leaves the individual struggling to form healthy relationships, staying attached to family and consequently leading to isolation and loneliness.

EQ further helps you to manage your relationships better, understand your feelings and that of others. In the end, you are able to connect better with friends, family, loved ones, peers, colleagues, teachers, even strangers and yourenvironment. By boosting your social intelligence, EQ enables you to distinguish between friends and enemies, measure the interest other people have in you, reduce stress, balance your nervous system through social communication, feel loved and stay happy.

Emotional intelligence can be built. The how lies in cultivating and practicalizing the four basic skills listed already and further explained below:

Self-management: To build emotional intelligence, you must be willing to make constructive decisions about your behavior, think through actions and exhibitappropriate behavior. This can be achieved by staying emotionally present during stressful and upsetting moments and never letting issues override your self-control. This way, you make choices that allow you tocontrol impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage emotions in healthy ways, take initiatives, keep to commitments and adapt to changes.

Self-awareness: You must learn to distance yourself from your emotions, by cultivating the ability to have a moment-to-moment connection with your changing emotional experience. In order to better understand the influence of emotions on your thoughts and actions. You must pay attention to the presence or absence of the physical sensations in your stomach, throat, or chest, the feelings of anger, sadness, fear and joy, intense feelings that capture your attention and those of others; and importantly pay attention to these emotions.

In reversal, when a person fails to feel any of these mentioned emotions, he/she can be equated to having turned down or turned off his emotions (Pause a moment and think about what goes through the mind of a person who is about to commit suicide. Maybe none of these emotions at all is present in him/her any longer). Well, to rebuild the EQ and mental health, one can begin practicing the art of mindfulness, i.e purposefully focusing on the present moment non-judgmentally. It helps you shift yourpreoccupied thoughts to appreciating the moment, your physical and emotional sensations, thereby bringing a larger perspective on life. It also keeps you relaxed and focused.

Social awareness: Building emotional intelligence through social awareness can help us watch out for others, by being our brother’s keeper. Precisely, this skill awakens our recognition and interpretation of the things people around us are not saying but want us to hear or notice. It keeps us conscious of how others feel; the changing status of their emotions from moment to moment and the things they regard to be important. The art of mindfulness can also help an individual cultivate this skill, as being socially aware requires your being present in the momentary interaction. This way, you also pay attention to your own emotional changes, simultaneously gaining insight into your own emotional state, values and beliefs while paying attention to others.

Relationship management: To work well with other people, we must be emotionally aware and also be able to recognize and understand the experiences of others.

After all is said and done, Mark Manson outlines that emotions must be infused with values in order for it to be channeled towards positive use of emotional intelligence. This is where the parental roleof nurture comes into play. While teaching students or children ways to build emotional intelligence, they must also be taught simultaneously positive values such as self love, regard for family and loved ones, hopefulness, improvement, adventure, usefulness and many other regular values commonly shared by the society.

As the tertiary institutions pride in moulding students both in character and learning, the recent rate of vices emanating from the higher institutions leaves one indoubt. Devastating of all remains the recent high incidence of suicide among young Nigerian students. It heralds the failure in meeting up to the expectation of building both intellectually and emotionally sound citizens. This essay is intended to be a wake-up call on the need for the National University Commission (NUC) to inculcate Emotional Intelligence as a mandatory course (General Studies) in 200 or 300 level. It is recommended at this level due to the assumption that the students would better appreciate this topic when it would make the most sense to them, after some exposure to life in the higher institution.

Materials for this essay were sourced from https://www.helpguide.ord Improving emotional intelligence (EQ), HelpGuide and 5 skills to help you develop emotional intelligence by Mark Manson.

Author's profile:
Florence Ebere Nnanwube is a Doctoral student of Sociology, University of Ibadan

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