How to Increase Emotional Competency and Critical Thinking Skills

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Life skills are vital to sober living and two of the most important skills include emotional competency and critical thinking. These allow you to work through emotionally charged situations and choose healthy responses. Critical thinking and other life skills help your recovery by lowering the risk of sliding back into old habits. Part of getting treatment for substance abuse is learning about relapse prevention. 

A 2021 paper from researchers at the University of Nebraska stated that “three of the most common relapse prevention strategies have included therapy and skill development, medications, and monitoring.” Critical thinking and emotional competency are two essential life skills used to control your trigger responses and cravings. 

A handout from the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments describes the following five categories of emotional competency:

  • Self-Awareness: Your ability to accurately recognize your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and how each influences the other is a part of self-awareness. You can understand and accurately assess your strengths, weaknesses, and limits factually and confidently when you have developed a healthy sense of self-awareness. The best way to improve this skill is to practice recognizing how you learn and what you are feeling. 
  • Self-Management: Your ability to regulate and control your emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and knee-jerk responses in any situation is possible through self-management. You will learn life skills in treatment and therapy that show you how to manage your stress, impulsivity, motivation, and goal-making behavior. One of the best ways to increase self-management is to work with a trained therapist who can provide an outside viewpoint and valuable insights. 
  • Responsible Decision Making: Your ability to make personal decisions based on constructive and socially acceptable standards is essential. Safety and the well-being of others are critical for responsible decision-making. Modeling, also called social learning, is one way you can practice making realistic and ethical decisions. You look at how someone you trust behaves and their choices and then model your behavior off of them. 
  • Relationship Skills: Your ability to create and maintain relationships with others is fundamental. Communication, active listening, working together, providing constructive feedback, and supporting one another are all parts of a healthy relationship. These skills are usually taught to us as children so that we can learn to overcome conflict constructively. Not everyone grows up in an environment that establishes healthy relationship expectations. You can learn them through life skill education and psychotherapy. 
  • Social Awareness: Your ability to understand others and feel empathy for people who do not share your background makes it possible for you to understand socials and ethics in cultures different from your own. The differences will inform you how to act in situations you might encounter at work, school, or in your personal life. You need to know the best way to act in a socially and culturally appropriate manner. Educating yourself about the many different communities teaches you greater social awareness. 

What Are Critical Thinking and Emotional Competency?

How you think, and process experiences and circumstances will play a part in determining your reactions. When you live a sober life, it is essential to improve critical thinking skills responsible for analyzing, perceiving, and collecting information about the world around you. Critical thinking combines communication, experience, and observation to integrate new information and choose appropriate actions.   

Dealing with emotionally charged situations competently allows you to take a step back and evaluate possible outcomes. You can use this to find the best path forward regardless of the circumstances. We previously mentioned the five categories of emotional competency, and being deficient in one or more leaves you vulnerable to making unhealthy choices. Combining clear thinking with emotion regulation leads to choices based on facts and the well-being of yourself and others. 

Thought Exercises That Can Improve Critical Thinking

Psychotherapy is an excellent tool for improving critical thinking skills, but you can do some exercises independently to practice. Although they are simple, they can teach you a lot about yourself and the world around you while giving you a new way of looking at things.

  1. Imagine someone else in your shoes. You can pick a specific person if that makes it easier. Think about how they would react to a situation and how you would respond if you saw them doing the same actions you have previously done.  
  1. Write a list of your beliefs about yourself and others. For each thing you have listed, write next to it whether it is a fact or an opinion. In this way, you can identify how much of your belief system is based on opinions rather than facts. 
  1. Try looking at a familiar situation from the perspective of someone who has never encountered it before. For example, you can explain the why, what, who, when, where of your favorite hobby while breaking it down into factual statements. By practicing detailed descriptions, you will get better at automatically cataloging facts about situations you encounter. 

You can take control of your future by learning how to properly integrate your emotional responses through critical thinking. Emotional and gut-based decisions do not always lead to healthy choices, but you can choose to do things differently. The staff at Everlast Recovery Centers teach educational classes and one-on-one therapy designed to show you how to cope with emotional situations healthily to avoid relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the ways that we can help you become a more critical thinker. There are multiple methods for learning these tools, and we can adjust our programs to meet your needs. You will learn how to objectively analyze situations and make decisions based on objective observation instead of fallible, emotional impressions. Reach out today to learn more about our treatment programs and therapy services. We have information that can aid your continuing recovery. Contact Everlast Recovery Centers by calling us at (866) 338-6925.

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