The pandemic, the death of George Floyd, and a turbulent election year have created the perfect storm of anxiety, frustration, and fear in the hearts of many Americans. People are working from home, stressing about their health and job status and quarantining with no end in sight. Reacting negatively and aggressively to news has become commonplace. It’s as if we’ve lost our inner compass and are no longer in control of our anger. Feeling anger is normal and expressing it in a healthy way can be helpful for communicating truth, values, and feelings. However, when you are no longer in control of your anger, it begins controlling you. It can turn you into someone who is unreasonable, crude, and aggressive.
During uncertain times, individuals look for control and release of their emotions. If you’re emotionally healthy, you may choose to exercise, keep a journal, or connect with a loved one and talk about your feelings. However, if you have been raised to believe expressing your anger is bad, you internalize the anger you feel rather than talking about it. When anger is suppressed for years, it begins bubbling over and spills everywhere. To control your anger, you need to notice when you feel angry and act before releasing it uncontrollably. Saying “I am sorry” after spewing insults is not enough. The person who looks the worst and does the most damage is the person under the influence of unmanaged anger. If others have told you your anger is a problem or if you have seen the deleterious results of your anger, it is time to get a grip. Here are suggestions that help you control and distance yourself from your anger and maintain control.
1. Acknowledge your triggers. You can’t make wise choices if you’re in a negative mindset or putting yourself directly into the same situation that makes you angry. Practice awareness and remove yourself from the situation before you get annoyed. If you know social media posts make you feel angry and frustrated, then stop using these sources for your primary news. If driving in traffic makes you angry, then opt for public transportation or form a carpool and let others drive.
2. Do not rehash the situation or incident causing your negative feelings. Focus on things you appreciate about the situation you’re in or someone in your life who makes it better.
3. Change the way you think. When you’re angry, you are illogical. Before you get angry, stay away from using words like always, never, or should. Keep it focused on your breathing and remind yourself that no one is trying to get you. When others are acting out, remind yourself it’s just negative emotion in the air and it doesn’t belong to you.
4. Be aware and practice the behaviors that keep you calm. Praying, walking, talking to a good friend, gardening, woodwork, or knitting can help minimize angry feelings in a healthy way. Practicing healthy behaviors will eventually help you default to them when you’re feeling triggered.
5. Attend support groups for anger management and talk to professionals. Give yourself permission to invest in your mental health. You may have grown up with mentors who modeled inappropriate ways to deal with anger. We can’t control who raised us, but we can tap into the memory of being a fearful child and watching what happens when adults lose control of their anger. The medical and mental health care community offer classes and emotional support. Find tools that work for you and help you relax. Learning to relax and self sooth are important tactics to have when managing anger.
Being an adult means being responsible for our reactions and our behaviors. The world does not change for us; rather, we learn to change our mindset and actions to love and support our families and communities. The biggest regret in life is putting other’s well-being at risk because you did not manage your anger. Only you can control you. Do it for yourself, your partner, your children and your community.