Losing the freedom to come and go as you please is a challenge for anyone.
However, this is now our reality, given the spread of COVID-19 and ongoing recommendations from public health officials to stay at home as much as possible. There are numerous opinions and views regarding which strategies are most effective in managing anger during the coronavirus pandemic. Tensions are high. Citizens worry about health, the economy, and the future. For essential workers, concerns persist about infecting loved ones, workplace safety, and whether school will reopen in a virtual or in-person format.
In homes, individuals scramble to work remotely and others wonder how they’ll pay bills if they lose their job. If you have anger management issues, this is a perfect (-ly bad) storm. Chronic frustration and a short fuse do not mix well.
How Do You Know if You Have Anger Issues?
Everyone gets angry. It’s a natural human emotion.
But how do you know if anger is a problem for you?
Ask yourself these questions:
When you get angry, do you lash out verbally to your loved ones or people close to you?
When you get angry, do you lash out physically to your loved ones or people close to you?
When you get angry, do you feel bad later about losing your temper with your family?
Has anyone ever told you that you have anger management issues?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consider the idea that you may have an anger management issue.
Don’t let that deter you from taking steps to manage your anger, though – because anger is possible to manage.
There are numerous evidence-based strategies you can use to reduce stress and frustration and keep anger to a minimum. Although there is no magic bullet to eliminate anger, practicing anger management skills can help you feel better and improve your relationships with those you care about.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you have a conflict with your partner or child. You feel the pressure start to build and feel like you are a pressure cooker about to explode.
What would you do with the pressure cooker?
You don’t take the lid off too fast – that’s dangerous.
What you do is release the steam slowly, with control – with a valve.
That’s exactly what you should do when you feel like the pressure inside of you is building up. But if you don’t have a valve, you need to install one.
In other words, you need to find a way to vent.
A healthy way to vent.
Here are some strategies I recommend for installing your very own pressure release valve in order to handle your anger.
Four Healthy Ways to Vent
- Exercise. Physical activity can be a great outlet to reduce tension. Removing yourself from the situation and going for a walk (even if it’s only laps around the house) can be a very effective way to relieve stress. Not only can this be effective in the moment, but a consistent exercise program, especially right now (assuming you do not have physical restrictions from your physician), can be helpful in lower baseline stress.
- Deep breathing. When you feel anger building, take a deep breath and count to 10 before responding to the situation. Breathe deep. Fill your abdomen, then your chest. Imagine clean, healthy air coursing through your body. When you exhale, exhale slowly and fully.
- Journaling. Write out your frustration in a letter or journal. Writing out what’s going on allows you to step outside of the situation and see it objectively. It helps you clarify exactly what you’re upset about, which can help you work through it.
- Communication.Sometimes talking to a trusted friend (or a counselor) can make all the difference. In the same way writing out what’s making you angry helps to clarify what’s going on inside you, explaining it to someone you trust can help you sort things out. A good friend may also have great ideas to help you with the problem, since they know you well.
Venting is not the only option available. Just like with a pressure cooker, you can develop strategies to keep venting, or you can find ways to turn down the heat.
Anger Management: Four Ways to Turn Down the Heat
- Meditation. Develop a daily meditation practice. Meditating 10 minutes per day can help you become more present and less reactive to your emotions.
- Therapy. Strategies common in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – such as observing your thoughts and looking for evidence about whether your thoughts are true or false – can be very beneficial. If you have the thought, “I can’t believe she did this to me! She must think I’m an idiot!” Take the time to consider that thought. Think it through. Does that person really think you’re an idiot? Upon reflection, automatic thoughts like this often prove to be false.
- Time Management. Plan your day with a simple short list of items that you intend to do. Be sure to keep it simple. Making promises to yourself and keeping them can help you feel more confident in your ability to manage your life, which, in turn, helps to manage all your emotions, including anger.
- Limit Alcohol or Other Substances. Using substances that reduce inhibition can make a situation worse. Although it may be tempting to self-medicate during times of stress, maintaining a clear head can help you respond more effectively to the challenges you face.
Try Being Kind to Yourself
Don’t become too discouraged when you have moments when you still struggle with anger. Maintain a safe environment for yourself and those you care about. If you lose your cool and become angry, use the skills to stabilize the situation and find a path forward. Celebrate any progress you make as you work toward becoming your best self. Remember this: start with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with patience, respect, and dignity. When you start there – with yourself – you increase your chances of treating others the same way.
Dr. Ryland completed her doctoral dissertation studying anger management strategies with an inmate population.
Anger management is a core part of Pinnacle’s clinical curriculum at its eight Recovery Works residential treatment centers. In group therapy, patients learn about and discuss anger events and cues; anger control plans; the aggression cycle; cognitive restructuring; conflict resolution; anger and the family; and more.