You are not alone with feeling that you are experiencing anger now more than before. Maybe you never thought you were the type to get angry at the little stuff and now everything is setting you off. Someone not having their mask over their nose or a family member having a different view regarding how to safely get together is pushing you over the edge.
In the past, we may never have snapped so quickly at our mother or would never have dared to comment to a random stranger in a tense, quivering voice as our hands sweated and our hearts raced. Many people do not even know how to deal with this newfound “COVID anger,” caused by the external forces going on around us. This anger is the result of all the other emotions we may be feeling such as fear, sadness, grief, and loss. What do we do to help calm this anger?
Ride the Wave
When you start to get angry, your body experiences physical changes. The leading voice in this research, Marsha Linehan, says the feelings can last for 90 seconds. We all experience different things: our hearts race, we sweat, and we may clench our fists. In these 90 seconds, work can be done to take a step back and resist the urge to act on the intense emotion of lashing out in anger. You can think of a better response as a metaphor of riding a wave. In 90 seconds, you are going to focus on the physical changes in your body and your angry thoughts. Sit with it and ride the wave in and out. Continue to notice your thoughts and begin to draw your attention back to your feeling of anger and why you are experiencing it. As you continue to focus on the wave going in and out, your anger should be lessening and your physical changes should be dissipating. Your body should be calming down and as you think of riding the wave in and out you will be less tempted to snap.
Another way of helping cope with anger or any intense feeling is stopping to name it. Many times, if you can name it you can usually “tame it.” Very similar to what you are doing in riding the wave, once you experience the physical sensations of the anger, it is important to name it. By saying “I am feeling angry,” your body is actually starting to counterbalance the stress that the “fight or flight” instinct is causing. Your body slowly begins to relax, and your emotional state begins to become more regulated as you acknowledge the feeling. Name the feeling and take a few deep breaths.
Talk It Out
Talking with someone about things that make us highly agitated or irritable give us a place to unload our thoughts, feelings, and problems that we are facing. By connecting with others — especially trusted friends, family members or professionals — we realize that many others are experiencing the same intensity of emotions. You quickly realize this is a shared feeling. We realize our need for other people and attachment to them is so powerful that it can actually help us with processing some of our intense feelings and thoughts.
There are many things in the world we cannot control, but actively calming our anger and taking care of our mental health is crucial.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather Zuckerman, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Garrison, NY. She specializes in life transitions and the issues that accompany them. For more information go to www.heatherzuckerman.com., Instagram: @heathertherapy, and Facebook: Heather Zuckerman Therapy.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns on dealing with the many impacts of the coronavirus in our pandemic time.