The current global situation has us, without a doubt, feeling a multitude of emotions. I’m not a betting man (rather, woman) but if I were, I’d bet that anger is one of the most prevalent emotions we’re all feeling – or a combination of anger and frustration at the fact that there seems to be no end in sight to this.
Now, let’s try an exercise. Think about the last time you felt angry. I mean really think about it on a deeper level – what was the trigger? Was it an external event – something someone said? Or was it internal – thinking about a past event, current event, or wondering about tomorrow? Aside from feeling anger, did you feel anything else?
Even if you don’t realize it, you most likely had one or multiple emotions at play hiding in the background acting as the driving force behind your anger. I get angry at least once a day – most of the time, it’s multiple times a day. I think about not being able to take my 16-month old to the park or to visit his friends and socialize, and I get angry. I think about being stuck in quarantine, and I get angry. I think about how many businesses may go under after all this is said and done, and I feel rage. I think about the impending recession, and – you guessed it – I feel A LOT of anger. What is driving that anger? For me, it’s the lack of security, frustration, sadness, and, dare I say it, insecurity about my parenting. When I think about my anger rationally, I know the current global situation is very much beyond my control. Now that we have all the time in the world to work on ourselves, we need to get creative – especially when facing our demons and dealing with difficult emotions.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, anger can be caused by an internal or external event. We can become angry at the thought of a traumatic event, or we can become angry by external events, such as a traffic jam or someone saying something that triggers you. At its most basic core, anger is actually here to protect us. When we feel anger, our body releases hormones, such as adrenaline, and increases our heart rate to make us ready to fight. Blood rushes to our hands, which is a defense mechanism that helped our ancestors hold a weapon or use force when fighting for survival against a predator or enemy (Gottman). There are very few reasons today that humans need to fight when they feel anger, but it is still very prevalent in today’s society – this alone makes it one of the most destructive emotions when not dealt with properly.
In order to understand anger, it is vital to note that anger is not a standalone emotion. As a matter of fact, anger is often referred to as a secondary emotion; it hides the raw emotions that make us vulnerable, such as fear, humiliation, frustration or hurt (APA). Some researches even argue that anger is just symptomatic of other, unresolved emotions (Gottman). The anger iceberg, therefore, refers to the idea that, although anger is the emotion that we display outwardly, there are many emotions that are hidden beneath the surface (Conflict Resolution Education).
Now that we’ve dug a litter deeper into what anger is, how can we manage it?
It’s important to first understand what made you angry and then delve into what emotion is behind the anger. If you’re angry about the current situation, is there fear hiding in the background? If you lost your job, is there a sense of self-worth that you feel may have been chipped away? Very often, logic prevails over anger. When we are faced with a problem, we immediately look for a solution. That hardest part is acknowledging the fact that some problems do not have solutions. What you can control is how you react. If you let anger control your actions and reactions, chances are high that the situation will only become worse. I get angry when I go to the grocery store and see all the toilet paper has been sold out. This is obviously a very irrational reason to be angry. My 16-month old seems to have taken on a new hobby of banging metal bowls together and yelling. I get angry. If I let my anger control my actions, I know my instinct would be to yell and take away the bowls. I rationalize my anger by thinking about how he is learning and absorbing everything around him. The sound of the metal bowls crashing together and the fact that he is making that sound is interesting to him, and it makes him smile. He is yelling because he’s realizing he can control the volume of his voice. It is especially interesting when there is an echo. This makes him smile, and there is no reason that his learning should make me angry. After I rationalize my anger, it very quickly starts to dissipate. By using logic right at the onset of anger, you can help to stop that anger from snowballing into a problem that becomes increasing more difficult to deal with.
I still find myself sitting around and stewing over many things that are beyond my control. Writing has always been my outlet, and I chose to write about emotions during a pandemic. You are currently reading my outlet for my anger and all the emotions I am feeling. I am spending 99% of my time at home now (1% being the occasional grocery store trip), and I know this time can be utilized positively. When I’m not writing, I do puzzles – crossword puzzles, Sudoku, brain exercises, you name it. I watch comedies instead of drama or horror movies, because I find I need to laugh now more than ever. Try something new. Sign up for an online course, start mild exercises if you feel you’re not being as active as you should be, read a book, play games, finish a task you started, paint – anything! Keep your brain occupied by using positive outlets.
This one is fairly simple only when you understand your triggers for anger. If watching the news makes you angry, limit the amount of time you spend watching or reading the news. Do not completely block yourself from the world, however. It is important to stay informed, but there is a fine line between being informed and being submersed. Now, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. If stubbing your toe makes you irrationally angry, you need to employ the logic/rationalization technique. You certainly can’t avoid that trigger, because you’re not purposely stubbing your toe (at least, I hope not). The next time you feel angry, stop and think about what caused it, and then think about the real emotions you are feeling behind anger.
If you find yourself arguing with family members, your spouse, roommate(s), child(ren) or partner more, stop and take a second to breathe. Tensions are running high right now, and it is very easy to blow one small thing out of proportion. When you spend all of your time with the same people and cannot leave the house, leave the room. Every night after we put our son to bed, I ask my husband to give me one hour of uninterrupted “me” time. It gives me an opportunity to decompress and wind down my brain after a chaotic day (with a toddler, every day is chaos). If you need space, tell your family or the person/people you are living with. This is a much simpler solution than getting into an argument and creating ever more tension. We need to be extra easy on ourselves and our loved ones right now.
There are times when anger needs an immediate outlet or expression. Reset Zone tools can help with this. For example, if anger is the emotion that tends to rise most often, you can practice certain tools, such as breathing techniques, on a daily basis to reduce the intensity of anger. When you practice regularly, you are rewiring your brain to use that tool in a moment of anger rather than something physically or verbally destructive. Check out Reset Zone on Instagram and Facebook for tips on how to manage and reset your emotions.
Natasha Radlovic is the Communications Director for Reset Zone. She brings to the table over 7 years of experience in Public Relations and 6 years of progressive Corporate Communications experience. Natasha has worked in healthcare, technology and education, but her true passion is working in a start-up environment – especially one that focuses on health and emotional wellness! She’s excited to begin a new chapter with Reset Zone and strategize methods to promote and grow the app and the Reset Zone Community.