During life in quarantine, many of us are navigating bouts of grief—about the state of the world, how it affects us personally, how long it all may last, and beyond. Grief has seven stages, and it seems that a whole bunch of us are stuck in stage three—the anger stage. Perhaps you’re having meltdowns about the littlest of things—like your partner leaving the milk out, Zoom meetings that go 15 minutes over for no reason, and someone texting you their champagne problem. And while I’m first to preach the power potential that the emotion holds—especially for women—if you’re contending with rage all the time over petty-seeming issues right now, it may be time to figure out where it’s coming from and what, in terms of dealing with the anger, you can do about it.
First, know that it’s totally normal if you’re feeling more rage than you normally do. “All of our stuff, including childhood stressors, is coming out now because we don’t have a lot of our usual distractions and ways of coping available,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “There might actually be multiple layers of anger, starting with old things that we can usually suppress. Then there’s all the COVID-related anger, a lot of which is festering like a wound because we can’t do much about it. Finally, if someone says or does something, even if that usually wouldn’t bother you much, now the anger flows out of you.”
So it makes sense that your frustrations are boiling over right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t strategies you can try for dealing with the anger you feel in quarantine. Below, find Dr. Daramus’s top four suggestions for cooling down and restoring a state of calm within.
4 tips for dealing with anger in quarantine, according to a psychologist.
1. Validate your anger
Take a step back to recognize that you’re angry, and remind yourself that it’s okay to feel angry.
“Even if the immediate problem wasn’t all that important, you probably do have a lot to feel angry about right now,” says Dr. Daramus. “Fear and anger are also related, so anger might be an attempt to stop feeling helpless.”
2. Try purging your feelings privately before you unload others
If you find yourself angry while communicating via text or some other written medium versus in person or on video, before automatically reacting, try purge writing. Get out all your angry thoughts on paper, step away from the paper for a bit, then re-read it before you decide whether you want to confront someone.
“Before you talk to anyone else about a problem, take a few minutes to write it down or at least give it some thought,” says Dr. Daramus. “Don’t censor this private self-expression. Do that until you feel like some of it has been emptied out and you can talk about it more calmly with whomever you’re mad at.”
3. Be solution-oriented
“Focus on what you need to change,” Dr. Daramus says. “If you can, negotiate a compromise. You may need to establish boundaries and let people know that they can’t count on you if you can’t count on them.”
So let’s say you’re busy with work, and one of your friends isn’t. Of course, you want to be sensitive to them and answer the influx of messages you’re receiving from them, but you can provide protective guardrails to the situation by setting boundaries. Try saying, “Hey, I love you and I want to be there for you, but I’m really more available to chat on weekends.” On the flip side, if you’re out of work and hate hearing your friend complain about yet another Zoom happy hour, dealing with your anger may look like saying, “Listen, it kind of hurts me to hear about other people’s jobs right now. Could we maybe do a movie date or something instead?” Whatever you’re feeling, there’s a reasonable way to approach making the situation work better for you.
4. Identify whether this is something you can control
It doesn’t help anyone to worry about the things we can’t control. If your partner, for example, lets you know that Costco is out of Oreos, don’t kill the messenger.
“If circumstances are beyond your control, focus on keeping your inner calm,” says Dr. Daramus. Take a walk around the block, scream into a pillow, try a breathwork exercise—anything to bring you back to your present state of calm. Because it is certainly okay to be angry, but you do want to have someone around to share your cookies with, through good times and bad.
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