If someone tells me to picture an anxious person, I usually envision some form of pacing back and forth, sweating, heart pounding, panic attacks, and hyperventilation. But not anger.
Yet, as someone with anxiety, I can tell you that more times than not, my most prominent (and hated) symptom of them all is anger and god-awful irritability. Usually my rage sprouts before I realize I’m even anxious to begin with. And by that point, it feels too late to stop. But truthfully, that’s just my anxiety trying to bust me in the ass… once again. And if I let it, the anger unravels in a snowball effect.
Although anger and anxiety appear to be on two completely different sides of the feelings spectrum (anger associating with rage, and anxiety corresponding with underlying fear), according to a new study, they may be linked.
So how do we quit get our anger and rage under control if we are someone with anxiety?
1. Visit a freakin’ doctor.
If your anxiety, irritability, or anger is interfering with day-to-day activities and/or relationships, it’s time to seek help. There are thousands of medications and alternative-treatment options available for you. You don’t need to suffer alone. There is help.
2. Recognize your triggers.
If you’re me, and you know the kids are going to insist on getting themselves dressed in the mornings, allow ample time for them to do that without turning into Cruella De Vil. The morning really does start off best when mom’s not losing her shit.
3. Try relaxation breathing.
I don’t know why, but when I’m in the depths of my rage, I never think this will work. But it always does. The key to all of this is sloooow breathing. Breathe in for a few seconds, hold it, and then breathe out for longer than you breathed in.
Don’t expect this to magically change your mood or mindset from the get-go. Much like exercising takes time to adjust to, so will this technique.
4. Slow down.
In a recent article, Josh Nash says the key to overcoming anxiety, with anger boiling just beneath the surface, is to simply slow down. He reiterates, “Where anxiety pulls us away from the present moment and into our minds, slowing down brings us back to the body, which always exists in the present moment.”
He encourages those struggling to start with something simple, such as sipping a cup of coffee. Focus on the warmth in each sip. If your mind starts to wander, stop and remind yourself, “No, I’m slowing down.”
5. Challenge your thoughts.
Yes, challenge them. If your thoughts seem irrational, they probably are. Don’t hesitate to question them. Has this ever happened before? What is the probability of a negative outcome reciprocating from this? Is lashing out going to solve this problem?
Think before you act, or take a breather and don’t act at all.
6. Take a pause.
Despite what we’d like to believe, the world will not fall off its axis if we take a moment for ourselves. Lock yourself in the bathroom for a couple of minutes if you have to, go for a little retail therapy, or just close your eyes and try isolating yourself from negative thinking.
7. Go for a walk.
If at all possible, leave your situation for just a few minutes. Go on a kid-free walk and rebalance your inner zen. You can work on these techniques we talked about while boosting your endorphins too.
8. Tune into your creative side.
Maybe it’s because I’m a creative person, but I always feel more refreshed after I’ve channeled into my artistic side. Whether it be crafting, writing, sewing, knitting or painting, it always seems to invoke a calmer me.
Anxiety masking itself in the form of anger can lead to major health concerns, and even more prevalent, relationship conflicts. If you or a loved one is struggling, help is there, and you are not alone.