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anxiety anger

Anxiety Can Make You Angry

It happens to those of us with anxiety all the time. The little things that are part of our everyday environment set us over the edge. That feeling of not being able to see straight, or “seeing red” as it is sometimes referred to, can be triggered by the most innocent of things. A compounding of the day’s responsibilities, a slight unraveling of the day’s schedule, the inability to get something done, an interruption at a busy time, it can be like the flip of a switch. 

Anxiety can make you angry. 

The other day a friend shared a personal story with me, and with her permission allowed me to share it as an example of this very thing. This friend, a mother of two young children, had woken up at 5 a.m. (as she does every day) to complete her mounting to-do list. She wanted to get in her workout, fold the laundry, shower, wash the dishes, send a couple of emails, get the kids fed, etc. all before getting the kids off to baseball practice. The list was set. It seemed manageable. All was well. That is until the dog ate the kids’ breakfast, the mom ran out of shampoo, the kids got into an argument, the dishwasher was full, and all of a sudden the mom was running out of time. Those feelings of being overwhelmed crept up on her, then her child asked her if they could go to the park after baseball…and she lost it. 

It seems so simple. So innocent. Yet those moments of anger are a frequent part of living with someone with anxiety. It is not that the mom wanted to be angry with her child for asking about going to the park, it is just that it felt like one more thing added to a mounting to-do list. Could that laundry wait? Those dishes wait? Yes. But, with anxiety, it can be hard to think in those logical terms (even for the most logical of people). It is not that we want to be an angry person. We want to be a place of solitude for those we love. We want to be a safe landing zone, not something to be feared. Anxiety makes that difficult. 

After that moment went down, her kids looked at her in fear and she felt awful. She was full of guilt, overcome with emotion and started on her usual string of apologies. She didn’t mean to lash out, yes she would take them to the park. And, her kids, used to the drill, gave her grace. They forgave. They hugged her. They told her they loved her. She asked if they were ok. 

This is one of the ugly sides of anxiety. It is hard. Acknowledging these issues, getting help from a licensed professional, learning coping mechanisms, stepping away from the situation, all of these are positive steps in the right direction. Nobody wants to be an angry person. We all want to be calm and level-headed. If you are an anxiety sufferer, allow yourself some grace. Try to say “yes” more often. Give yourself breaks. Apologize to those you love. Talk to them, explain to them why you may have reacted the way you did. Teach them the beauty of forgiveness.

Relating to our previous post on how managing your anxiety, especially as a parent, is important so that you don’t pass it on to your children, taking the difficult step to acknowledge your anger as a symptom of your anxiety is also crucial.

How Do You Calm Down (Fast!)

Those feelings of anger or anxiety are creeping up on you. You are “seeing red.” You feel like you are going to explode. What do you do? How can you calm yourself down fast and effectively?

  1. Count to 10 – Sometimes the secret is simply changing your focus. Counting to 10 does that. If you are actively focusing on counting, counting slowly, then you can disengage from whatever is getting you all hot and bothered. Then when you are ready you can reassess and think more clearly. 
  2. Smell Something Nice – You might think I am joking but there is a lot of research around essential oils and soothing scents, like lavender or jasmine. Consider carrying a scent in your bag or wearing a scented bracelet and turn to it in moments of stress.
  3. Touch – Touch can be a calming thing. You can always turn to a significant other, a friend, or a child and ask for a hug, or rub up against a pet. Or, if that is not available, or not desirable, then turn to yourself. Rub your hands together for a few seconds. You will be surprised how calming it can be. 
  4. Move – Movement is a powerful thing. Getting your heart rate up for a few minutes is healthy. Getting out of situations by taking a walk, or walking up and down the stairs, releases stress. It allows you to burn off steam, regain calm, and refocus. 
  5. Breathe – Focus on your breath. Take a few minutes, close your eyes, breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the inhale, getting it as deep as you can, and focus on your exhale, getting it all out. Let it go. 
  6. Write It Down – Sometimes it just helps to get it all on paper. It helps to organize your thoughts and put things into perspective.
  7. Guided Meditation – There are so many apps and YouTube videos with guided meditation. They are at your fingertips. Find five minutes and use them. 
  8. Practice Mindfulness – Sometimes it is as simple as taking a moment to look around. What is really happening in the moment? 

Calming down can be extremely difficult when we are overwhelmed, but give yourself some compassion. You are human. You are entitled to your feelings. You are strong. You will get through. It is all going to be ok. 

Slow down to do more

It doesn’t make sense when you hear it. How could slowing down actually allow you to do more? 

Our lives are so busy these days. I am sure you say it all the time, “I just don’t have time for that.” But, have you ever stopped to really think about your life and how you are spending your time. It is so easy to get caught up in to-do lists, goals, work demands, that we forget about why we are really doing all these things. Our lives are literally passing us by because we are so over consumed with what “needs” to get done. We are overstressed, overworked, and overwhelmed. 

Practice Mindfulness

Slowing down, actually taking a moment to stop and look around us, to be present in the moment, to embrace the act of mindfulness can actually allow us to do more. Taking time to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes, can help us be more productive and happier in the long-run. 

It is so easy to get burnt out when we are going full speed ahead all the time. We all need rest days. We need days with the family. We need time to enjoy the lives we have built for ourselves and to appreciate all the true beauty around us. 

It is ok to turn the phone off. Put it in a drawer or a cabinet for a few hours a day and be present in your life. The world will not end, I promise. Life is short and there are so many moments we can not get back. Start today with a few minutes of disconnecting. 

The next time you find yourself rushing to get from one place to another, ask yourself “is it really that bad if I am a few minutes late?” In most cases, the answer is “no.” Rather than losing your temper on your children for not putting their shoes on fast enough, or getting distracted by a flower they saw in the grass, slow.down. Turn that rushed moment in a positive memory. 

Source: https://hbr.org/2009/08/to-get-more-done-slow-down.html