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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.

Ask Mabel: My partner hurt me when he insisted I needed my ADD meds to be in a relationship

Dear Mabel: My partner recently said something that really hurt me. He said, “you will never be able to have a relationship if you don’t take your ADD medication.” To me, it sounded like he was saying people are only able to love an edited/altered version of myself. It sounded like he was telling me I was un-loveable as is. What am I supposed to do with this comment? How do I move forward?

Sincerely, Mary from Virginia

Mabel: Hi Mary, I am sorry you are struggling with this comment. It sounds like your partner is trying to communicate something important, but I agree he could say it in a different way. You see, love and having a relationship are two different things. Love is a feeling. It is something that comes from deep within a person. Relating, on the other hand, is a behavior. You can love someone and not have a relationship with them, for whatever reason that is. Someone can love you for all of you. They can care deeply for you but they may be unable to maintain a relationship with you because of your ADD/ADHD symptoms. Symptoms, as I am sure you know, of ADD/ADHD can be severe enough to drive behaviors that might sabotage a relationship. For example, you may not be able to complete basic tasks or find it difficult to focus on things that need to get done thus frustrating and angering your partner to the point where they decide they need to move on. Rather than thinking of your partner’s comments as a blow to who you are as a person, think of them as an honest request from him to keep up on your meds so you can function to the best of your ability. 

Medication may help some folks focus better, but that’s only one aspect of the treatment. Changing habits and coping strategies can help tremendously. You may find it beneficial to seek help from a licensed counselor who can help you to develop some coping strategies, new habits, and work through emotions to make sure you are doing the best you can for yourself. 

How to teach your kids forgiveness?

Forgiveness can be a hard thing for adults, let alone kids. Which is even more reason why it is such an important life skill. Bad things are going to happen to us and our children. People will wrong us along this journey of life and holding grudges just weighs us down. So, how do we teach our kids to forgive? 

First things first—we need to be the example. It is hard sometimes to think about the fact that our kids are always looking to us for the answers. They use the adults in their life to determine how they should respond to things happening around them. As a parent, we are not perfect. Yes, I know that is hard to hear, but it’s true. We are human and humans are not perfect. So, when we inevitably mess up in front of our kids—hone up to it. Our kids need to see us admit to wrongdoing, they need to see us forgive ourselves and those around us. If your kids make a mistake, tell them “you forgive them.” Make it clear that you are putting the past behind you and moving forward with a clean slate. This will teach your kids to do the same. 

Read your children books, tell them stories that involve forgiveness. This is a great way to start building up this concept to young children who often relate more to fictional characters than the real people in their lives. Talk about the stories when you are done reading them, make sure your child understands the point and why forgiveness is important. 

Talk to your children about generosity, worth, kindness, respect, and love. These concepts go hand-in-hand with forgiveness. As your child starts to empathize with others and see the beauty and strengths of other people, forgiveness becomes easier. When we forgive we are loving others who likely didn’t show us the same love when they wronged us. We are showing respect to those who are not respecting us back. We are being the bigger person, at least in the moment. 

It is important to explain to children that forgiveness doesn’t mean an automatic reconciliation. It doesn’t mean that the action simply disappears. But it does mean that we can move forward. Make it clear to your child that if they are repeatedly wronged by the same person, it is ok to separate. They can forgive, by not holding a grudge, but that doesn’t mean they have to be submissive. They don’t have to put themselves in toxic situations. They can stand up for themselves. They should. They can establish boundaries.

Just like sharing, the concept of forgiveness takes time. It takes repeated effort. The best thing you can do as a parent is to forgive your kids, forgive yourself, and talk to your kids about these things. Be there and provide your kids with a safe place to come and share if they don’t know how to proceed. 

How have you taught forgiveness? 

Teaching your teen honesty

The teenage years are crucial for a number of reasons—personal and emotional development, self-confidence, and it’s usually your last chance to have your child at home. While your teen is still living under the same roof, it’s a great time to teach them the tools for healthy relationships that can set them up for life. 

Teach your teens to be honest and upfront. It is always easiest to “ghost”—or avoid—an uncomfortable situation. Many teens fear confrontation and would rather walk away, not answer the phone, not reply to the text, not speak to a person, etc. This is avoidance and it is not healthy for any relationship. It is passive-aggressive behavior that can be harmful in adult life in many ways, not just romantically. It can impact jobs, professional relationships, friendships, etc. 

You can help discourage your teen from ghosting by setting an example. If they do something approach them about it, rather than ignoring. Have the conversations. Open the doors to communication. Teach your teen the benefits of honesty. It may be uncomfortable for a bit, it may result in anger or distress, but ultimately it will lead to better results. Relief off your chest. Forgiveness. Openness. Respect for others. If your teen shares with you issues at school, work, or in friendships encourage them to face their problems head-on. 

Explain to your teen that avoiding problems usually leads them to compound into bigger issues later. By taking the small steps to act on issues as they come up, they will be setting the stage to have better relationships with those around them, to make smarter decisions, and to open more doors personally and professionally. Nobody likes a ghoster. Teach your teen that ghosting can be seen as disrespectful, weak, and “giving up.” 

As a parent you want your teen to be successful in life. You want them to make smart choices and be respectful to others. These are important lessons that you have the ability to teach them before they experience the harshness of the world on their own. Even if you aren’t really sure if your teen is listening or absorbing the information you are trying to teach them, keep at it. Setting an example as a parent can go a long way.