Americans are angry. Angry about many things. In fact, if you watch TV news or pay attention to social media, you get the feeling that America is a boiling cauldron of anger. People are angry about decades of societal indifference toward systemic racism. Angry about excessive use of force aimed at Black Americans by some policemen. Angry about the coronavirus epidemic. Angry about the personal economic hardships of the pandemic. Angry at employers who are not doing enough to protect workers from the pandemic. Angry at policy makers who are not doing enough to keep people safe or are doing too much. Angry at people who wear masks. Angry at those who don’t wear masks. Angry over a sense of loss: loss of loved ones due to death from the coronavirus; loss of personal freedom; loss of a sense of certainty and safety; loss of entertainment; loss of sports; loss of meaning. The list goes on.
Anger and Your Health
While placing no judgement on the legitimacy of these feelings, a constant state of anger is not good for our wellbeing. Physicians warn us that sustained anger triggers the body’s sympathetic nervous system into the “flight or flight” response. It triggers the adrenal glands to dump excessive amounts of epinephrine and cortisol into the blood stream, which in turn prepares the body for immediate action. Over time though this physiological response creates wear and tear on our bodies. It can contribute to or result in conditions that need medical attention. The same process can create psychological distress or exacerbate existing emotional conditions.
There are ways to mitigate anger however even during the unusually stressful conditions we find ourselves in today. Here are three tips to keep in mind to manage your personal anger or to offer to others when they’re feeling angry.
Insulation is not complex or exciting, and in fact we rarely are aware of it. But in our homes, insulation helps keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer – conditions that we do notice. In the human sense, insulation builds physical and psychological resilience. We create personal insulation when we take basic care of ourselves. That means getting enough restorative sleep – seven to nine hours each day is recommended by those who study such matters. It also means getting enough hydration and nutritious food – a challenge for impoverished Americans and for some occupations. Insulation can also mean getting regular exercise – the great, low cost and accessible stress-reducer. And it means not using alcohol, tobacco, or other mood-altering drugs to cope with angry feelings.
Think and Delay
Confucius is quoted as saying “When anger rises, think of the consequences.” The Roman writer Seneca said, “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.” Both philosophers were pointing out that when angry we should take time to think and to delay impulsive, emotion-driven actions. Think about what is the real issue? Is this a threat to my direct safety or is it a problem that needs a solution? Is this action a good idea? Would the action my anger is driving me toward be a good idea if all people do it? What are the immediate and long-term consequences of the action?
Take Positive Action
Anger is not necessarily a bad thing, despite being frequently labeled as a negative emotion. Unlike anxiety or depression which can lesson activity and initiative, anger can provide energy for good. It’s a tried and true method. History is full of such examples. The non-violent civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1950’s and 60’s was driven by anger and impatience over decades of legal segregation, discrimination and voter suppression. Today, our air is breathable and our water is drinkable largely as the result of positive actions taken by those Americans who were angered by the needless destruction of the environment and large-scale pollution of the air and water. Anger when intentionally channeled can energize people and create positive and rewarding outcomes both personally and socially. Think about ways to turn your personal anger, or if you are a leader of a work organization- your employees’ anger, into positive and productive actions.
Espyr’s innovative mental health solutions, coaching and assistance programs have been helping employees and organizations achieve their full potential for over 30 years. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.