Lockdown got you fuming? How to understand your anger and deal with it

  • Fear has progressed to anger as the pandemic continues to create instability in the world.
  • Local expert Karen van Zyl says anger is natural – it's how we deal with it that's crucial.
  • The worst thing you can do is to bottle up your anger.

We've all been going through a whirlwind of emotions like anxiety, depression and grief during the Covid-19 pandemic – but many of us are now seeing the frustration caused by the situation boiling over into anger.

One global study analysed more than 20 million English tweets and found that the fear at the start of the pandemic eventually gave way to anger – a common emotion when suffering from loss. And as a result of the pandemic, people have lost job security, stability, health, social interactions and even loved ones.

READ: From fatigue to anger: the hidden 'faces' of depression

Natural emotion

If you're feeling a little angrier than usual, don't worry, it's a perfectly natural emotion, according to anger management specialist Karen van Zyl from Pretoria.

"It is a secondary emotion triggered to provide a defence against a situation the person doesn't like," says Van Zyl.

This can be triggered especially by changes in our lives and when times are uncertain – and 2020 has doled out enough uncertainty to make our heads spin for a long time.

Other common triggers include tiredness, stress and hunger, but it's important to investigate what other feelings are featuring alongside anger.

"One can only deal with it effectively once you know what you are feeling and why it has been triggered," explains Van Zyl, adding that the worst thing you can do is bottle up those emotions.

Anger can actually be helpful in pushing you to make positive changes in your life. It can be an energising emotion that can fuel you to overcome major challenges.

The bad side of anger

But there are also times when anger can be dangerous. Just looking at South Africa's rates of gender-based violence, road rage statistics and conflicts that end up in death, it's clear we are one very angry nation.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), high levels of unemployment and economic uncertainty fuel this national anger, especially when communities' expectations of the government are not met.

Society teaches us to keep our emotions in check, especially when at work, which can lead to emotional outbursts and redirecting anger in "safer" environments like the home.

Throw a pandemic into the mix, and the sheer volume of anger and frustration can push many South Africans over an already crumbling edge.

READ MORE: Could the birth control pill alter a part of women's brains?

Unresolved anger is not good for your health, and experiencing it on a daily basis can have an adverse impact on heart disease, cancer and arthritis, especially in the elderly.

"I would say that when your behaviour becomes destructive and is causing harm to you or those around you, it may be a good idea to get some help," advises Van Zyl.

"It is not the anger that is the problem, but the way that we choose to deal with it and behave when we are triggered by it."

Professional help can include seeing a therapist or going for anger management classes to learn better techniques for channelling that anger and treating the real underlying cause.

Tips for dealing with normal anger

However, if you've been feeling a little overwhelmed by your emotions lately, don't ignore it, says Van Zyl, rather embrace them.

"My advice would be to practice some kindness towards yourself. It is fine to feel overwhelmed and anxious and not to have the answers. Leaning into this discomfort will help you to find a way through it. Reach out for support and ask for help if you are battling to get things into perspective."

You can also get a better handle on your emotions by incorporating healthier habits into your lifestyle, like sleeping better, eating healthier, exercising and taking time to unwind.

Being more assertive in frustrating situations can also help lessen pent-up anger. You can do that by expressing your needs calmly while respecting the other party, instead of letting your emotions fester unexpressed in the depths of your psyche, ready to erupt at the most inopportune moment.

READ | Is anger that big a threat to your health?

Image credit: Pixabay

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