I’m no stranger to being angry or overwhelmed. These days I’m reasonably good at hiding my anger, so people are usually quite surprised when I tell them I have a temper. But it’s there!
It kinda runs on both sides of the family – my Mam and Dad can both be pretty irritable – and aside from that; having been humiliated a lot as a kid and been let down a lot due to addiction etc., anger started to fester in me from a young age. It took me a long time to acknowledge these feelings of anger and start to let it out.
I’ve lashed out a lot at people who deserved it and people who didn’t and I’ve let myself be overwhelmed to the point where I forget there is actually ground beneath my feet. So how do I deal with it?
Anger + overwhelm at work:
I have a decent amount of experience with working in hospitality and pharmacy – both stressful environments. If there’s ever a time when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed at how busy things are or that I’ve made a mistake and I feel insecure, I’ll typically start to focus on my breathing. All of these issues are transient, they will not last. But your breath will and it is always here to serve as an anchor to the present moment. All I do is start taking ten deep breaths. If I find that within that time I’m still running over obsessive thoughts in my head, I’ll start again. I do this until I get a good ten breaths clear of thinking. Some shifts I’ve had to do this multiple times. It’s really been a vital coping mechanism for me.
If things are too stressful even for that, if I’ve gotten angry at a customer or a work colleague – I’ll excuse myself and go to the toilet. I put the lid down and sit on the seat, feel my feet on the ground and let out a big sigh. Then I’ll start to do a seven-step aspiration from Pema Chödrön’s book The Places That Scare You. What this entails is setting the intention for joy, loving-kindness, compassion or equanimity for yourself and those around you. I typically do the one for compassion which is: May I be free from suffering and the root of suffering. You start with yourself, then you direct this thought towards someone you love, then to a friend, then to a neutral person and finally to a person you find difficult. This is a good opportunity to recognise that despite the fact that this person has made you angry, you ultimately both want to be free from suffering. There are two more steps to this aspiration process but I typically just do the five when I’m feeling really angry.
I’ve also started using a scented spray to go along with my spiritual practice. I mixed rose water with geranium essential oil in a spray bottle and now that scent is associated with me being calm and grounded. Each time I go to the bathroom at work, I spray this around my aura to recenter myself and remind myself of who I am and what I love.
Anger and overwhelm in romantic relationships:
I’ve always been a bit prone to anger in relationships – they trigger me. I think they trigger all of us. That’s okay, it’s a learning experience. It took me up until quite recently actually to realise that a lot of this anger was stemming from anxiety. I don’t have anxiety in my day-to-day life anymore but I certainly experience a certain romantic anxiety that I wasn’t aware of. The way I’ve found is best to deal with these feelings in relationships is through self-work, inner child work and really listening to your emotions. This could involve, as it has for me, thinking: “when have I felt like this in the past?” or “what am I afraid of?” In my first relationship, a lot of these intense feelings could be linked back to experiences with my Dad. Continuing to work on yourself and being in touch with your feelings while you’re in a relationship is really important.
Another way to deal with these feelings is to be open about them with your partner. It doesn’t have to be accusatory and you don’t have to go into details but a simple: “I’m feeling really anxious today” or “I feel a bit irritable today, please don’t take it personally!” can help them to feel more in the loop with you and less confused about your moods and behaviours; despite how tempting it is to do the classic “I’m fine” a million times. 😂 It’s easy to project these feelings onto someone else and get exasperated and overreact…but if we can catch ourselves before we lash out and be still for a while, we might see where the feelings are really coming from. And we might avoid a fight as well!
Another thing to note is that while it’s normal to be triggered a bit in relationships and experience lots of emotions, if you find you’re getting angry or overwhelmed very frequently, it could be sign that the relationship is not right for you. In my last relationship, I was accused of snapping a lot, which I took full responsibility and apologised for. With some distance, I can now see that I took my fair share of lashing out directed at me too but didn’t give myself the space to reflect on these patterns and how they affected me. We weren’t suited to each other but it was an invaluable experience!
Another thing I want to mention is how beneficial meditation can be for getting us in touch with our feelings. Regular meditation, guided or unguided, gives us quality time with ourselves and can help us to understand where feelings are coming from. An app I use for guided meditation – buddhify – has specific sections for stressful and difficult emotions. These have been lifesavers for me at various times in my life, including at work. I’ve often done a guided meditation on my work break which has helped to widen my perspective and calm me down considerably.
Do you have any other suggestions for how to deal with anger and overwhelm? Let me know in the comments! Thanks so much for reading. 🙂
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx