If you clicked on this article, there’s a chance you’re angry. Maybe you’re more than angry. Maybe you’re experiencing a white-hot rage that burns through your body and steals your breath. Maybe you’re shedding angry tears amidst this chaotic election season. Or maybe your anger is mingling with grief from the immeasurable impact of the new coronavirus pandemic. If you’re angry and you know it: Same.
Before we get into tips on how to deal with anger and rage you might be feeling, let’s make one thing clear: You’re allowed to be angry. Even if this election is panning out as you expected, you’re allowed to feel the soul-shaking anger that comes with knowing you deserve better from civil servants and the systems they uphold. And anger can even be useful in the sense that it can motivate you to push for change, whether in your own life or in a larger sense. But, for the sake of your health and well-being, it’s still important to process that anger.
“Usually, there’s some primary emotion that’s underneath that anger,” Vernessa Roberts, Psy.D., a counseling psychologist, tells SELF. “If it’s anxiety, fear, sadness, or disappointment— whatever it is—it’s often difficult for us to express those primary emotions. Anger is sometimes more acceptable to express.”
Below you’ll find advice on how to deal with anger and rage you’re feeling right now. We hope these therapy-approved techniques help keep you comfortable and centered as you grapple with the state of, well, everything.
1. Acknowledge that you’re pissed off.
Have we mentioned this one already? Well, we can’t say it enough. Give yourself permission to feel anger and rage. Anger—like any other emotion—is information, Cicely Horsham-Brathwaite, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist and mindset coach, tells SELF. “People that I’ve worked with over the course of my career have been taught that rage is not acceptable. And it’s something to push away,” she explains. So if you’re not entirely comfortable with your anger, start by telling yourself that you’re allowed to be enraged. This acknowledgment is self-compassion.
2. Identify what’s triggering you (and be specific).
“As one is exploring rage, look at what deeply held beliefs and assumptions have been violated,” Horsham-Brathwaite suggests, adding that you can ask yourself where the hurt is located. Additionally, rage and anger often bubble up when you’re feeling overlooked, running out of patience, feeling a sense of injustice, or that things aren’t going your way, the Mayo Clinic explains. Basically, a catch-all for things a lot of us are feeling right now. So, ask yourself, what specifically is triggering you? Can you pinpoint exactly what about these unfolding events has you feeling overwhelming rage? It’s okay if you can list everything from fracking to voter suppression. Getting granular helps you identify how to proceed. Sure, nothing is completely resolved if you donate a few dollars to an organization after realizing the issue it’s fighting is contributing to your rage, but to be completely fair: Change doesn’t rest on the federal election outcome alone. If, however, you discover that reading President Donald Trump’s tweets sends you into flying fits of rage, you might do well to avoid them for a while.
3. Take a few deep breaths.
When you’re angry, your heart rate increases, and your body releases hormones like adrenaline, the American Psychological Association (APA) explains. Anger triggers your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. To counteract some of the ways anger activates your sympathetic nervous system, you can consider taking some deep breaths to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system (often called the rest and digest system). This can help bring your anger down a little. Here’s exactly how to deep breathe to bring down your anger, plus a few other grounding techniques that may help too.
4. Move your body.
“Rage often requires some sort of movement,” Horsham-Brathwaite says. “Something needs to be done with it, and quite literally, sometimes that is a movement like dancing.” If dancing isn’t your thing, try going for a rage run or doing some other stress-busting activity. Why? For the same reason that deep breaths can help calm you down, doing something more strenuous—like running, cleaning, or walking—will release some of the built-up stress in your body.
5. Lean into self-care practices that have worked for you before.
Everything feels scary and uncertain, but one thing that is constant is, well, you. This isn’t the first difficult circumstance you’ve faced, and it won’t be the last. Remembering that you are resilient is a key component involved in getting through hardships. “If we’re not taking care of our bodies, it impacts us not just physically but emotionally, and that impacts your resilience,” Amanda Fialk, Ph.D., chief of clinical services at a young adult treatment center, previously told SELF. If you have a go-to list of tools that make you feel a little better, make sure to consult those tried and true self-care practices. Or, if you doubt your ability to navigate this moment, consider brainstorming instances where you got through your anger and rage before to remind yourself that you can, indeed, get through this.
6. Reach out to your friends, family, and community.
Self-care is important, and sometimes it involves your community—especially when the temptation to isolate might be strong. “Being in community is a way to navigate rage,” Horsham-Brathwaite explains. “Rage is not just an individual experience, it is a communal, collective experience.” So connect with others, even if it’s on Zoom. This can range from venting with friends to volunteering—the idea is to find ways to remind yourself that you’re not alone.
7. Do activist work if you feel so inclined.
Another way of leveraging community support is to gather with others in activist and protest environments (both online and IRL). This allows you to channel your rage in the service of others. If you’re doing activist work IRL, remember that the new coronavirus pandemic is still a reality. You need to gather and protest safely. Wear a mask, use hand sanitizer frequently, and social distance wherever ever possible. Also, feel free to think outside of the box a bit. “Activism can come in all forms,” Horsham-Brathwaite says.”It can include art.”
8. Write your rage out.
SELF previously reported on the benefits of examining negative existential thoughts, and it turns out that writing them down can help you assess catastrophic thinking. Perhaps your rage is rooted in the worst-case scenario rather than reality. If so, writing down your rage might encourage you to see things a bit more clearly. Why? Because logic tends to suffer when we’re enraged, the APA says. “Journaling could help,” Roberts explains, adding that other activities that release energy (like running or boxing) might be more impactful for you—experiment to see what works.
9. Talk to a mental health professional.
There’s no shame in raging, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking support. That said, this election season is polarizing, and expressing your anger to friends and family might not be an option. “It would be helpful to have someone to talk to outside of your circle,” Roberts explains, adding that a mental health professional can help you unpack some of the feelings underneath the rage. This is especially worth seeking out if your anger reaches a point where you feel completely out of control, lash out in ways you regret, are tempted to hurt yourself or others, or you know it’s otherwise really affecting your life, according to the Mayo Clinic. Issues like accessibility are real barriers to getting care, but there are affordable mental health options available. Additionally, online support groups can provide nurturing spaces where you can process your feelings with others.