Lots of us are struggling to deal with this lockdown emotion

Sarah Ilston
·6-min read
Photo credit: Tara Moore - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tara Moore - Getty Images

From Red Online

The start of 2021 has, quite frankly, been one of the worst starts to the year in history. Not only have we had to endure the usual grim, coldness of January, but we've also faced even tougher restrictions, as the pandemic looms on.

You've be forgiven for feeling a little blue, but as the weeks have crept on, a familiar feeling has entered our weekly emotional rollercoaster, one that we haven't felt since last spring. That feeling has been dubbed 'lockdown rage'.

No doubt brought on by a mix of being stuck at home, seeing the same faces day in and day out, and having no release, since practically everything we know and love remains shut. Add working from home and homeschooling to that mix and it's unsurprising lots of us are feeling angry right now.

What is lockdown rage?

Lockdown rage manifests itself as a frustrated fury, mixed with a dose of high irritability, and can appear out of nowhere, or build slowly over time - until the sight of the same family member in the kitchen every day can leave you seething.

But, should we try to quell these feelings of anger, if we find ourselves in the midst of an anger tornado? Or embrace them?

'Frustration and boredom are natural responses to life in intermittent lockdown,' says Alex Frenkel, a leading psychologist and CEO & Co-Founder of AI-messaging tool Kai.

'We’ve grown intimately familiar with these two emotions over the past year. Yet the duration and intensity of the situation has, for many, brought these emotions to a boiling point that can easily swing over into anger or even rage — feelings that can be much harder for us to manage.'

How to cope with lockdown rage

Christi-an Slomka, Community Manager at relaxation app Calm, says anger is an important emotion and shouldn't be ignored. She explains that the key to overcoming this fierce feeling is to 'acknowledge' and 'honour' it. So, the next time frustration and boredom manifest themselves as anger, she suggests you try these six steps, to 'meet the moment with curiosity and inspire a constructive response':

Photo credit: Daly and Newton - Getty Images
Photo credit: Daly and Newton - Getty Images

Calm's 6 steps to help overcome lockdown rage

1.Notice where there’s tension in your body

Anger shows up physically in the body, so notice if you’re clenching your fists, tightening your jaw, or heating up. You may also notice an impulse to run, fight, or withdraw.

Our thoughts often fuel anger, so it can be helpful to invite your attention back to the body when your anger is at its peak. Observe how the physical manifestations of anger naturally shift and change with time. You can join me in various Calm Body sessions – mindful movement designed to refocus the mind and let go of stress, tension and emotion in your body.

2.Slow down and tend to the wisdom of your body

Anger is often coupled with a sense of urgency. While it’s important to address what has happened, our words and actions don’t usually yield the outcome we’d like when we’re still in the intensity of the emotion. It is crucial first to slow down and take care of yourself.

If you’re feeling the impulse to fight, run or begin to withdraw, give yourself permission to walk away for a bit and collect your thoughts. Leave and do something that helps you feel safe and connected such as meditating or reaching out to a friend. Calm's Take: 90 meditation is a great place to start, guiding you to calm your anger in just 90 seconds.

3.Take long soothing breaths

Anger can be stressful and draining. Breathing deeply and slowly can help reset the nervous system. Take at least five deep breaths as a way to settle both the mind and body, or choose one from one of Calm’s Breath Bubble exercises to help release tension and quiet your mind.

4.Meet yourself with compassion

Anger is destabilising, uncomfortable and painful. Be kind to yourself. Place your hands over your heart and offer yourself soothing affirmations like, “That wasn’t fair” or “You don’t deserve to be treated like this” or “I am sorry things feel so hard right now”.

5.Notice if there are any feelings underneath the anger

After taking your time with steps one to four, and you begin to feel calmer, investigate what else might be going on for you. Sometimes anger can serve as protection for other feelings that may be more challenging to feel. For example, anger can sometimes arise as a shield for a deeper sadness, such as disappointment. Diving beneath the surface of a big emotion – and exploring the complexity of our experience – can help inform our next steps.

6.Give yourself time to respond rather than react to the situation

A reaction is instant and fuelled by emotions, a response is empowered by awareness and clarity, which takes a little longer. The intensity of anger can make it hard to see clearly. It is helpful to sit with your reaction and give yourself space to consider everyone involved and future consequences, then you can decide how to respond.

Kai is an AI messaging tool that acts as a personal wellness coach and journal on your
phone. Guiding users to shift their way of thinking and overcome negative reactions to circumstances by asking questions based on ACT; a form of therapy rooted in the belief that greater wellbeing can be attained by developing the practice of mindfulness of emotions and psychological flexibility.

CEO Frenkel encourages users to use conscious awareness and not lose touch with their basic instincts – including anger, with these 5 tips:

Kai's 5 tips for identifying and coping with anger during lockdown:

1.Practice self-care

Consistently putting the needs of others before your own is not a virtue. If you don’t value your own needs then no one else will either, that can lead to unchecked anger.

2.Express your anger in small, appropriate bursts

Learning to communicate anger as it arises in the momentary context is a transformative life skill we could all benefit from mastering.

3.Develop empathy for anger in yourself and others

The greater your understanding of what’s causing the anger, the better your ability to face it with compassion and prevent it from festering.

4.Find safe outlets to release pent up anger

Journaling is a powerful practice that you can use both to untangle what you’re feeling and to express it from a safe distance.

5.Try controlled breathing exercises

Simple techniques such as Box Breathing can help you regain mastery over areas of your brain that reduce stress and promote rational thinking.

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