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5 Expert-Backed Ways to Ease COVID-19 Anger

5 Expert-Backed Ways to Ease COVID-19 Anger

It’s easy to let your frustrations bubble over during this time. Here are a few techniques that will help you keep your cool.

Updated April 24, 2020; 9:00am EST

As we continue to reshape our lives due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it can feel like our emotions change by the day—or even by the hour. Sadness gives way to gratitude. We go from crying to laughing in an instant. But if you’ve followed the latest news, anger seems to be an emotion shared by many, often for different reasons.

For some, there is frustration that stay-at-home orders have upended our lives with no end in sight. Others might be feeling resentful toward people who continue to gather in groups or don’t practice necessary social distancing.

“Right now, COVID-19 is fuel,” says Jud Brewer, MD, PhD, and co-founder of MindSciences, Inc. “We are the spark. How do we use this fuel to create those glowing embers of warm connection and to spread kindness, instead of pouring gasoline on the fire and burning everything around us?”

Right now, the conditions make it easy for frustration to bubble up. Dr. Brewer notes that anger often results when we are faced with unmet expectations or fear of the unknown.

“With expectations, we can get angry when we don’t get something that we want,” he says. Conversely, things that happen unexpectedly—particularly in precarious times like these—can be frightening. Uncertainty around the virus and how long it will affect our lives can amplify these feelings of anger.

Think about anything that has made you angry lately. Maybe you feel that your local or national government is doing too much or not doing enough? Did you read something online or watch news coverage that provoked a strong response? Or has a family member done something that rubbed you the wrong way?

Our responses to these situations can affect own mental health and the wellbeing of those around us. “If we’re not careful, our responses can add fuel to the fires of frustration and anger and they blow up in our faces instead of helping,” says Brewer.

How can you work through your ire when there is so much to feel anxious about? Brewer has been sharing ways to alleviate anxiety and let go of frustrations in his Coronavirus Anxiety: Daily Updates on YouTube. Here are a few of his tips for managing anger.

Remove yourself from the situation
Step back from what is causing you anger. If it’s an in-person confrontation, find refuge in a different room or area of the house. Turn off your phone, computer or TV if a show or social media post triggers strong feelings. Take a few minutes for yourself to really think through how you’d like to communicate what you are feeling.

Try to relax
Do something that calms your body and mind. Take a few deep breaths, or do a short mindfulness exercise like bringing your awareness to your feet to ground yourself in the present moment. Brewer has developed a free app called Breathe by Dr. Jud that takes users through a calming minute-long deep breathing routine. Practicing yoga poses or another type of exercise can also help change your attitude.

Remember the last time you responded with anger
Whether it was a fight with your partner or a snarky comment that turned into a social media debate, Brewer suggests thinking about how you felt after losing your cool. “Do you feel proud of those moments?” he asks. “Of course not. Remember what the shame or regret feels like right now.”

Recalling the effects of your last bout of anger can prevent you from repeating the behavior. “But this only works if you take a moment to really dive into those feelings of remorse and shame, not as a way to beat yourself up, but as a way to help you learn,” says Brewer.

Channel your anger into kindness
A really good way to direct your energy is toward acts of kindness. Brewer recommends taking 30 seconds to stop and hug your partner, children or a pet when you feel frustrated. If you are alone, reach out to call or video chat with a trusted person who you know can listen and provide a calming perspective.

If it makes you feel better, take that compassion a step further. Donate to an organization in need, check in on an older relative or participate in a cheer for your local healthcare workers.

Be forgiving of others
Anger is a prevalent emotion right now, which means that someone you love may direct hostility to you during this time. “It’s really important to remember that we’re all on edge right now, and it is critical that we step back and be understanding both with ourselves and with others,” reminds Brewer.

He notes that we may have to expect stronger-than-normal reactions from those around us and that it’s important to not take these personally. Sharing these tips with loved ones can help them work through their emotions, too.

While it’s natural to feel anger right now, we don’t have to let it consume our lives or harm those who love us. When all else fails, Brewer’s advice for getting through this time is simple: “Don’t be hard on yourself. And don’t be hard on others.”

If you are having trouble controlling your anxiety during these uncertain times, try Unwinding Anxiety, a step-by-step program developed by Jud Brewer, MD, PhD, that is delivered to your smartphone or tablet.

Medically reviewed in April 2020.

Sources:
Dr. Jud. “How to get rid of anger and turn it into kindness.” YouTube.com. March 25, 2020.
“Strategies for controlling your anger.” APA.org.
“Understanding anger: How psychologists help with anger problems.” APA.org.
“Controlling anger before it controls you.” APA.org.
“Learn to manage your anger.” MedlinePlus.gov. August 3, 2018.
“Intermittent explosive disorder.” MayoClinic.org.
“The Science of Kindness.” Cedars-Sinai.org.
“Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness.” MayoClinic.org. November 4, 2017.

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