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Anger Management

October 17, 2011

Every spring, I can feel not just nature blossoming, but myself, too. “Finally!” I hear everything inside me exclaim. “Finally, no more gloom, no more moodiness, no more grouchiness!” And then the sunshine is traded for rain and darkness again and my mood rebels, mostly as anger.

On dark spring days, it is easy to get caught in a sneaky hate spiral. You were promised sunshine and warmth and blossoms and where are they, huh? Sound familiar? I recently decided to try to head off this gloom whenever I can. If you feel like giving this a shot as well, here are some things that have worked for me:

  • Be aware of your state of mind. If you’re feeling angry or upset or straight-up murderous, figure out why you’re feeling that way. GOP trying to take away your right to choose? Keep on with that anger, something productive might come of it. Cyclist almost ran you over? If he was running a red light, shame him until his toes are blushing. If he came around a corner and couldn’t have seen you? Reconsider. You were really in the mood for Greek yogurt with honey but you forgot to get honey at your last supermarket run and now you can’t have it and OH MY GOD WHY IS EVERYONE OUT TO GET YOU?! Breathe. And maybe try any of the following things.
  • Buy some flowers. I’m very lucky to live in a country that’s the biggest bulb exporter in the world, so flowers are relatively affordable here. I have a little pot with hyacinths on my desk at all times between February and May. Their gorgeous smell and silly looks always make me smile.
  • If you don’t have money for flowers (or even if you do), go outside for a walk (unless it’s pouring. That doesn’t make anyone happy). If you’re at work, grab your lunch and nibble on it while wandering around and soaking up some daylight. If you get bored with just walking when you have nowhere to go, bring your camera (phone) and take shots of whatever suits your mood: flowers, buds, cracks in the pavement, dents on cars. Release the hipster that resides in all of us.
  • Be creative in any way that suits you. Do some writing or journaling, draw, color, bake or cook, embroider, knit, dance (like no one is watching) — basically anything that shows off the fruits of your labor. Being creative — especially in a way that you’re good at — preoccupies you and keeps your mind off the things that were upsetting you, with the added bonus of feeling like you have accomplished something positive.
  • If nothing is working and everything feels terrible, take a duvet day. Stay in bed or move all your comfy blankets to your couch, grab your cat/dog/ferret/rat/goldfish/significant other(s), watch one of your favorite movies or TV shows, grab a book, listen to your favorite music, and just lose yourself for a while. If you can’t take a whole duvet day because of work/kids/other commitments, promise yourself a duvet night. If that’s not possible either, plan a duvet moment for when you next have a free hour or two. Decide which movie you might watch or which book you might read, the wine (or other delicious drink) you might drink, the snacks you might nibble on. Imagine how great and relaxing it’s going to be. Work towards that moment.
  • Turn off the Internet. No, seriously. If you don’t need it right that second, shut it off. There are too many righteous rage-inducing things on the Internet. They can trap you in your bad mood with legitimate objects of anger. Though also a solution of sorts, it’s not the kind of thing you need if you want to feel happier (or at least more neutral) rather than angrier.

The moral of the story is to focus on anything other than your anger: your breathing, the pretty smell and looks of flowers, your environment, something creative, something which generally does not have the power to enrage you. After you’ve managed to break the cycle and calmed yourself, you may try to figure out exactly what other event (if any) might have set off your lack-of-honey-induced tantrum, though that’s definitely not a necessary step.

Do you ever get caught in a sneaky hate spiral or just general bouts of sadness and gloom that can be hard to escape? Are there other things that help you feel better?

This post was originally published in Persephone Magazine.

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