In my experience, there are usually three ways in which people deal with anger.
The first group go from zero to sixty very quickly, let everything fly, calm down just as quickly and move on.
The second take their time – after the initial incident the rage builds and spreads over a period of days, reaching its peak long after everyone else have got on with their lives.
The third have the ability to shut off, compartmentalise and just walk away.
I am in the second group. I go from zero to sixty in about four days. It doesn’t happen often, but when something truly upsets me (and we’re not talking just a general level of minor irritation here) then I start what The Bloke refers to as ‘The Festering Process,’ during which I mull everything over to the point where I end up in such a state that even functioning beyond a certain level becomes difficult for a while.
I know exactly why it happens. My life was changed beyond all recognition in my late teens by the actions of a family member when it became apparent that everything we had ever known was a lie, and not only did they get away with it, but I was absolutely powerless to do anything. My feelings of wanting to exact some sort of revenge and the pain of the injustice of the whole situation almost destroyed me – I’m not being melodramatic when I tell you that it took me YEARS, failed counselling attempts and a LOT of talking about the same things over and over before I actually came to terms with what happened.
While I’ve made great strides to improve the way that I deal with my anger and ability to calm down over the years, there was still the rare occasion where The Festering Process took over and all I felt that I could do was wait for it to subside.
The last time it happened, however, I made a decision. After 48 hours of being so angry that I didn’t even feel like I was even in my own body (however strange that may sound) and getting just seven hours of sleep in those two days, I realised that The Festering Process was raging away in my mind and I was sinking.
It was exhausting, and I was going to do something about it. I planned an experimental day where I would focus on targeted and mindful activities:
I walked. I’m lucky to live right next to a beautiful park and so I put on my trainers, left my phone at home and just went for a walk. The weather was reasonable and the temperature has improved so it wasn’t as uncomfortably cold as it has been over recent weeks. I took the time to be mindful of the scenery, spent a lot of time doing some deep breathing exercises and to avoid allowing my brain to wander too much I focused on different areas that would make beautiful photographs the next time I visited. I didn’t set myself a time limit – I just walked until I felt that I’d had enough.
I talked. I spoke to someone I trust that allowed me to get everything I was feeling out in the open. The process of verbalising the situation and my anger didn’t change anything, but it allowed me to take ownership and put a number of things into perspective that I hadn’t considered before.
I cried. I cried a lot. A good cry always makes me feel better.
I wrote. Writing has always been an effective form of therapy so in an old notebook I did a free-writing activity and got out everything that I was thinking. Once I’d finished I tore the pages up and threw them away. I then wrote a gratitude list of everything that is positive in my life and all of the exciting things that I have coming up in the future. My life is a blessed one and I’m extremely lucky.
I got some sleep. Only a few hours, but it made a difference.
I had a long hot bath. I got out all of my favourite products and treated myself to a homemade spa session.
I referenced my favourite videos and tutorials on YouTube. I keep a list of things that I find motivational, hilarious and/or inspiring, and I watch them when I’m feeling low.
I cleaned and tidied up. I hate doing both, but the end result of having clean laundry and a tidy house always makes me feel better.
I used the fact that an angry Suzie is a productive one, so I did some work finishing a whole bunch of tasks that had been on my list for a little while.
I met up with a friend for a drink at the end of the day. There’s one friend in particular who brightens my mood simply by allowing me to be in her presence, and a drink and a catch-up in the local pub not only helped me to temporarily forget about the situation, but the laughter I had during the conversation brightened my mood for the evening.
When I got home, I snuggled up on the couch with my two favourite boys (The Bloke and the cat) under a duvet. We talked, we laughed and we watched our favourite TV programmes. There’s no better place to be.
Essentially, what I discovered was that keeping myself busy, exercising, indulging in self-care activities, focusing on inspirational thoughts and ideas, being mindful of what I was doing, reminding myself about how lucky I am and surrounding myself with the people who make me happy and lift my soul worked wonders. It didn’t necessarily change or solve the situation, but it prevented The Festering Process from reaching its full extremes.
Above all, it was important for me to remember that time is the biggest healer of all wounds, and I accepted that I would feel better in a few days.
Life is short – claim your power back and go out and enjoy it.
What about you guys? How do you calm down when you’re feeling angry?
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