Updated: Jul 6
If you believe that screaming and punching a pillow will make you feel less angry,
think again. Studies show that venting unpleasant emotions can reinforce those feelings.
On the other hand, like Sigmund Freud said, bottling them up is usually even worse.
So, what can you do with your anger and anxiety? Try these tips for processing and
expressing difficult feelings.
Preventing Unpleasant Feelings
Take a deep breath. Tension builds up quickly. When another driver cuts you off, pause and pay attention to your breathing. Loosen up your shoulders and neck. Think about something that makes you laugh.
Accept discomfort. Distracted drivers and earthquakes are part of life. Plan for delays and obstacles so they stop taking you by surprise.
Care for yourself. Healthy lifestyle habits make you more resilient. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Maintain a consistent bedtime that allows for adequate sleep.
Shift your attention. Stop feeding the flames. Catch yourself when you’re dwelling on last night’s argument with your teenage daughter or next month’s water bill. Lighten up by watching something amusing on TV, phone, or tablet or meeting a friend for coffee. Distract yourself from the situation.
Viewing Unpleasant Feelings Differently
Question your assumptions. It’s difficult to resist blowing off steam if you still believe it will provide relief. Check-in with yourself a half-hour later to see if your anger is gone. Read studies about how road rage can affect your heart.
Set priorities. It’s worth fighting injustice if your child is being bullied at school. If another shopper wants to count four cans of cat food as one item, it makes more sense to be flexible.
Assume responsibility. Indignation is less tempting when you face how you contributed to the situation. Did you criticize your daughter about her grades when you meant to discuss cleaning up her bedroom?
Focus on solutions. Unpleasant feelings can be beneficial when they prompt you to take action. Acknowledge your anger, and then concentrate on fixing the situation.
Responding to Unpleasant Feelings Differently
Seek validation. Talk with a friend or family member about your concerns. Receiving compassion and support will help you to cheer up and put things in perspective.
Ask for feedback. Confidantes who have nothing at stake in the situation may also help you to clarify your perceptions and understand your options. Talk about how to deal with neighbors who throw noisy parties or keep borrowing your parking spot.
Negotiate conflicts. When possible, directly approach the other party in a dispute. Work out compromises so you and your neighbors can be friends.
Consider counseling or a coach. If you’re angry or upset more often than usual, there may be underlying causes that you need to explore. Therapy and coaching provide a safe forum for healing and developing new life skills. The difference between the two modalities is that while therapy focuses on deep issues or history of trauma, coaching can be a more appropriate alternative if you are not dealing with deeply painful trauma or history, if you have already done inner work in the past or if you are wanting solutions-based support that goes beyond processing anger.
Write it out. Maybe a journal would help. Keep track of what is triggering your irritation or sadness. Are you working too hard or struggling with single parenting? Writing things out is a great way to process your feelings and gauge your progress over time.
Stay offline. You’ve probably read stories about employees who lost their job because they thought it was safe to complain about customers or their boss online. Even if you remain anonymous, prolonged griping is likely to leave you feeling more disgruntled.
Create new patterns. The good news is that each time you decide to pursue constructive remedies instead of whining, you train yourself to become more calm and resourceful. Soon you’ll have little desire to vent.
It may feel gratifying to have a meltdown over your property taxes or snap back at a disruptive coworker, but indulging those impulses comes at a high price. You become what you practice most. Protect your physical health, relationships, and peace of mind by dealing with unpleasant emotions constructively and developing healthy response mechanisms.
PS. Do you find yourself venting a lot, complaining a lot? Remember that we become what we do habitually. Everything you are should be so by choice rather than by learned or inherited behaviors. Success in life requires a high level of emotional intelligence of which, responding to anger appropriately is one element.
If you would like to develop a strong EQ (Emotional Quotient) schedule a time for us to chat and see how I can help you develop yourself into the strongest, most resilient and highly emotionally intelligent person you know. Link to my calendar is below.