Have you ever felt on-edge and just irritable but can’t put a finger on why? Or maybe your temper seems to be shorter than normal and you’ve resorted to frequently snapping at people who haven’t really done anything wrong.
The first thing you should know is you are not alone. Sometimes life comes in with a series of left hooks and we aren’t even sure how to react, let alone that we are reacting.
Think of stress as a large body of water; an ocean. In this ocean, there are many emotions swirling around with the ebb and flow of the tide. Normal, natural emotions come and go. We can prepare for them, deal with them and let go of them with efficiency and tact.
At times though, this ocean of stress comes in with the force of a natural disaster and leaves mass chaos and destruction in its wake, like a tsunami on your mind, body and spirit.
Anger as a Secondary Emotion
Anger is often our go-to emotion, thus we pick it up and run with it. It’s important to realize when anger is a surface emotion and what we are really dealing with is overwhelm.
There are times when anger and irritability are justified, of course. More times than not though, these negative emotions are secondary to the true source.
Being angry is incredibly easy and it has a “don’t mess with me” tone.
We think it’s going to stop the wreckage from getting any closer, the devastation from getting any worse, but the opposite is true. Unwarranted anger compounds the issue and offers no resolution.
What do you do then, when you’ve become emotionally depleted? When you feel that you have only anger left in your arsenal to deal with overwhelm in your life?
Steps to Calm Anger and Deal with Overwhelm
Identify the True Emotion
The underlying emotion could be any number of things. Maybe you’re having problems setting boundaries and feel like you are being pulled in too many directions at once. The anger might be covering up a vulnerability, like sadness, regret, or embarrassment, and everything around you feels like it’s falling apart because you can’t do anything about it.
You could also have too much on your plate. Your to-do list is growing but you feel like nothing is getting accomplished. Get in tune with your primary emotion and leave anger out of the equation.
Come to Terms with the Primary Emotion
Here’s where the work begins. You didn’t think this was going to be a cakewalk, did you? You’ve got to address the source if you’re going to change the course. If overwhelm is in fact the eye of the storm, what can you do to unburden yourself?
Can you delegate tasks on your overwhelming schedule or do you need to set more clear boundaries and get better at saying “no” when asked to add another task to your list?
Basically, you need to devise a strategic plan for keeping the overwhelm at bay and stick to it. The emotional tsunami may be right at your doorstep today, but the next storm can be avoided with careful deconstruction.
Express Emotions Free from Blame
This step is key. Pointing fingers and biting the heads off people who care about you is counterproductive. In fact, you’ll need those people to help you get through this storm and the next. When we are overwhelmed, we tend to make the mistake of blaming others instead of owning our part in the situation. Reframe your sentences and choose words carefully.
Blameless: When _____ happens, I feel like ______.
Blame: You make me feel like ________.
See the difference?
Yes, it’s simple but so very effective. You’ve got to remember to breathe through the overwhelming times in your life. Try some deep breathing techniques or mindful meditation exercises to get centered. You need energy and a clear head to deal with the overwhelming circumstances in life.
The best part about breathing is that you are already an expert. You just need to apply breathing exercises to your daily stress management regimen so you have time to process emotions instead of jumping straight away to anger and irritability.
Once you connect the correct feelings to the situation, your reactions gradually become more appropriate and deliberate. When we are in a constant state of anger, resentment, hatred or irritability, rational thought no longer takes priority and we are left with illogical reactions based on unfounded feelings.
Two wrongs certainly don’t make a right. You have the tools to work through all that life throws your way, including overwhelm.