2020 may have been the year of “What The!?” but 2021 appears to be winding down as the year of the “Culture of Rage”. Signs of emotional/mental exhaustion and extreme frustration are everywhere. It’s manifested in displays of anger – and sometime pure rage – showing up in politics, checkout lines, COVID mitigation debates, staff shortage blowback, even in school board and PTO meetings – you name it.
What ever happened to our ability to simple be patient, persuade, have compassion, and fundamentally take a deep breath in everyday life?
Now in the two-month season of “giving’ and “gratitude,” how can you find a bit more peace and help ease some of the negativity in yourself?
Why is there a Culture of Rage?
Anger is one of the most experienced and recognized emotions. That was true before and it will outlast everything happening right now.
Surveys over the past few years indicate that anger rose in the US before the explosion of 2020’s health, economic and racial disparities. A Gallup poll conducted in 2018 concluded that more Americans were stressed, worried and angered compared to the previous year.
The answers to why this is happening are far more complex than a blog can address. Several socio-economic and subsequent political reasons are fueling some of the rage. Another major reason that is ever present and which tore wounds into basic elements of our infrastructure – COVID-19.
Many people thought things would look different after spending much of the past year and a half in a pandemic. “Will this ever end?” In the mental health agency where I work, we are hearing and seeing the long-term impact of the unknown on both clients and staff. I don’t know about you, but I am COVID-hausted, and just so tired of it influencing decisions on both a personal and professional level.
What is anger?
Anger is not easy to define, even though most of us know it when we feel it or see it. From mild irritation to more intense fury, all variants sometimes feel uncomfortable.
Anger is in fact a completely normal, usually healthy, and sometimes protective human emotion. For example, anger might give you energy to get something done or to stand up for what you believe in.
But when rage occurs, it can lead to problems— at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life and functioning.
There are long-term health effects of uncontrolled anger, including increased risk of hypertension, worse pain management, increased anxiety, weakened immune system and headache. On a more societal level, today’s culture of rage has stopped productive conversations, ended relationships, clouded reasoning, and overall ripped apart some of the fundamental democratic fibers that hold our society together.
Five proven life hacks to survive the Culture of Rage
What do you do when rage comes at you or swirls around you? Here are five strategies for reducing anger in your life, whether it’s rising within you or being thrown at you.
Basic Self Care – as you define
Self-care is so clique – and so important for “refilling your bucket” and living in a healthy, balanced and lower stress manner. What self care is varies greatly and entirely depends on you. It might be outdoor activities, working out, a pedicure, or axe throwing. Perhaps it’s meditation, kick boxing or cooking something complex. Whatever it is, experts encourage people to pay attention and incorporate these positive moments in their lives regularly.
Limited Media and Digital Consumption
Being informed about balanced and vetted information is important, but do it in small chunks. Did you know that algorithms strategically make apps, social media, reality TV, news – all media – completely immersive? Similar to a casino, their design distorts time consumption for the user. Additionally, while social media can release dopamine (similar to drug/alcohol use or exercise), consuming excessive inflammatory information can create a natural fight/flight response. Being mindful about media consumption and tuning out when needed is a seemingly simple mental health tool.
Daily Gratitude List
This is my favorite and was life altering during a transformational time in my life. One of the simplest tools to manage the culture of rage is simply jot down each morning three things for which you are grateful. These can be big such as your job or as small as salt on your hard-boiled egg that morning. Look around you – no matter what – you can find three tiny things daily! A basic gratitude journal is an easy habit to form which also soon provides ongoing positive content to refer back to!
Hitting the Box
What about when you’re out in the world and someone starts screaming at you? This basic calming technique is one that I’ve taught to my boys for years to help with any anxiety or anger. “Hit the box, boys!” Simply visualize drawing the lines of a box and slowly counting – 1, 2, 3, 4 – while breathing deeply. Do this about 5 times, and it will slow your heart rate and provide you the immediate emotional space you need to respond appropriately.
OK people – we know this. But truly – get moving, put down the digital world and breathe DEEP. Don’t let the pending dark of winter deter you! Go to the gym or hit your home yoga mat, slap on snowshoes, walk with a friend, or dance unabashedly in your family room. Whatever you love – incorporate this self-care tool to gain naturally occurring dopamine. Movement gets you out of your mind, out of the external world, reconnects you with your physical body. It begins to remove rage.
We all have the ability and opportunity to reduce
the emotional temperature in our community.
If everyone paused and took a moment, perhaps productive dialog would reemerge. Challenge yourself today to be the agent of change in today’s culture of rage with these simple steps.