Caroline Cranshaw: Tips for dealing with anger, irritability and mood swings

"The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."Gloria Steinem

 There may be times in your life or certain situations that cause you to turn into a seething, angry a******. This is annoying and incredibly frustrating for you, and the people around you.

The truth is, the world does not owe you the favour of walking on eggshells so you don’t lose it.

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You cannot expect people to adjust their behaviour to appease your bad moods. If everyone around you has to cater to your grumpiness so that you don’t act like a crazy person, you’re going to find yourself pretty lonely in the end.

Eventually, you may realise that some of the anger that’s bubbling up isn't entirely tied to other people’s actions. No matter what the source of the anger is, it needs to be dealt with in a way that doesn't involve sliding into unhealthy, self-sabotaging addictions that are just masking the pain you’re not dealing with. In some cases, our anger is just a subconscious program from childhood. One of our caregivers acted the same way.

Understanding anger and irritability

Every day, we can experience things that could piss us off. Common causes include feelings of:

  • Frustration
  • Feeling judged or criticised
  • Feeling harassed or pestered
  • Injustice, regardless of whether real or perceived
  • Feeling excluded or your needs not being met
  • Requests that we don’t want to do or believe are unfair
  • Threats to people, things, or ideas that we hold dear

A lot of how we react stems from our childhood and how the people around us reacted to stress. Anger is triggered in different people for varying reasons and in different ways. Something that only mildly irritates you, may unleash total rage in someone else. Anger is highly individual however, the more aware of it you become, the more you realise that your response to anger is up to you.

So what are some effective strategies to manage the anger, anxiety, frustration, and irritability that comes up from just in life in general? There are many different techniques that can help you access that place of peace and not get sucked into the same destructive patterns. Hypnotherapy, Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Meditation and Eye Patch Therapy are just a few tools that can help shift our thoughts and behaviours towards how we’d like to be.

By coming up with effective strategies to manage the anger, anxiety and irritability you can become a much calmer person that deals with their emotions even more effectively than they did before.

Here are a few techniques you can do that I have personally found to be the most successful.

Name it to tame it

"Name it to tame it" was coined by the psychologist Dan Siegel. His studies have proven that naming our emotions helps to calm down the fear centre of our brain and activate the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that helps us to control our behaviour. 

We can’t change what we’re not aware of. Avoiding, suppressing or lashing out with our feelings doesn’t reduce their impact on us or make them go away. Becoming aware of and naming our emotions gives us the chance to pause and take a step back so we can make healthy choices about what to do with them.

I look at emotions as a form of energy seeking to be expressed. E-motions - they need to move. Saying what you’re feeling in basic terms helps us to manage and control even the most volatile emotions.

When you name your feelings out loud, you help shift and release them. Which makes it less likely that they will spew out at the expense of others. It’s okay to have feelings and emotions. It’s okay to feel angry, hurt, irritated, frustrated and upset. What’s not okay, is lashing out in inappropriate ways at people that don’t deserve it. 

Name it to tame it exercise

This exercise increases your awareness by pinpointing the type of emotion you’re feeling to help release it. It also may help you identify if this may be a pattern from the past.

Try saying or writing down:

 I am feeling ...

I am feeling this way because ...

I felt this way before when ... (yourself or someone close to you) used to react this way when I was younger.

Feel those emotions and where in your body those emotions reside. Imagine you can draw the emotions into your lungs as you breathe in, and then blow the emotions out as you exhale.

Release any negative emotions with each breath.

More tools to help keep you calm

H.A.L.T - Ask yourself am I hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Sometimes just stopping for a moment and getting in touch with how you’re feeling and what you need at that moment can help shift your mood. We tend to keep pushing and pushing, without looking after ourselves, putting other people’s needs first, and eventually, we snap. I know when I start to feel this way the best thing I can do is to lie down for a brief while - even for just 15 minutes.

Accept how you feel - A lot of us are taught it’s not okay to feel angry, especially women. That we should smile and pretend everything’s okay, even when it’s not. We mask our anger with a tight-lipped smile on our face when inside we are seething. Instead of being upfront with how we feel and what we are upset about, many of us act passive-aggressive instead.

The problem is, people see right through to what you’re hiding inside and so the only person you’re fooling is yourself. It’s much healthier to just come out with it, but do it in a way that’s calm and vulnerable. It’s hard to argue with someone who is expressing how they feel in a calm and clear way, without placing blame, and taking full responsibility for their feelings. One of the best books on this topic is Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton.

Remember that almost everything is temporary, and how you’re feeling right now will change even if it doesn’t feel like it. Controlling your moods is your responsibility. Your actions affect other people who have nothing to do with the fact that you’re angry. Yes, it’s easy to give in to your anger and just unleash it on the person closest to you. But it’s up to you to realise when that’s about to happen and stop yourself from flying into a rage and making a fool of yourself.

Every action you take has a reaction, if you scream and yell at someone else, they are bound to do the same. What you put out there, will come back to you. This is a law of the universe I have always found to be true.

Caroline Cranshaw is a hypnotherapist, founder and trainer at the New Zealand Integrative Hypnotherapy Training Institute and the author of The Smoking Cure. Find out more about her at nzhypnotherapy.co.nz. Listen to Caroline's new podcast WTF Stories & Advice.