I write about self-love ultimately because it’s the thing that’s made me a happy person, and I believe everyone deserves that same chance. But on this journey of self-love, I’ve discovered that being a happy person doesn’t mean you leave all other emotions behind. In fact, the healthier you are, the more openly you express and explore the other emotions you are privileged enough to feel. Some of the most stigmatized emotions on the human spectrum are anger and fear. We think they’re unattractive, nasty, unhealthy. Really no emotion is wrong or unhealthy. You’re a person, you’re allowed and supposed to have feelings. What matters is how you choose to behave as a result of that feeling, because we are (whether you like it or not) responsible for your actions.
An Uncustomary Babe requested a list for ways to express anger/fear in healthy ways, and I think that’s a great idea for a list, so here I made it! Yes, anger and fear are very different emotions, but I wanted to include them together in the same post. You might feel that some of these suggestions sound good for dealing with your anger, some with your fear, some with both, and some with neither. It’s all up to you. The idea is that you have options. So whether you’re experiencing anger or fear at this moment or you want to bookmark this for the next time you do, know that there are always more than one way to examine and explore the emotions you have. And remember first and foremost that there is nothing wrong with experiencing any emotion. Ever.
20 Ways To Express Anger & Fear In Healthy Ways
1. Check in with yourself – Is the emotion you’re labeling this situation/feeling with actually that feeling? Are you projecting or displacing when really you feel betrayed, sad, or hurt? Think about all the emotions and decide if anger (or fear) is really what’s going on or if it’s camouflaging something else you need to deal with.
2. Deep breathing – It sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me, the more stressful the situation the more shallow your breath becomes; become mindful of your breath, lay on your back if you need to! Deep belly/diaphragmatic breathing (in through the nose for 5, hold it in for 4, out through the mouth for 8).
3. Be open to those who are willing to help you, and if you know that when you’re in this emotional state you truly do not want the help of someone else and prefer to be left alone, come up with a couple sentence elevator pitch, so to speak, to rattle off that lets people know you appreciate their help, but you’d appreciate time alone right now; steal this if you want: “Thank you for your support, but when I feel like this it’s best for me to deal with me feelings by myself; if I feel like talking I’ll let you know, thank you”.
4. Ask for an opinion, even if you don’t take their advice – When we’re dealing with emotions like anger and fear we physiologically become more self-centered and narcissistic, making it more difficult to see things from a perspective other than our own. Try to rise above that and ask for another point of view in the heat of it all and see if it provides you with some perspective that can help you to accept your feelings and work through them.
5. Walk away – The reality is you don’t owe anyone or any situation anything, and if something is causing you stress or pain, you’re allowed to walk away physically or metaphorically. Leave the room, say no, or change your mind. You’re allowed to do all of those things.
6. Vent – Talk it out, even if the conversation is akin to a one-sided rant to a very understanding friend who is functioning as a sounding board. Sometimes all we can do is get the words out, and getting those words out relieves a weight we didn’t realize was on our chest and shoulders.
7. Think about the worst case scenario – I know this seems counter-intuitive, but let me explain: this is something I do with my clients and friends when they’re having anxiety and it usually helps a lot. The idea is I say, “Okay what happens then?” and they tell me the bad thing they’re afraid of happening. Then I ask it again about the bad thing that could potentially happen, and I ask, “What happens then?” all the way down to their core fear. Ultimately those core fears are super scary things like homelessness or death. But what happens is they realize how many rungs of the ladder they’d have to fall down to get to this underlying fear. The exercise allows them to explore, out loud, the worst case scenario which is usually much worse as an unactualized/unspoken looming idea than it is when they think about the logistics. What’s really the worst thing that will happen realistically if this thing that is making you angry or scared happens to the worst possible degree? Okay, now lets come up with a game plan for how you could realistically counter that adversity. Wow, it looks like you could actually handle that problem! Maybe things aren’t so bad after all.
8. Identify the physical symptoms you experience during this state as a proactive measure for future times when you feel like this. By noticing how your body reacts to this emotion, you’ll be able to see the warning signs of your physical body possibly before you even realize you’re experiencing the emotion. It’s a great tool to become more self-aware and to prepare for the storm.
9. Keep a journal, specifically for how you feel during these states – You can rate the intensity of the experience on a scale of 1-10, write down a synopsis of what happened, how you were feeling beforehand, what you ate, who you were with, what time of day it was, and other variables. Not only will stopping to write be a good coping mechanism, but after a few entries, you’ll have tangible data to look at and see if there are any patterns you can learn from.
10. Don’t bottle it up – Take it from someone who swallowed her emotions for the better part of a decade: talk it out as soon as possible! You have no idea how much bottling up your emotions affects your mental and physical health. It can cause depression, anxiety, insomnia, knots in your shoulders, back pain, ulcers, the works. The sooner you get out in the open what’s wrong, the better. So if your feelings involve someone else, non-aggressively/non-violently share how you feel and why to that person as soon as you can. You can’t control how much they want to engage, but honestly just getting it off your chest will make you feel a lot better to start.
11. Make some art – Channel your feelings into something you create, whether it’s a drawing, painting, sculpture, mural, paper craft, illustration, necklace, whatever! Art has been the go to outlet for people in an emotional state since the beginning of art, really. It’s there for you! Let it be a tool.
12. Exercise – You can also channel your feelings into something physical; get your blood flowing with an exercise regime of your choice (and those endorphins aren’t going to hurt your state of mind either!)
13. Cry – There’s no reason you should be holding back tears in an emotional situation. Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak or hysterical. It means you’re a human and experiencing an emotion in an intense way. Some people can experience intense emotions with crying. That’s also okay and nothing to be judgmental about. But if you feel tears coming, let them come out. You’re going to feel a lot better after they come out than you will if you hold them in.
14. Scream – There’s nothing wrong with raising your voice/yelling as long as you’re not directing it at another person. Go into a room where you know you won’t be heard, or worst case, muffle the sound of your scream into a balled up hoodie or into a pillow (or in your car!). Getting out the aggression that’s building is important, and this is a perfectly fine outlet as long as it’s not causing another person emotional distress. (The same goes for cursing!)
15. Own your emotions – Don’t cast blame for how you’re feeling to someone else, even if you think it’s a direct result of their behavior. Instead of saying, “You make me mad”, say, “I feel ___ because …” It starts the conversation off on a better note that makes it easier to be productive on both sides, and it helps you realize that you’re ultimately in charge of your emotions and actions.
16. Seek counseling – Sometimes our feelings can feel a bit out of control whether it’s in intensity, frequency, or both and it’s best to seek the aid of a professional like a therapist who we can schedule a regular appointment with to work through our underlying feelings with. There’s no shame in asking for help, and will help you to tackle future situations! Sometimes our anger is wrapped up in a conflict with someone else, so it’s beneficial to consider couples counseling. Please see this article for further information: Couples Counseling.
17. Pretend your best friend is in the same situation you’re in instead of you – Write them a letter with honest advice for how you think they should handle the situation, then read it back to yourself.
18. Create a happy place – It seems new-agey wishy-washy, but there’s actually a lot to be said for creating a place in your mind where you can “escape” to when leaving the situation physically isn’t an option. That place can be a real place you take the time to imagine very vividly in detail, or an imaginary place you create all on your own. Either way, know it’s a place you can go when things aren’t going well in the physical world.
19. Assign purpose to the situation – What good will come of this experience? What did you learn, what opportunities did you get to have? Look for lessons for the future and things to be grateful about this thing that feels so difficult right now.
20. Have self-compassion – Remember it’s okay for you to experience what you’re feeling and engaging in negative self-talk right now is helping nothing and no one, especially you!
How do you deal with anger and fear?
Photos: Maura Housley