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 - Managing anger and irritability during lockdown 

Managing anger and irritability during lockdown. Written by Carolyn Brown

With all the extra time being spent together during the COVID lockdown measures, it is important to have conversations about what each person within the household needs.

Roles and demands on individuals will have changed dramatically and there have been sacrifices made so it would be quite normal for needs to change as well. 

Conflict and the stress of spending more time together as a family or a couple may be challenging and can cause arguments.  

The stress and conflict within a household could be as a result of limited movement or it could have been there already, and the current situation has intensified this.  Recognising that the impact of anger and irritability is going to affect relationships is the first step to managing it.  Listening to each other may help to find solutions.   

Anger is a normal human emotion and is expressed by shouting, swearing, physical aggression towards objects or people.  Sometimes it can be more subtle and result in withdrawal.  Controlled anger can be helpful and can motivate us to address an issue that we feel is important.  When anger becomes frequent and very intense in can be harmful. 

For ex-service personnel, anger can be related to PTSD and can become problematic and impact lives and relationships as well as daily activities.  During the COVID-19 lockdown these feelings may well intensify.  There can be physical side effects too such as high blood pressure.  

The Pause Technique:

  • Start by taking a moment to observe what’s happening in your body. Noticing things like rapid breathing or tension in your muscles can be a signal that your body is telling you to take a break.
  • Check in with yourself about how long you’ve been thinking about the topic you want to bring up. Sometimes when we don’t have a chance to talk to our partners about something right away, we can feel very distracted and get to a point of feeling urgently that we need to “get it out.”
  • Set yourself up to start a conversation by taking time out to breathe, meditate, reset, and refresh. Engage in an activity that’s soothing (e.g., exercise, a walk, shower – whatever helps you to centre yourself).  This will allow your message to come from a place of seeking connection, rather than a reactive hurtful place.
  • Take time to acknowledge to yourself the purpose of the conversation you want to have. PAUSE.

There are techniques to help de-escalate a conflict situation:

  • Take a moment – try not to react immediately.  Pause technique, take a breath and possibly suggest that you would like to take some time to think before responding
  • Agree a suitable time to talk about issues when you are more likely to be calm
  • Listen with interest and try to think about how things are from another person’s perspective
  • Address one issue at a time
  • Try to say something positive and refer to something that has gone well
  • Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements
  • Be prepared to compromise
  • Focus on what you can control not what you can’t control

The solutions are not ‘one size fits all’.  There are various helpful resources available:

  • AIMS is an app that explains what anger is, triggers, warning signs and managing anger effectively.  
  • BACP have some useful resources on their website
  • NSPCC have useful resources for families
  • Refuge 0808 2000 247
  • Mankind Initiative 01823 334244

If you need support, please click here.