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Angry or Anxious?


What's the pay-off?

Anger is possibly one of the most misconstrued of emotions. We assume anger means the same thing all the time, and we also assume that anger puts us in a position of strength. Well, the latter is sort of true: Anger may help us feel stronger or more powerful, but at the cost of our own control and logic. When is this a good pay-off? When we feel disempowered or afraid.

Anger sometimes is simply anger: you feel that someone has offended you, somehow. True. Sometimes, an inability to control anger, however, can mean something else. Irritability and/or angry outbursts are sometimes a sign of anxiety, especially anxiety that a person has held for quite some time and has not or cannot relieve. If we feel trapped in anxiety, for whatever reason, we may become angry a) as a way to reduce the anxious feeling, b) a way to get some power back, maybe enough to get permission to release anger and/or c) because we are stuck with our anxiety-provoking situation.


A) Anger can reduce anxiety by pushing some of the energy out (thus we become too tired to feel our anxiety) or by convincing us that we are not afraid, but angry. Anger is the most defensive emotion we have, and sometimes we use it to protect ourselves from other emotions we wish to avoid. Just as some people may find it easier to be angry than sad, we may find it easier to be angry than anxious. Anger, especially explosive anger, pushes our anxiety onto other people (they may be anxious about making us angry), or it may seem more socially, culturally, or personally acceptable.

B) Similarly, anger is designed to trigger aggression. Aggression attempts to put the aggressor back in power or control. If any of us becomes angry, we may use their aggressive behavior to take power from another person, or to get our own power back. If an anxious person becomes angry, they might just get enough power to be “entitled” to other emotions. This, however, often fails, because now that they’ve taken this power, they must protect it. Anxiety may cause them to lose that power or control over themselves and their own well-beings again.

C) Very often, people who have chronic anxiety or habitual anxiety will become irritable or angry. This is partially because the anxiety makes one more reactive to other stimuli (makes a person feel more defensive, because of fear), and often because the person feels trapped in their own anxious feelings. Anxiety can be the culprit itself, or it could be that the situation causing the anxiety seems unchangeable. Either way, the person may become angry that they are stuck, angry at someone else for making them stuck, or angry because they feel powerless (please see above), or all of these. Irritability is so common, that it is listed as an anxiety symptom in the DSM-IV. If someone is continuously on alert, it could be easy for them to become tired, frustrated with themselves or their situation, feel like a failure, and also to become over stimulated. For all of these reasons, irritability and anger have a presence with anxiety.


In order to determine if your anger is anxiety, you must be willing to open up with yourself, at least a little bit. Do you have other anxious symptoms, such as fear, withdrawal, fidgiting, difficulty concentrating, or even feelings of fear or anxiety? If so, your anger could be associated with your anxiety.

The trick to getting control of your anxiety and your anger is getting a feeling of control over yourself:

Reassess your life to see if you can find the source of the anxiety- your way of thinking, your environment, your relationships, and your schedules.

What benefit do you get from your anger or anxiety? Is there another way you could get that same reward?

Also, consider stress relieving activities, meditation, yoga, and time for yourself.

For a number of people, therapy or possibly medication are necessary to help with anxiety, or they may help speed the recovery process. A therapist can help you see the factors you may miss, or help you find tools that will help ease your anxiety. Remember, this is not a quick process: it took time to develop anxiety, and it takes time to rewire your brain to accept a calmer, happier mood.

Keeping it Real by Staying Consistent

First, my apologies. It’s been a shamefully long time since we’ve had a post on here, and I take full responsibility. Oddly enough, in choosing a topic for this post, I thought “consistency” would somehow be appropriate. Do I see the irony? Yes. It only means we all can work on it.

Snow has been everywhere this winter- even in odd places.

This winter has been really wild for just about everyone, at least here in the U.S. Record-breaking (or close enough) snows, unusual snows, unusual ice (notably in places that normally see little of this), and bizarre cold snaps combined with warmer weather. It’s led to every inconvenience from flight cancellations to lots of sinus infections. The flu is going around, too. On the up side, there’s snow days for some, and those end up being a lot of fun.
Regardless, our schedules and busy lives have been put on hold or changed at the last minute due to uncontrollable weather problems. This can be very stressful for anyone, and especially people who prefer to plan ahead. Sometimes we may feel like we have no idea what’s going on. And if isn’t the weather, it’s probably something else.

How do we deal with that? The weather is not always cooperative. People can be annoying, frustrating, and sometimes just not make sense, much like the weather. How can we keep our grip and reduce stress?

How do we cope with the stress and frustration?

Well, there’s very little we can do about the weather, except the best we can. You can’t control it, so try to prepare if you can. Stay safe. Stay warm. Try to stay flexible (this is easier for some than others.)

With people, there’s still little we can do. We cannot control other people more than we control the weather. Trying to control another person is a blatant boundary violation, and is usually met with fighting, aggression, yelling, anger, withdrawing, or even abandonment. So what do we do with people who are difficult? Stay consistent. In the end, we can only control our own behavior, right? But, if you dance differently, so will the other person.

If your boss wants to pick a fight, you stand to lose a lot (like your job). They have set out to win a conflict, and you’re caught in the middle. Your kids seem to fight you every step of the way when it comes to eating dinner or going to bed on time. In each case, you can fight with them. Certainly, it’s your choice. However, this fight takes so much energy that we just don’t have. As I said, it’s your choice. Don’t fight. You don’t have to. There is no universal rule that says you must.

Prevent fighting by refusing to participate

With your boss, you’re on the lower end of the hierarchy. Fighting can become “insubordination” that has really bad consequences for you, all because your boss decided to be irrational today. Instead, refuse to fight. You hear what they say. Ask what they would like from you. Repeat it. Be clear. If their requests conflict, ask which you should make the priority. See if you can get help from someone else (divide and conquer). Regardless, you didn’t fight, and you can’t lose. The only person who looks irrational is your boss. You don’t have to worry about that.

With your children, you are on the higher end of the hierarchy. That’s reality, so acknowledge it. It’s bedtime. That’s reality. TV is off. Lights are off. Go to bed yourself, if you can (relaxation- remember when that was possible?). The kids can get angry, throw a tantrum, whatever. Don’t indulge them by yelling. It’s still bedtime. Yelling only validates their point- and that doesn’t fit your reality. They can be upset- let them. There is no reason for you to be upset, because it’s bedtime, is there? They will be upset, and you will be fine- and it’s still bedtime.

These techniques work when we choose to be consistent. What we say is what we mean (we have to know what we mean to do this, so this will take some thinking on the front-end). We do what we say we will do. What is okay really is okay, and what isn’t, isn’t. You aren’t being stubborn- more information (okay, it actually is raining, so maybe I should take that umbrella I had planned to leave at home) can change your mind, but only if that leads to to a new logical conclusion. Manipulations, screaming at you, threatening you, jumping up and down, are all simply a waste of the other person’s energy- and they have every right to use them. Your law is only the law of the world: behaviors have consequences, and things will go as they will go, even if you don’t particularly like them. If you let yourself obey that rule, you will always know where you are, where you stand, and you won’t have to move just because someone did something weird or frustrating. End result: you don’t have to be as worried or frustrated.

It will snow when and where it wants to snow- so, let it snow.

The Disease of Perfection

With the beginning of school, we’re preparing a new series on working with ADHD children and gifted children (not mutually exclusive).  However, I ran into this (read: saw on Facebook where a friend had sent it to another friend). I read through it and I think it should definitely be shared here.

Single Dad Laughing

Please take a few minutes to head over to Single Dad Laughing to read this post. I couldn’t say it any better myself.



Thinking Technology

Technology. Everyone hears about it and is affected by it. It’s made our lives and getting information faster than ever, and it gets faster every day. To be perfectly honest, sometimes it goes faster  than I’m ready for, and I am a big fan of the techno-toys (for example, this little guy is just too cute). I find myself thinking, “This thing will do what?”

Check out these upcoming toys!

We’re also astounded at how fast kids learn how to use these gadgets that we have to figure out; my niece was working the digital camera at her own third birthday, after all.  Microsoft’s PC commercial a couple of years ago showed a four year-old uploading  and emailing pictures- something I had to learn in school and then teach to my mother and grandmother. The answer to this evolution in technological skill, however, is really quite simple when you thinking about it.

The childhood life-stage focuses on learning. We are born with limited knowledge, making everything a learning experience. Because children are always exploring and their brains are focused very hard on learning, they can learn faster. Language acquisition is generally assumed to complete around age 6, which is why children can learn to speak and use grammar quickly in whatever language(s) they hear regularly, but beginning a new language in high school or college is more difficult. Because using technology is a skill, children can pick it up faster than adults can. Adults have also adapted to using other resources, too, so they may be more able to use a card catalog, for example.

Card Catalog: Library Searches Before Databases

Depending on how much you use technology and have adapted to it, people also begin to rely on technological advances. Take the internet, or blessed Google. If we need to know something, we type it in to Google. Locations, phone numbers, directions, restaurant menus, area attractions, repair shops- the list goes on.

It’s natural to begin to do this. It’s fast, accessible, convenient, and we live in a culture of convenience. The problem is reminding our brains to come up with and use contingency plans. What if we can’t get the internet (while enjoying the irony of this statement on a blog on that very internet) or electricity, even? How do we find things? What if, heaven forbid, we can’t seem to find what we want on Google? The last thing I ever turn to is the phone book. I’ve always hated looking things up in the phone book- for no particular reason. Even before online phone numbers I hated going to the phone book. Now, it’s a major last resort. So, looking for a number today, I went through webpages, searches, and wondered who I could call or text for the phone number, when really, I can just go to the phone book.

Which brings me to my thought for the day: Even in our wildly technical world, with high-tech toys and streaming information all the time, sometimes we just need to keep it simple.




Why frustration?

Today is Monday.

Bejing is enduring a nine day traffic jam.

It’s summer and really hot- tempers flare.

The point is, it’s easy to become frustrated. Frustration is the anger we feel when we can’t seem to reach our goal (or destination), despite our efforts. Everyone gets frustrated, and frustration can escalate to alarming levels- it’s true. Then we have all the stress, anxiety, cortisol, and health issues people like to talk about.

So, how do we deal with frustration? Here are some helpful tips to help deal with frustration.

Breathe. Breathe in through your nose slowly and then exhale through your mouth slowly. This increases oxygen and slows your heart, tricking your body into relaxing.

Think. Ask yourself if this obstacle is overcome-able. Is this a crisis? Is the world going to end? Exactly how big is the problem? Toning your frustration down to the actual size of the problem is helpful.

Problem-solve. So your current method or solution isn’t working. That’s okay. You aren’t a failure; your solution probably worked at another time. This time you just need something different. Brainstorm or ask for advice or ideas from other people. It only adds options and increases your chance of success.

Assess your worry. Is the problem not solvable? Controllable? Occasionally, that happens. We cannot change time, the past, or sometimes the behaviors or beliefs of others. If the problem is not controllable or you are not in a position to fix it, that’s okay, too. Find something you can do, and do that. Focus on action instead of the obstacle.

Recognize your successes. How have you gotten through problems before? What did you learn? How have they helped you become more competent?

Remember: People who never struggle in any way never learn or grow. It is through overcoming our obstacles and frustrations that we actually get to feel our own competence, resourcefulness, and abilities.

Depression and Caffeine

From: Clinical Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple, Edition 6 by John Preston, Psy D. & James Johnson, M.D.

It is very important to note that it is common during periods of depression for patients to significantly increase their use of caffeine. Caffeine of course combats fatigue, but it also  has mild transient antidepressant actions, and thus people gravitate toward increasing use. This results in a commonly overlooked complication to treatment: caffeine amounts in excess of 250mg. per day can contribute to a decrease in slow wave (deep) sleep; slow wave sleep is already decreased in depression and the further erosion of this form of sleep can often worsen depression. Caffeine also contributes to restless sleep and frequent awakenings during the night. It is important for patients to know that this effect can occur even in the absence of initial insomnia.

With depression, ever attempt should be made to keep caffeine consumption below 250mg a day (and preferably used only in the morning).

Abby Scuito and Dr. Mallard ("Ducky"), NCIS on CBS

How do you know if you have had too much caffeine?  Here are some signals, based on the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for caffeine intoxication.

Recent consumption of more than 250mg of caffeine (more than 2-3 cups of brewed coffee).

  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Excitement
  • Insomnia
  • Flushed face
  • An increased excretion of urine
  • Gastrointestinal disturbance
  • Muscle twitching
  • Rambling flow of thoughts and speech
  • Rapid or abnormal heart beat
  • Periods of exhaustibility

If you experience several (five or more) of these symptoms and they are disruptive to your life or feeling well, you may want to consider reducing your caffeine intake. Particularly with heart disturbances, you may want to consult a doctor if you feel these symptoms, especially if they persist in the absence of caffeine.

For fun: Caffeine Test

Redefining Self-Care

We all know about stress. Stress increases cortisol levels which blocks our natural immunity, causes pain, tension headaches, loss of sleep, erratic eating (less or more), and can even lead to distraction.

What we don’t know is how to routinely reduce stress. So, we get stressed. Then we stress about being stressed. We don’t have time to fix it. If we don’t keep moving forward, we’ll just end up with more stress. Or, we simply shut down to avoid stress altogether. However, that plan often leads to more stress down the road, loss of production, and sometimes even loss of self-esteem or confidence.

Stress/Production Bell Curve

In order to reduce your stress systematically, I recommend learning some self-care. Self-care is anything that gives you time for you.  It can be  a hobby, exercise, a long bath, art, music,  sports, playing with the dog, or anything that lets you clear your mind or be in the moment. Schedule in this time along with all those other obligations weighing you down. Keep this appointment with yourself just as you would any other important obligation.

Designating self-care time allows you to rejuvenate yourself. This time away from production can at first seem selfish or foolhardy- after all, it is time away from you completing all of those crucial tasks on your plate. However, the research shows that countries that provide more vacation days actually see more production from there workers because of reduced burnout. On smaller scales, this still appears to work. Studies also show that people who take a few mental health breaks through the day accomplish more during work and after, with more efficiency and accuracy.

The reason is that breaks and self-care reduce the burden on your brain. Logic tells us that if you work more efficiently, you’ll accomplish more, even if allotted less time. The key to that same efficiency often lies in not overtaxing your mind. If you never care for yourself, eventually you will give out. No one would expect a car to keep going without any maintenance or even filling up the gas tank, and it’s just as useless to expect that from yourself.

The added bonus to taking time for self-care is that you will begin to see yourself as someone deserving of care. In addition to feeling good about your production, you’ll begin to feel better about yourself in general. You’ll feel more emotionally stable, more driven, and possibly more organized.

Some suggested self-care activities, but this is by no means exhaustive:

Listening to music

Playing (any) musical instruments




Knitting/Cross-stitch/Latch-hook/Crochet, etc.


Playing a sport

Following a sports team

Playing with your kids, your friends, your pets

A long bath or shower


Going to the gym


Learning something new

Going to the spa/getting a manicure/getting a massage

Writing or journaling


If you have a self-care technique you’d like to share, please comment below!