Last year I posted a picture on Instagram that said it was okay to be angry. Someone left a comment asking if anger can be controlled? Firstly, the answer is yes, you can control your anger. But it made me think that our immediate response to anger is fear of losing control. Whether it’s in ourselves or others. It can certainly be frustrating living with HS, and anger is a common and natural feeling to have.
But here’s the thing, anger is healthy. Anger is one of our basic emotions. Its purpose is to help us protect ourselves from harm. And it’s part of our fight or flight system. Anger becomes a problem when it hurts the people around us or ourselves.
Anger can be violent, but it can take other forms like irritation and even sadness. Anger is not inevitably uncontrollable. The key is to find appropriate ways to express anger. Healthy, in this case, means that you feel your anger but your approach is solution-focused. Rather than lashing out. Controlling anger is not the same as no longer feeling angry.
Healthy Coping Strategies for HS and Anger
Healthy coping strategies for HS make us better at communicating our needs. We can voice our feelings and concerns with less conflict. And in the long run, they make us happier people. In the service of happier people, here are 5 healthy ways you can try to express your anger.
1. Give Yourself Space to Feel Angry.
Lots of people certainly feel guilt or shame about feeling angry. Patience is one of our highest held values. So much so that we are always expected to be understanding. We say things like, there’s nothing that can be done about it now. Or it’s not that person’s fault. Those things are right, but it’s not reasonable to expect to feel calm all the time.
There is a difference between feeling and behaviour. Feeling angry is normal and healthy. Lashing out is not. Giving yourself the space to feel how you feel is good for your mental health. And learning to accept your anger and express it healthily, stops you from turning it inward. You can get a hold on your feelings about HS and anger.
Assertive means, you can communicate how you feel in a way that’s firm rather than aggressive. Assertive people can say their piece without it degenerating into an argument. One way to do this is to use “I” statements. For example, “I feel you are not listening to me,” as opposed to “you never listen.”
“I” statements focus the issue on you and how you feel. Whereas other approaches use blame, which will only escalate the problem. If the person still doesn’t listen, don’t argue. Assertive people can walk away with a willingness to have the discussion at a better time.
3. Use it
Sometimes we have excellent reasons for being angry. We or someone else might have suffered an injustice. Many angry people start successful campaigns for change. Use your anger rather than throwing it around.
People who live with under-recognised conditions like HS find it hard to access treatment. If you are angry about that, you should be. But you can use that anger to demand more resources or raise awareness.
Anger can be motivational. When you feel anger, it has energy. You can redirect that energy into something productive. Remember, at the start, we talked about fight or flight? You can use it to fight. If you are angry about something, channel it into change.
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4. Talk to Someone about your HS and anger
If you find yourself angry a lot, you should talk to someone. A friend is a good start. Good friends can offer an ear to listen (or bend) or some much-needed humour to defuse the tension. They also provide an outsider’s perspective you might need.
If anger is still a problem for you or it is affecting your relationships, you can talk to your GP. Like any other mental health concern, they can point you in the direction of help. Or you can join a support group. Whatever you do, don’t keep it in. Keeping anger pent up leads to resentment, and you won’t be able to control it forever.
5. Walk Away
Sometimes the best thing is to walk away. There are occasions where there is no solution to a problem. So, if you find you are too angry to deal with the situation, take a step back.
Take a stroll or workout. Burn off the energy and release some happy hormones. Come back to the situation when you are in control of yourself. Alternatively, if you decide that it’s not in your best interests to return, that’s okay too. You must always prioritise your well-being.
We have all been there where something has upset us so much we can’t think straight. But if you can’t make clear decisions, then the situation will not improve with your input.
Anger is a feeling like any other. It’s not a problem, but what you do with it might be. The five ideas above are by no means an exhaustive list. So, feel free to add your own healthy coping strategies. Remember, a healthy coping strategy is one that helps rather than harms. And that goes for you as well as those around you.
About the Author
Shannon Sweeney is a psychology and sociology student from Ireland. She is also living with HS and has a keen interest in lifestyle, wellbeing, and Hidradenitis Suppurativa.