Lockdown isn’t all baking, lunchtime sex and Zoom parties.
For many people, it’s a scary experience that sees emotions go haywire.
This is perfectly normal – our routines have been stripped away and we are worried for our ourselves and those we love.
To make matters worse, many of us are stuck in small spaces; some alone and as a result feeling lonely, and some with housemates, partners or our children, all of whom just won’t leave us be.
If you’re feeling angry for what seems to be no apparent reason, can’t shake your frustration at the world or are snapping at people more often, know this: you’re not the only one.
‘I was angry for the past two days and then yesterday had a full-on sobbing meltdown,’ one woman, who wants to remain anonymous, tells us.
‘Still feeling teary today, I think it’s just a build-up of everything we’re living through at the moment.’
While this might very well be the case, Saj Devshi, a cognitive behavioural therapist, has a different theory.
He explains that the anger is linked to arousal levels and ours are essentially spilling over.
‘If you imagine your arousal level like a water tank that is slowly filling up without an outlet or release, eventually it fills up to a point where it overflows and people begin showing their anger and frustration,’ Saj says.
‘Under normal circumstances, we have many things that help mitigate and lower this, such as going out to socialise, seeing friends, regular exercise or even a change of scenery through work or hobbies we engage in.
‘All these things help lower our arousal and control anger levels passively.
‘However, without any of this now available, plus the added pressure of uncertainty for many people’s jobs and future, it creates anxiety, fear, and also frustration which adds to increased arousal and this spills over into anger.’
If Saj’s theory is correct, you might benefit from working out to release that anger.
Although we are restricted to one hours’ worth of exercise per day outdoors (though this may change soon), you can still get your fitness kick at home.
To sweat out the rage, try something high-intensity like a HIIT class and then follow up with yoga or meditation to calm your mind.
Jo Howarth, a mindfulness expert and founder of The Happiness Club, also recommends exercise – but highlights the important of tuning into our anger and finding out what the root cause is.
Jo says: ‘Anger is a masking emotion – there’s always something underneath it, be it fear or panic for instance.
‘But instead of admitting that we’re scared, we get angry instead. Anger and being angry can be incredibly damaging, but as with all our emotions it has a job to do and has a message for us.
‘It is perfectly valid to experience and feel anger, but instead of taking it out on others, we should try and listen to the message and the emotions that are causing it, so we can get to the bottom of why we are feeling how we are.
‘In this way, we can release this emotion.
‘It’s easier said than done sometimes, but things that really help with built-up frustration, stress and overwhelm, that can all lead to anger, include breathing exercises, meditation and exercising in general, which can help bring us back to a place of calm.’
Nick Davies, a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, explains that anger is linked to our ’emotional rucksack’ – when this becomes too heavy, we explode as it were.
It takes a while for the bag to fill, which is part of the reason people didn’t feel as angry in week two or three of lockdown.
‘Each day when there’s a problem, we add another emotional rock to the bag and eventually it becomes too heavy, so we throw it down and the rocks spill out everywhere, metaphorically speaking,’ he says.
‘When we feel we are being controlled or trapped in a small space, our bodies naturally produce adrenaline to help us “push outwards” to remove these boundaries.
‘This normally happens in the third to fourth week of anything new as our brains tend to decide if we need to get used to this new situation or if we need to fight it.
‘The fact we know lockdown will end soon is likely to create this rush of adrenaline and then we project it at those around us as the threat is invisible i.e. the government has told us to stay in to stop the spread of the virus.
‘The most effective way I have found of overcoming anger is not to fight it and to change your breathing.’
If the anger is linked to you feeling lonely and you don’t have a self-isolation buddy, it can be hard to combat as sometimes a FaceTime chat or Zoom call just isn’t enough.
But you might benefit from opening up to a friend or family member about how you’re feeling, even if it’s a virtual chat.
Talking to someone you trust could also you figure out what’s really going on in your mind.
Improving your sleep routine is important too , as lack of sleep is known to make people irritable.
And if you feel up for it, give masturbation a go – orgasms release so-called ‘happy hormones’ in the body, similarly to exercise.
Hopefully, lockdown restrictions will be eased somewhat in the coming week.
Until then, when the anger strikes and you feel like punching a wall, remember that the emotion will pass. You just have to wait it out.