Wrath- the intensified feeling of anger, the one which means we are beyond control of our emotions or actions, is included in the Bible’s 7 deadly sins. Whether you are of a Christian inclination or not, the avoidance of descending into full blown fury is something which is universally sought. Taking the higher ground, turning the other cheek and walking away are spouted as helpful advice in het up situations but for many of us it is just not that easy.
Often the first manifestation of anger we immediately think of is physical or verbal attack. Saying cruel or threatening things or being physically abusive, whether that is in a domestic setting or a bar brawl, can be upsetting and scary for everyone involved, whichever side of the altercation you are on. In fact, recognising anger in yourself can often bring up lots of feelings of shame- as we feel somehow that we should be above behaving like this and should be more in control of our emotions. Feeling as though maybe we are not completely in control of our actions can make us feel that we cant keep ourselves or those around us safe, which in itself can feel quite frightening.
Frequently, we find that we ignore the parts of ourselves which we do not like or feel comfortable with and so we shut these feelings out, burying them and hoping that if we don’t look too closely at them, they will rot away and cease to exist. If only it were that easy. In this instance, blocking out the feeling of being angry just serves to push it down deeper into your psyche where it festers until you can no longer ignore it. It may then seem that an angry outburst can arise at an unexpected time, totally disproportionate to the situation at hand and the cycle of feeling shocked and shameful continues.
Quite honestly, feeling angry is a very human emotion. It is also a wonderful defense mechanism which shields us from our ego from being damaged. There is a saying that ‘anger is sadness’s bodyguard’ and it is a feeling that goes hand in hand with other emotions such as jealousy, feeling threatened, being wronged, being humiliated, feeling ashamed. It is often the emotion that peeps its head above the parapet before we are really aware of what it actually is that has upset us. For example, when we are embarrassed in a public sphere we can have a tendency to direct our angry feelings towards the person who made us look silly or find fault outside of ourselves. This protects us from feeling like we are the ones who have played a part in this embarrassment, even though there is a chance that we actually have.
The first step to taming your anger is to recognise it, and if at all possible, in an uncritical way. Try to be curious about it and consider what has happened to trigger you to feel this way. Are you being brought back to a previous time where you felt threatened and you needed to protect yourself? What changes are happening in the body and what feelings are being bought up? When did you start to feel that feeling of anger or lack of control start to rise? Can you step away from the situation that is triggering you and try to cool off? Sometimes merely recognising our temperament changing can give us valuable time to distance ourselves from what is upsetting us, take a few deep breaths and try to get a different perspective.
One of the big things to remember is that feeling angry is ok. It’s an emotional response and one that we need to be careful how we act on, but there is no shame at all in feeling it. Finding a healthy outlet for it when things build up is another important stage. Moving our bodies, whether that’s going for a walk or doing a workout can help burn off the energetic feeling that accompanies feeling angry. Smaller actions like screaming into a pillow or tensing your whole body, holding for a count of twenty, then releasing are also more discrete ways of moving that angry energy through you. Writing can be a great outlet for feeling angry, journaling and letting the pages know just how irritated or hurt you are can help you empty out all the angst-filled thoughts swimming around in your head. Talking things through with a trusted friend or sitting with the feeling and gently asking yourself what else is going on can also be really useful.
If you are feeling as though you are not in control of your emotions, and are finding that anger, either directed outwards or towards yourself is becoming a problem then it is well worth speaking to a mental health professional about it. Being able to speak candidly, without any fear of judgment can be a really cathartic process whereby you can explore what your relationship with anger is like and how you can have a better handle on how to deal with your emotions when life gets difficult. To find out more get in touch with The Henry Centre today to find out more.
Sleep is much like gravity; in that it is an integral part of life and our existence and yet it is still not fully understood.
When placed in an MRI machine different parts of the brain can be seen lighting up, busying away while we snooze, our bodies do quiet repair work while we slumber, we feel healthier and full of energy after a good night’s sleep, and conversely the lack of decent sleep can leave us feeling terrible.
Not only is it harder to concentrate when we are knackered, prolonged overtiredness can also start to affect us physically. As with a lot of health issues, mental health is often put on the back burner and we find that it is only when our bodies start to ring alarm bells that we actually pay attention to what isn’t quite right.
But it shouldn’t take falling asleep at the wheel (quite literally in some instances) for us to make sure we are treating our sleep patterns with the respect they deserve and command. Lack of sleep can often trigger unregulated moods, feeling snappy, irritable and confused, as well as making our ability to cope with stressful situations that much more difficult.
While lack of sleep can make us feel terrible, both mentally and physically, it can also be a marker of other mental health issues that may be bubbling under the surface. Depression is often characterised by an inability to feel invigorated, even if the sufferer is actually sleeping more than usual. This lethargy can make even the simplest of tasks feel impossible and so the vicious cycle of feeling too tired to proactively improve one’s mental health is followed by the very real feeling of just wanting to hibernate.
In times where exhaustion sets in it is important to cast an eye over what is going on for you in this specific time of your life- is there the chance that work or relationships around you draining all of your energy, is your diet deficient in vitamins such as B12 or iron which can present in a general lethargy, is your body and brain running on anxiety which can only be sustained for so long before exhausting us?
Often life can become such a bombardment of worries, whether it is the current cost of living, job insecurity, bereavement, illness or relationships which take their toll on your time and resources. Some of us are still grappling with unresolved trauma which leaves us in a fight or flight mode which is not maintainable for long periods of time. Taking steps to calm this instinctual part of the brain can go a long way to restoring energy levels and ability to sleep at night.
Often struggling to get to sleep can be a result of lingering anxiety from the day and it is better in these instances to try and focus on relaxing, whether that is by using breathing techniques, emptying your mind by journalling or listening to calming music, than focus specifically on falling asleep. It is often the case that the more we try to force sleep, the more it evades us, which in turn ramps up the anxiety that tomorrow is already ruined by a bad night’s sleep.
It’s also important in these instances to try and enforce a clear sleep routine and practice good ‘sleep hygiene’. Making sure that you keep to a schedule where you are up and out of bed, reinforcing that being in bed is for sleeping, not just general lolling around in the day can make a marked difference. Trying to go to bed and wake up at a regular time is also important, as it helps to reset our internal circadian rhythm.
Make an effort to try and unwind before bed, if possible stop using screens which can be overstimulating a good half hour or so before you intend to go to sleep- instead try reading, doing light exercise like yoga or listening to music or a podcast.
If you are particularly sensitive it may also be a good idea to limit caffeine in the second half of the day and while a large glass of wine can sometimes do the trick of knocking us out, by the time our bodies metabolise the alcohol we often wake up, meaning that in fact we have another broken night’s sleep
If after adjustments to your sleep routine are still not helping you feel well rested it may be time to turn your attention to the possible psychological factors at play. Often the best way to alleviate stress which is disrupting our sleep patterns is to try to work through just what it is that is keeping us up at night.
If you are suffering from lack of sleep or you are finding that you are struggling to function despite the amount of sleep you are getting, it may be worth getting in touch with a mental health professional who will be able to help you figure out what it is that is troubling you. Sometimes the root cause is not immediately apparent and it may take some digging to find out just what it is that is troubling you.
Here at The Henry Centre we have a number of highly qualified counsellors who are able to guide you through the process of finding out what steps to take to get you feeling back to the best version of yourself.
In recent years there has been a lot of discussion around mental health and counselling, particularly when it is relevant to seek help and when it is not. A somewhat old fashioned idea is that because it was something that wasn’t spoken about or sought after in the past, therapy was not something that was necessary either then or now. However just because people don’t talk about their mental health, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all is well. In lieu of speaking about emotions, many have historically used unhelpful coping mechanisms to deal with the feelings they are having, such as aggressive outbursts, misuse of drugs and alcohol, self harm and disordered eating. Often these coping mechanisms can run in families and traits such as being hot tempered or being incredibly withdrawn can pass through several generations unnoticed before someone decides to look at these symptoms critically. It is at this point, where patterns that have started to become problematic, that trauma being passed through the generations need to be looked at carefully.
There is a claim that mental illness can sometimes run in families and that can be quite blatant when looking at some family lines. That’s not to say however that this is necessarily due to irregularities in the brain or genetic make up, and perhaps more instead to do with how trauma and coping mechanisms get passed through the generations. Particularly in British culture there is a real sense that we need to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ and just ‘keep calm and carry on’ instead of admitting that we have a problem that maybe we can’t deal with on our own. It is important to remember when looking at the dynamics in families that a lot of issues are often normalised or overlooked and so are often not thought about with a clear perspective. It is often only when you speak to someone outside of a family structure or to a mental health professional that even saying a scenario out-loud can highlight how unusual or unhealthy that thing might be.
These patterns can go back centuries, from so-called ‘shell-shocked’ war veterans returning home traumatised from war and inadvertently inflicting this trauma onto their immediate family, to children growing up in poverty or in abusive households who then adapt to survive and pass these adaptations down to their own kids later on. Being able to use the therapeutic process to pick apart what behaviours you have learnt or situations you have had to adapt to deal with within the family structure can be a really cathartic process. Sometimes we can find that particular character traits are things we have learnt from those who came before us and are not useful to us anymore. Being able to separate what is and is not ‘your stuff’ can be really important in finding out who you are as a stand alone person.
If you feel as though you are struggling with your mental health and are in need of a trained therapist to help guide you through the patterns in your family that you may be continuing and finding are not serving you well, why not get in touch with The Henry Centre in Southend. With a number of mental health professionals in house we have the right tools to work alongside you and make your journey to better mental health as effective as possible.