Anger often feels like a clean, powerful emotion, burning hot and bright. A very powerful force, it can motivate people to take positive actions for causes they believe in, such as starting groups to help clean up highways and local parks, donating time at the local animal shelter, or using frustration to motivate change. Yet anger itself is not straight forward. The Anger Iceberg illustration accompanying this article shows just how many complex emotions or events can combine into that powerful force. Directing that force into positive actions or productive methods of release can take both skills and practice.
According to an article in the medical journal The Lancet, "Unprecedented global forces are shaping the health and wellbeing of the largest generation of 10 to 24-year-olds in human history." (2423) Such a large social group, "primed to engage" as they are by nature, with others and with causes they care about (2461) can, if they choose, have a powerful positive impact on their societies, local and global. Making careful, informed choices while learning to sort through and manage emotional responses allows each person to decide how they want to contribute. Letting emotions, particularly anger and emotions that lead to anger, dictate actions without time for thought or without management skills, leads to unintended actions and consequences
Feelings don't just come from nowhere. People can gain control by determining what feelings feed anger or other emotions, and by evaluating what responses to actions past and present contribute. For example, did the whole day go wrong from the moment you tripped getting on the bus? Or did tripping while getting on the bus make the whole day feel wrong? Either way, the better response may be to evaluate the incident, and your reaction to it, at a time when you're not feeling stress or other negative emotions brought on by the event.
How much of what measurably went or felt wrong had to do with your responses and choices - which in turn were affected by the emotions you felt about tripping in front of people? How much would have been measurably bad or would have been handled the same way without those emotions? What if you'd been able to separate the emotions brought on by the tripping incident from the rest of your day, even before getting off the bus? Sometimes one thing can ruin a whole day. The trick is to figure out how that happens and short circuit that process.
Scheduling time for processing emotions and for talking to people in constructive ways that analyze the emotional build ups or stressors can be an important part of the process. Thoughtful friends, siblings, adults, teachers, coaches or counselors can all make excellent sounding boards, especially if they are the type of person who can listen to you work something through without trying to solve the problem for you. You also want to avoid just re-living emotions and events or stirring them up over and over. Instead, work to understand what you felt, and why you felt it, and then manage emotions by making choices which will benefit you, thereby setting up patterns for long term satisfaction.
Working through emotions and anger can sometimes begin simply by determining the nature of your anger. Are you a pop bottle that fizzes over regularly whenever shaken, only to be left later with the consequences and a flat feeling? Are you a volcano that quietly builds and builds and then erupts, to be left with burning heat still flowing while you try to deal with the consequences? Maybe your experience is something in-between, a bit of both. You react one way with some people and another way with others, or one way one day and another way the next. All of this is within the normal spectrum for the way anger works its way out. Skills and tactics can assist you to manage the flow, find a time and place of your choosing for the best way to release your anger, and then have more choices in your reactions and consequences.
Stepping back from a situation, line of thought, or wave of emotion and concentrating on three to five full, slow, deep breaths can help change what’s happening in your head and your body by slowing your heart rate and providing more oxygen where needed. This tactic provides a break in whatever is happening, allowing you to consider alternatives or keep from being overwhelmed by circumstances while providing a few moments to make more deliberate choices.
This tactic also gives you a chance to sort through the emotions that make up anger without pushing them down (a reaction that can lead to problems later). Even if you can’t walk away from a powerful situation at the moment it confronts you, the tactic of stepping back and breathing deeply can give you options and the chance to analyze what happened later. Used after the fact it allows you to proceed through the day without having a single event driving all your choices. Think about what is going through your head, and remember it – not to stew over it, but to think through how you might have preferred to handle yourself or address the situation. You can’t control others, but you can make your own choices and practice responses that are good for you.
Finding productive outlets for anger, particularly while it’s running high, can be difficult. It’s almost instinctive to try to escape negative feelings by becoming numb, or distracting yourself with friends, the internet, sports, music, TV, video games, reading or other activities. Escape is not always a bad thing, as long as it’s not the primary way of dealing with difficult emotions. We all need a break sometimes. Yet pushing emotions down and not dealing with them regularly can lead to pressure-bomb-like situations in which something small sets off a disproportionately huge reaction. When something like that happens, often anger gets taken out on the people present, rather than productive interactions happening with the people you are primarily upset with. Additionally, this can also lead to you or others ignoring all those emotions and events that can build into or become expressed as anger. Eventually this may come to the forefront at the wrong time, with the wrong people, or not in a way you would prefer.
How much down time you need before dealing with a disturbing situation is an individual thing. None of the escapes listed above are wrong in and of themselves. Rather, it’s a matter of how you use them. If used properly, they may help you manage or release anger and powerful emotions (this is especially true of physical activities and music). Productive releases let you burn energy without feeding the emotions you’ve been experiencing. Instead, you can concentrate on exactly what is happening in the moment you are in, and analyze the difficult situation when your mind is clearer.
When assessing the stressors teens face, the natural biological process of growing physically can’t be ignored. Having your body hijacked by growth spurts and bio-chemical surges can be just as disturbing as having your mind hijacked by difficult-to-identify emotions and those same bio-chemical surges.
Feeling that you are an alien in your own skin or your own mind is an inner stressor, which can be just as powerful as the social stressors highlighted in the Harvard Health Blog article, "The angry adolescent – a phase or depression?" The author points out that you are working to gain knowledge and experience, with "big challenges ahead: graduating from high school, entering the work force (in a tough economy) or starting college, living away from home for the first time. These are stressful transitions for anyone."
Yet many teens are already working, already living semi-independently, and often dealing with complicated social lives and responsibilities, while trying to maintain grades, earn scholarships, compete for or engage in internships or apprenticeships, identify fields of interest for jobs and careers, and work through relationships with family, friends, and romantic interests. If you’re a teen, no matter which of these aspects of life you are currently juggling, setting the foundations for emotional management will allow you to move forward with more self-determination and with more choices.
Teens are not really "in preparation" for real life; they are living full, complex lives, while also trying to gather the skills they need to successfully manage emotions, actions, and reactions. Teens are doing all of that while their brains are actually physically changing. The article in The Lancet notes that "at this time the brain is extremely developmentally active," particularly the pre-frontal cortex, which is undergoing changes which help switch decision making from a short-term, high risk-based focus to allow for more long-term, consequence-based decision making. Also, the brain as a whole is generating increasing numbers of connections between networks (2427).
This knowledge doesn’t provide any excuses as far as choices and actions, but it does give you a framework for understanding just why you can seem alien or erratic to yourself sometimes. With this growth going on, however, you have the prime situation for building thought patterns and emotional management patterns that will be all but "hardwired," for want of a better term. You can make choices that will influence how you
manage frustration, anger, and emotionally charged situations for the rest of your life. This doesn’t happen in one big decision. There’s no all-or-nothing moment. Through practicing management skills, repeatedly trying to find what works for you and how you function, you are laying down patterns of thought and healthy emotional processing behaviors.
Feeling overwhelmed by anger and frustration is not failure; it’s a common sense emotional reaction to all that is going on. Learning to manage yourself without being derailed by anger reactions and frustration is a try, and try again, learning process. Each event, no matter how it turns out in reality, can be replayed later, assessed, and learned from.
For those concerned with anger management and consequences one big question is deciding when anger or its contributors constitute a problem that might benefit from outside assistance? As with most of life, it is a matter of degree. Getting mad and throwing a textbook across the room may be out of character, but isn’t beyond average responses people have every day. Losing all control and tearing up the house or destroying furniture would be a problem.
Waking up every day to anger, frustration, the feeling that every day is a battle, or to any of the emotions listed anywhere on the anger iceberg is not just draining; it can be damaging to the way you process emotions and events in the future.
The gold standard questions include 1) How severe or intense is the difficulty; 2) How long has it gone on; and 3) How much is it interfering with the activities of daily living. Activities of daily living include things like:
You also need to assess the severity of the disruptions to each of these. If it’s a week or a couple of weeks, okay. You’re working through something. However, months of disruption, to the point of dysfunction in several key areas or repeated severe disruptions, would be a reason to consider talking to a parent or guardian or to call a hotline or see about being assessed by a counselor. A counselor can help remove stumbling blocks that may prevent you from recognizing causes of anger and frustration, and can assist you with building the skills you need to manage your emotions. He or she can then help assess how those tactics and choices work for you. Individuals, with uniquely developing brains and unique personal and life situations, can
sometimes benefit from specific assistance in developing and determining what management tactics work best for them.
You can learn more about Community Counseling Center of Mercer County at www.cccmer.org . We also invite you to connect with us on Facebook, or to contact us by calling (866) 853-7758 or 724-981-7141.
Miller, Michael Craig, M.D., (2015, October 29) "The angry adolescent — a phase or depression?" The Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from
Patton, George C et al. PDF (2016, June 11) "Our future: a Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing" The Lancet , Volume 387 , Issue 10036 , 2423 – 2478. Retrieved from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)00648-6/fulltext 6736(16)00648-6/fulltext
When the Great Recession struck the nation in 2008, it decimated the economy. Many people lost their jobs and homes. Many people struggled to get by for years.
While politicians and Wall Street claim the economy has recovered, Main Street has a vastly different view of its current state.
Today, more than one in five children live in poverty, according to the 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book , an annual publication that assesses child well-being nationally and across the 50 states, as well as in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It uses an index of 16 indicators to rank states on overall child well-being and in economic well-being, education, health and family and community. Of all 16 indicators, the one that carries the most weight and has the largest social impact is child poverty.
The report found that 22% of children live in poverty, up from 18% in 2008. Hardest hit were African-Americans and American Indians, whose rates of poverty had nearly doubled. The South and the Southwest were the regions most impacted by child poverty.
The reasons for this are multitude and complex, but things like slashed social safety nets, decreased incomes, decreased income stability, and single-parent (and therefor, single income) homes have all contributed to the rise in child poverty.
According to the KIDS COUNT report, 1 in 3 children from Mississippi live in poverty. The state with the best overall child well-being, based on indicators including economic standing, education and health, was Minnesota.
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Wolf today announced a decline in the commonwealth’s uninsured rate from 6.4 percent in 2015 to 5.6 percent in 2016, the lowest on record. Before the Affordable Care Act was implemented and Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid, Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate was more than 10 percent.
“This reduction shows that our steps to expand Medicaid and stabilize our individual market are working in Pennsylvania,” said Governor Wolf. “Thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Insurance Department and Department of Human Services to advocate on behalf of all Pennsylvanians, and despite the conversation around health reform at the federal level, we remain committed to furthering the progress made by the Affordable Care Act. We will continue to work to ensure that Pennsylvanians have access to quality coverage at an affordable price and advocate in a bipartisan way to fix Obamacare at the federal level.”
Pennsylvania’s 5.6 percent uninsured rate was released as part of a national study on health insurance coverage for 2016 based on current population reports issued by the United States Census Bureau earlier this week. The decrease continues the downward trend Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate has been on since 2013, making 2016’s 5.6 percent the commonwealth’s lowest ever uninsured rate, down from more than 10 percent when the Affordable Care Act was passed. The national uninsured rate fell 0.3 percent to 8.8 percent in 2016.
“The Affordable Care Act has helped more than 1.1 million Pennsylvanians access health coverage,” Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said. “Governor Wolf’s adoption of Medicaid expansion has helped more than 711,000 people receive coverage since January 2015, and 426,000 have purchased coverage on the individual market at Healthcare.gov.”
“When Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid in Pennsylvania, hundreds of thousands of uninsured were then able to obtain access to health care coverage,” said Acting Secretary for Human Services Teresa Miller. “Before expansion, most of these individuals either couldn’t afford coverage or didn’t have access to it. Additionally, the ACA provided the commonwealth’s former foster kids with health care coverage until age 26. This decline in the uninsured rate is truly one to celebrate.”
While being kind might sound easy, it is complex. If kindness was simple, then everyone would be kind and no one would experience meanness and bullying. Imagine a world where kindness is the norm. Is it possible to create homes, schools, and communities where kindness is the norm? The answer is, yes – but to make this imagined world a reality, we need to teach, model, and reward kindness.
Being kind means that you think about the needs and concerns of others. Kind people volunteer, help others, and think about bigger issues that affect their communities. Compassionate thinking and generous actions demonstrate kindness.
Unfortunately, many schools respond to negative behaviors such as bullying with punishment, which is thought to reduce or eliminate such behaviors. After years of research on “zero-tolerance” to end bullying and violence, we know that these punishment-based approaches do not work. Given this knowledge, it makes better sense to focus on teaching and modeling pro-social behavior, like teaching kindness.
Key Elements in Teaching Kindness
Although kindness programs can vary, most share these approaches:
Ways to Teach Kindness
The Impact of Teaching Kindness
When elementary students performed three acts of kindness per week they significantly increased their acceptance of peers compared to kids who did not perform three kind acts of kindness. Students who are taught kindness are more empathic, more socially aware and connected, and they receive higher grades too. Be kind—it is free and the payback is good for all!
Additional Online Resources
Originally from Lexington, Dr. Wozniak moved to Louisville to attend Bellarmine University where she also played soccer. She received her medical education and residency training at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Together with her colleagues, she started River City Psychiatry in 2009 upon completion of residency training. Dr. Wozniak is a Board Certified adult psychiatrist who commonly treats people with adult ADHD, PTSD, mood disorders such as bipolar and depression, and anxiety disorders. She also has a special interest in treating athletes with mental illness and is a member of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry. She collaborates with patients and other providers/therapists when necessary, to create a customized treatment plan for each individual.
Part of eliminating the stigma surrounding the disease of substance abuse disorder includes fostering the same attitudes granted toward others with chronic conditions (such as heart disease, asthma, or cancer). As Mary Pollock, MA, LPC, notes in her article Chasing the Dragon (Part Two) , “Addiction is a brain disease. Many people have difficulty separating the person from the disease. . . what we see are the behaviors that develop over time which support the addiction. These behaviors are what cause relationship issues within a family. . .The addicted individual becomes unable to respond to his environment in a healthy, adaptive manner as the addiction takes over the brain.”
For those with substance abuse disorders or their families and friends, finding a genuinely helpful response can be difficult. Training in true compassion can provide a path and a framework for decision-making. But true compassion is not well understood.
As Deniz Ahmadinia, Psy.D explains in Practicing Mindfulness Through Kindness and Compassion , “We hold all these misconceptions about what it is to be compassionate and kind, including that it makes us weak, that it’s a form of self-pity, that it’s indulgent, and that it gets in the way of success. Our competitive, tech-driven, busy culture instead believes that being hard on one’s self is the key to achieving goals.” A strong will and drive to succeed is necessary in recovery as in life, but being harsh and unrealistically cold with ourselves and others is counter-productive.
Ahmadinia continues by pointing out: “The reality is that the great majority of us struggle with a judgmental voice when we don’t live up to our own expectations, and it is this voice that judges others as well.” She suggests this can lead “to persistent negative emotions, doubt, feelings of worthlessness, shame and feeling disconnected from people around us.” These negative emotions and a lack of connection to the people around us can be triggers or barriers for those with a substance abuse disorder or other mental health disorder.
The concept of learning and practicing compassion and self-compassion is starting to gain a foothold in the literature about other mental and behavioral health issues as the fight against stigma grows. It is time to bring this powerful and useful tool and skill set into our discussions of recovery from substance abuse disorder as well, not as something only offered by others to someone on the path, but as something the person engaging in recovery can learn, practice, and use.
Life is messy. Waiting for the perfect time to start living wholeheartedly with a focus on wellness and recovery doesn’t work. No perfect time exists. Now is the time to consider recovery as a path to the life you actually want to live. Everybody starts where they are, no matter how messy or disorganized it is, and they move forward.
Living with the profound discomfort and agitation caused by giving up a substance or a behavior adopted to try to manage life’s difficulties is not easy, but recovery does happen. People are successful, even if relapse is a part of their path, just as relapse is often a part of many chronic diseases. Many paths to recovery exist, so a person can tailor their recovery path to their own needs and circumstances.
Practicing compassion for self and others can be a powerful tool for those who have chosen a path of recovery and for those of their loved ones and friends who are walking this path with them. As Pema Chodron notes in Comfortable with Uncertainty , “We cultivate compassion to soften our hearts and also to become more honest and forgiving about when and how we shut down” toward ourselves or toward others (73). She also draws attention to the fact that “we learn as much about doing this from our failures as we do from our success. In cultivating compassion, we draw from the wholeness of our experience – our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror.” (73)
The need for total honesty, for seeing ourselves and our behaviors clearly and with perspective, is an essential part of cultivating both compassion for others and self-compassion. Compassion does not excuse behaviors, but instead comprehends the difficulty of change. Compassion includes setting proper boundaries for others and for ourselves, to promote positive interactions and discourage negative interactions.
The practice of compassion encourages people to recognize difficult emotions, and learn to sit with them, live with them as a normal part of life, and not try to escape them. It does not mean repressing negative emotions, but accepting them and dealing with them without taking actions that might injure ourselves or others. According to Pema Chodron, “It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” (73) Learning about compassion illustrates both our need for compassion and for the connections to others and to the larger world that is an essential component of a recovery plan.
Fostering true, clear-sighted compassion for oneself – that accepts flaws and works with them rather than trying to escape the past or push them down – is not necessarily easy to achieve. Serious thought, and yes, actual practice are necessary to train your mind toward compassion and away from harsh judgment or negative self-talk. In Learning Compassion for Yourself , Rita Chin discusses her battle with panic disorder and what it took for her to really consider her self-talk when dealing with panic.
Chin remembers ”thinking about those forty million Americans I’d read about. Where were they? Were they sitting on their front steps clutching their knees to their chests like me? Did they also feel alone? Hopeless? Defective? . . . I wondered how many people I’d unknowingly passed who were also struggling under the weight of a fear that seemed as vast as the universe itself. And I wondered what I would do if I met such a person. Unlike the elusive answers to the many questions I’d asked about my own panic, this answer was easy: I would reach out my hand. I would say, ‘You’re not alone. And you’re stronger than you feel in this moment.’”
Discovering what you might say to someone else, even a stranger, who came to you struggling with the same things you are, is often a first step. Many of us are kinder to strangers in our thoughts and ideas than we are to ourselves or loved ones. This is often because a stranger has not disappointed us in any way. We can react with compassion, find out how a compassionate response feels to us, by considering what we would say to someone who doesn’t have an emotional history with us. Then we can work on granting ourselves and our loved ones a measure of this same compassion.
Deniz Ahmadinia’s article Practicing Mindfulness Through Kindness and Compassion also outlines a way to literally practice being compassionate by extending your compassion outward from someone you care about or a pet, to yourself, and to others, slowly, a step a time, simply observing your reactions without judgment as you practice. It takes time and resolve to begin making the changes involved in a recovery journey. Practicing compassion as a skill to be developed is one way you can work to make the path kinder to yourself and to others.
September is National Recovery Month, a time to celebrate those in recovery or on the path to it, and to encourage those who are beginning a recovery journey. As noted in What is Substance Abuse Treatment: A Booklet for Families , substance abuse disorders affect families and friends as well as the person with the disorder. If you or someone you care for needs help managing self-care, or if you are someone who is interested in pursuing a recovery journey, please contact Community Counseling Center of Mercer County to make and appoint by calling 724-981-7141 or toll free at 866-853-7758 and TTY: at 724-981-4327. For more information about Community Counseling Center of Mercer County, visit our website or our Facebook page .
Community Counseling Center regularly provides speakers for community groups, employers, schools and other audiences interested in behavioral health topics. For more information or to schedule a speaker, contact Mary Pollock, outpatient administrator, at (724) 981-7141, ext. 143, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ahmadinia, Deniz, Psy.D. (2016, Nov. 2) Practicing Mindfulness through Kindness and Compassion. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2016/Practicing-Mindfulness-through-Kindness-and-Compas
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2014) [PDF] What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families . HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4126. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/What-Is-Substance-Abuse-Treatment-A-Booklet-for-Families/SMA14-4126
Chin, Rita. (2015, Aug 14) Learning Compassion for Yourself . Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2015/Learning-Compassion-for-Yourself
Chodron, Pema. (2003) Comfortable with Uncertainty : 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion . Boston: Shambala.
Pollock Mary, MA, LPC, CCDP, NCC, MAC, DCORT. (2017) Chasing the dragon (Part 2) Retrieved from: http://www.cccmer.org/chasing-the-dragon-part-2nonic�
To help an addict recover from addiction, Mark Britton believes you have to listen to the addict. He’s speaking from experience.
“Not only do I work in recovery, but I’m active in recovery,” he explained. He works as a certified peer specialist in the field, while celebrating nine years clean and sober himself.
What does he believe loved ones should hear from addicts?
“We do not plan to fail. I do not wake up every morning and say, ‘I’m going to fail,” he said. “I do however fail to plan.”
Gateway Rehab's mission is to help all affected by addictive
diseases to become healthy in body, mind and spirit. A key word in our
mission is the word "all." We're not just about the recovering
addict or alcoholic, but everyone involved in the processes of recovery:
friends, family, therapists, counselors, the public in general, and others
touched in some way by addiction.
To help connect those affected by addiction, Gateway Rehab is excited to announce the launching of The Roads to Recovery , a blog that will provide hope, inspiration, motivation, education and other insights about the world of addiction.
Our first blog entry focuses on the lifelong process of addiction. Future posts will help inspire and motivate those in recovery, as well as educate and inform others about addiction treatment and further aspects of the addiction industry. Additionally, there will be frequent posts featuring our founder, Dr. Abraham Twerski.We invite you to connect with The Roads to Recovery by visiting www.gatewayrehab.org/blog . Our hope is that we provide an impactful account of the many roads to recovery.
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Preparing to go to college involves many things to consider, including living arrangements, transportation, finances, managing class loads, and managing healthcare using the resources at your chosen college. As a college student, it’s important to understand that good mental health practices can help you maintain your equilibrium during a period of significant growth and change.
The Stamp Out Stigma campaign was launched in 2014 as
multiple agencies recognized that stigma about mental health kept people from
accessing care. Contrary to common belief, 90 percent of those who seek help
for mental health issues are able to greatly reduce their symptoms. Stigma
about mental health care for those with or without a specific diagnosis is
usually based in misunderstanding and myth. Those false beliefs about mental
illness can cause significant problems, including a lack of understanding or
support, discrimination, reluctance to get treatment early, or a loss of hope.
Other significant facts at the core of the Stamp Out Stigma campaign include:
An estimated 26 percent of adults have a diagnosable
ages 9 to 17 have a diagnosable mental or addictive illness.
One in two of us will have a mental health issue during our lifetime.Less than one-third of adults with a mental health issue will get help.
Stamp Out Stigma seeks to “reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance use disorders by talking about them.” Conversations are designed to:
Recognize when you or your loved ones need help. Recognize the signs.
Recognize when someone isn’t getting the help they need.
Recognize when stigma is creating a barrier to care.
Recognize the high prevalence of mental illness.
others to help them
learn there is help and hope.