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Learn & Practice

Workplace Wellness: Transforming Anger

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Workplace Wellness we explore how to acknowledge our anger and ways to transform it into compassion.

It’s been over a year and a half that we have all been managing the ups and downs of “working during a pandemic.” Maybe you had a brief moment of relief from this after vaccines became available in the spring – maybe even some hope that you would be able to count on a measure of consistency. Unfortunately, that consistency has vanished as we enter late summer, with some offices abruptly cancelling in-person events or returning to masking.

After this year and a half, it is perfectly normal to have gone through a range of emotions that have their own ups and downs. Lately, your emotions may reflect a growing frustration and anger. Maybe anger at your organization, angry at people who are approaching the pandemic differently than you, or angry at politicians whose decisions can immediately impact your day-to-day life. It’s natural with so much upheaval to have these feelings – but in the long-run, too much anger can be detrimental to your well-being and even affect your interpersonal relationships – especially at work.

This week, we’ll explore ways to reckon with this anger and hopefully, transform it.

  1. Learn to acknowledge your anger. Like most things in the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being, the first step in moving past anger is bringing awareness to it. Set an intention to notice your anger the next time it comes up. Whenever you start to feel angry, pause for a few breaths. Identify that anger is present and notice what it feels like. You can notice how it feels physically (“the back of my neck feels cold,”) or if you have thoughts that arise (“Leadership just won’t listen!”). Instead of trying to resist these feelings, it can help to simply call it out for what it is. You might even say to yourself, “Oh, I’m feeling angry again.” 
  2. Let it out – when and where you feel safe. Bottling up your anger creates long-term, built up resentments that greatly affect your well-being. Now that you know how to sit with, and be aware of, your anger – what do you do with it? As you’ve probably realized – simply ignoring it won’t work. Instead, can you express your anger by writing in a journal, or by sharing how you’ve been feeling with a therapist or close friend; someone who won’t judge but will react in a supportive manner? What you don’t want to do is express your anger “at” someone in the workplace – this can be hurtful and inappropriate.
  3. Transform anger into compassion and kindness. This might seem like a tall order, but with practice, it is possible. Many kindness practices, in fact, involve sending feelings of kindness to those we find difficult. It might feel odd – wishing happiness to people who are causing you distress. But the reality is, you only hurt your own well-being by staying invested in that anger. You may feel completely justified and correct – and yet, you are supposed to have compassion? Whether true or false, it takes a lot of mental and emotional energy to maintain these feelings. Even entertaining the thought of letting go of your anger and pent up frustration is a huge step. Extending kindness to the people who we think deserve it the least is not easy, but it’s well worth the effort.
  4. Take it slow – and reward this work. All of these tips can be a lot of work. But it’s the “training” part of “training your mind” that we so often tout at Healthy Minds Innovations. So give yourself your own dose of kindness and compassion. Even if you just noticed your anger and did nothing else – that’s amazing. It’s a first step to supporting your own well-being and another move to protect yourself from burnout. So celebrate even the smallest of actions – because they add up – and you’re the one who benefits.

It is very easy to get stuck in emotional patterns, especially when we’re facing a challenge. Investigating our emotions and using aspects of connection to transform them helps loosen their hold on us. This 10 minute seated meditation, Deconstructing Inner Experience, can give you a helping hand on this difficult journey from anger and through to the other side.

Learn more about how the Healthy Minds Framework can support your workplace well-being with Healthy Minds @Work or by downloading our free Healthy Minds Program app.

HM@Work Mental Health Naomi Osaka Workplace Wednesdays