Managing Anger During Uncertainty

LAU Clinical Psychologist Wissam Kheir addresses common concerns on anger management and psychological uncertainty.

By Raissa Batakji

In light of distressing events, LAU clinical psychologists took the initiative to organize four sessions that addressed timely common concerns that faculty, staff and students across the LAU community are facing, and dedicated two in-person sessions for LAU students to learn directly from the experts.

Across the sessions, the clinical psychologists underscored that there is no “right” or “wrong” when facing emotional stress amid uncertainty. Typically, people initially react with a “fight, flight or freeze” response, which is not unhealthy initially, but which could lead to burnout if left unchecked.

In this interview, LAU Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor of Practice Wissam Kheir proposes ways to manage psychological uncertainty. He also provides practical advice on managing anger, from acknowledging the triggers and engaging in social support, to using handy tools such as breathing exercises and cognitive restructuring.

How should we manage uncertainty?

An important strategy for managing psychological uncertainty is to first seek knowledge related to the uncertain situation. Educating yourself about what is happening around you can help reduce anxiety and provide a sense of control. It is important, however, to ensure that the information is reliable and accurate, as misinformation can further contribute to uncertainty.

Second, setting realistic expectations is essential when dealing with psychological uncertainty. It is important to understand that not all uncertainties can be resolved immediately or completely. By focusing on what can be controlled, you can reduce feeling overwhelmed and increase your adaptability to uncertain situations. You can set realistic expectations by determining them early on. Keep in mind that your expectations must be tangible and easy to define and implement.

Psychological uncertainty is an inevitable part of life, but it does not have to be overwhelming. By implementing those strategies and techniques you can effectively manage psychological uncertainty and navigate through uncertain situations with greater confidence. Remember that this is an ongoing process, and with practice, it becomes easier to cope and adapt to the ever-changing circumstances of life.

“I do not want to be resilient – I want to be angry.” How do I deal with my anger?

Anger is a powerful emotion that can be overwhelming. While many people aim to cultivate resilience in the face of adversity, some may find it more beneficial to embrace and understand their anger instead.

The first step is to acknowledge the presence of anger. Understand that it is a natural emotion and suppressing it can be detrimental to your wellbeing. By recognizing and accepting your anger, you can begin to explore ways of addressing and managing it.

Start by identifying your triggers, as this can help you gain insight into your emotional responses. Reflect on situations, people, or circumstances that consistently evoke anger. By understanding your triggers, you can make informed choices about how to navigate these situations to prevent or minimize anger in the future.

Then you need to identify a trusted form of social support. Engaging in open and honest communication with trusted individuals can help you release emotions and gain perspective. However, it is important that you communicate assertively, without aggression or hostility. Journaling and physical activities, like exercise, can also serve as effective outlets for releasing anger.

If anger becomes persistent, uncontrollable or interferes with your daily life, seek professional help from a therapist or a counselor. They can provide support and share specific techniques to help you manage anger effectively. Remember, seeking support from trusted individuals and professionals is essential in navigating anger and its associated challenges.

While resilience is often emphasized as a desirable trait, it is equally important to acknowledge and deal with anger. By recognizing, understanding, and effectively managing anger, you can prevent it from becoming destructive and channel it toward productive and positive outcomes.

What are practical tools to help manage anger amid uncertainty?

Learning about management techniques can help you navigate stress and anger in a healthy manner. Some of these are:

  • Deep-breathing exercises: Take deep, slow breaths to calm your body and mind during moments of anger. Inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds and exhale for another four seconds, then repeat for a total duration of 10 minutes.
  • Cognitive restructuring: Challenge negative thoughts and reframe them in a more constructive and balanced light.
  • Time-out: Take a break from a triggering situation to give yourself time to cool down and reflect. Staying away from negative triggers such as bad news on social media is key.
  • Counting or visualizing: Counting or visualizing calming images can redirect your focus and reduce anger.

You can also apply the Grounding Technique for Anger Management and Stress Relief, following these steps:

  1. Find Your Space: Begin by finding a quiet and comfortable place to sit, ensuring that you will not be easily distracted.
  2. Breathe Mindfully: Take slow, deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of each inhale and exhale. This helps anchor you in the present moment.
  3. Observe Your Surroundings: Look around and identify five things you can see. Notice colors, shapes, and textures to engage your visual senses.
  4. Listen Actively: Close your eyes and identify four sounds in your environment. Pay attention to both distant and nearby sounds, immersing yourself in the auditory experience.
  5. Touch and Feel: Focus on your sense of touch. Identify three physical sensations, such as the texture of your clothing or the support of the chair beneath you.
  6. Engage Your Senses: Use your sense of smell to identify two distinct scents in your surroundings.
  7. Taste Mindfully: If possible, taste something and savor the flavors. Identify one thing you can taste mindfully.
  8. Grounding Affirmations: Repeat a positive affirmation to yourself, reinforcing a sense of safety and capability.
  9. Counting Exercise: Engage your mind by counting backward from 50 by threes or any sequence you prefer. This helps redirect your focus.
  10. Body Scan: Conduct a quick body scan, starting from your toes and moving upward. Notice areas of tension or relaxation.
  11. Movement: Introduce gentle movements, like wiggling fingers or stretching, to bring awareness back to your body.
  12. Reflect: Take a moment to reflect on the grounding exercise. Acknowledge any changes in how you feel and embrace the present moment.