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How Covid and the Election Could Be Influencing Your Anger

The insidious way stress can exacerbate anger.

There is a lot of anger out there right now. We see it on the news, on social media, and... just about everywhere we look. Both the election and the Covid-19 pandemic are undoubtedly leading to anger directly for many. People get mad over politics for relatively obvious reasons (and some not so obvious ones). And the pandemic has led to extraordinary loss for so many people. It's not at all surprising that you might be finding yourself more angry than usual.

But these stressors are likely having a much more insidious effect on your anger as well. That's because when we get mad, it is because of an interplay between three different elements: a triggering event, our interpretation of that event, and our mood at the time of the event.

This last piece, your mood at the time of the event, is what we call the pre-anger state and it's where election and pandemic stress are likely exacerbating your daily frustrations. When you are tired, hungry, physically uncomfortable, too hot or too cold, stressed, sad, anxious, already angry, or in an otherwise negative mood, those mild frustrations we experience become major frustrations.

Most of us are living with more stress these days, and that stress affects us in all sorts of ways. You may be sleeping worse, eating less healthily, getting less exercise, or consuming more alcohol. On top of all that, you may just be a little on edge, even when you aren't thinking about these stressors. That anxiety leads to difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and unexpected bouts of sadness. When you put all these things together, it is a recipe for the type of emotional state that leads to excessive anger when provoked—even if you're just provoked a little bit.

What can you do about it? A few things. First, acknowledge it. Just being aware that there is an undercurrent of stress and anxiety can go a long way to helping you feel less angry. Second, be kind to yourself. You are in an extraordinarily difficult situation and it is ok that you are not at your best. Finally, when you can, take care of yourself. Try to prioritize healthy eating, exercise, and relaxation whenever possible. Some little tweaks to your daily life may help you feel a little more in control at a time when so much feels out of control.