There have been incidents appearing in articles and police logs in recent weeks that would suggest that we’re not handling our stress very well. In fact, indications are that we need to take a chill pill.
Recently, Alcohol.org, a leading provider of addiction treatment resources, conducted a survey of about 3,000 Americans to determine levels of anger across nationwide in 2020. According to the survey, those who are angriest in the country live in Delaware, where residents admit to getting angry a significant 12 times a week, or almost twice a day. The least angry citizens have been those living in Hawaii, with people only getting riled up twice a week, the survey found.
According to a release on the survey, Vermonters polled admitted to getting angry four times per week. The national average was six times a week.
Why? The survey indicates that spending more time at home due to social distancing can leave some people short-fused and particularly irritable in certain situations. For many Americans, the coronavirus pandemic brought with it a wave of negative emotions, such as fear, stress, anger and frustration at these unprecedented circumstances.
But anything could be a trigger: a slow WiFi connection, excess workload or any number of minor annoyances can set off anger. Throw national politics and the divisiveness pervasive in the country right now and you have plenty of fuel for our collective fire.
For Alcohol.org, the implication is huge: A rise in anger and anxiety levels has affected the majority of us, with 88% admitting to feeling angrier since the start of the pandemic. And some of those angry people (68%) have turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, this can exacerbate the issue; 65% of people who did this admitted it had the opposite effect and only made things worse, the survey notes.
As Jill Ebstein, the editor of the “At My Pace” series of books, wrote this week, “It is easy to overstate the obvious. Our world has endured mental and physical anguish that takes us back to some of our darkest days, including wars, terrorism, hazards of nature, and personal failure. COVID feels like a villainous twist on a theme, maybe setting a new standard for fear, isolation, and a pervasive sense of loss. We wonder whether there is a future that we want to be part of.”
Ebstein sees moments of optimism, but not without some self-help. Here is her three-part approach to chilling out:
— Quell growing pessimism. The Pew Research Center reports worldwide pessimism is at a high. Four areas were probed — inequality, politics, employment and education — all returning pessimistic outlooks. For example, 65% of respondents generally felt pessimistic about reducing the gap between the rich and poor. Be positive.
— Empower ourselves through small acts of kindness. We know it is more fun to give than be given to, but both are good.
— Visualize positive outcomes. We need to nurture our kernels of hope, and visualization helps. Seeing possibilities motivates.
Easy, right? Yes. Chill out, and give it a try. You’ll feel better.
This editorial first appeared in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and Rutland Herald on Jan. 6.