I get it. The day sucked. Clients yelled. Some members of your team were complete assholes. At one point someone actually threw a pen across the treatment room floor. You aren’t getting paid enough for the stress your mind and body are being put through. You are done with all of it. You go home and probably do one of these things:
Vent to family, friends or pets
Reach for a drink, cigarette, marijuana or other substance
Bing on comfort food
Let your emotions out by crying, screaming, hitting or kicking an object
Once it becomes bedtime you immediately start dreading the next day.
AND YOU GO TO BED ANGRY
What’s the first thing you think about in the morning? I promise it’s work.
AND YOU START THE DAY OFF ANGRY
Are you starting to see the cycle? Many psychologists are taught about how thoughts, feelings and behavior can influence in each other. When we dread about work before it even starts it causes our behavior for the day to be toxic. In short, we poison ourselves and don’t even realize we are doing it because we tunnel vision in and blame everyone else.
Thoughts = Feelings = Behavior
I’m guilty of this. Countless times I have gone to bed mad, woken up angry, thought about how terrible the day will be and then had a bad day. I blamed everyone else for the cause of my attitude and could not see the good things that happened. The cute puppy was annoying. The adorable older crunchy cat could not make me smile. The client who thanked me three times I dismissed. I went home ticked off, cracked a beer and fell asleep angry. To no surprise I repeated this behavior over and over and over.
Why Do We Need to Stop Going to Bed Angry?
For starters, it’s taking away your energy. Negativity drains your energy while positivity gives you energy. Going to bed angry and dreading the next day results in lack of sleep. You are causing your health harm. A lack of sleep means a lack of healing, poor immune system and poor thought processes. Your ability to function at work deteriorates resulting in medical mistakes and poor team interactions. You feel angry, exhausted or sad throughout the day. In an effort to make yourself “happy” you reach for quick fixes like foods full of sugar, carbohydrates or nicotine, drugs and alcohol. These all cause our bodies to feel more run down and exhausted.
The other issue is we breathe our negativity and anger onto our friends and family (and even pets) when we get home from work. We need to vent. It’s part of human life, but for some of us we don’t stop the venting. Every day we repeat our anger, hate and frustration to those who will listen. They internalize it and eventually they explode in front of us. While our pets often don’t get angry back, our venting to them results in less fun interaction. We see our behavior manifest in cats who hide more or dogs who lie quietly down waiting for our frustrations to subside.
How Can We Stop the Anger?
Recognition is first step. Realize only you can control your own emotions and only you have the power to go to bed happy. No one can make you happy. Only you can. Once you recognize it, now commit to getting out of the cycle.
Write Down What You are Grateful For
Many studies have shown that the main lack of sleep is due to anxiety. Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the neuroscience of sleep and found that the brain can be relaxed by writing things down. Writing things down turns off the repetitive loops in the brain that replay the things you need to do over and over. Seligman suggests writing two lists:
The things that are troubling you or things you need to do
Three things you are grateful for
This method seeks to tell your brain “I wrote it down so you won’t forget it, now relax.” You then follow up with reshaping your negative thoughts to more positive ones. This simple technique has been studied countless times with all studies proving it works. You will go to bed happier and get better sleep.
Share Your Gratitude
Gratitude is contagious and studies have shown that by sharing something positive it will allow you, the sharer, to retain those positive thoughts for much longer. We can see this throughout social media. If you post something like, “today make a promise to be your best self” and others love, like or leave positive comments you feel even better about your post and are more likely to follow through with it. My cousin is the master of this. She posts about her gratitude of seeing a beautiful rainbow and her countless friends and family write back “beautiful, amazing, thanks for sharing.” In turn this makes her feel good about creating a positive post that others enjoyed so she repeats the behavior. Basically, spread the love and you will get love back.
Keep the Negativity on a Time Limit
If venting does help you commit to venting for only a set time. Most experts suggest no more than 15 minutes because otherwise it becomes repetitive. This allows the receiver of the vent to listen and engage. Set a timer to hold yourself accountable. At the end of 15 minutes now commit to relaxing and getting in a more positive mindset. If all you do is vent for hours, or stop and pick it back up again, you will never get out of that negative cycle. Be sure to let the receiver know you don't need them to fix anything, you just need them to listen and say "that sucks." Too often the receiver tries to fix the issue or gives their opinion which results in more frustration for the person who is venting.
Build in You Time
You time is what makes YOU happy. It’s not necessarily alone time, but can be. It may be time spent playing with the kids, walking the dog, reading a book, enjoying a bubble bath, cooking with your partner or playing a board game. No matter what you time looks like it is time that makes you happy. Every day make an effort to build in you time. You time is not grabbing a beer, mindlessly scrolling through social media while your mind still thinks about work. You time makes you laugh, smile and relax to a point where you truly forget about your negativity. Only you knows what work best for you time.
Commit to Your Health
Eating half a cake at 10:00 pm after downing six beers is going to cause you to get a restless night sleep resulting in a sugar and alcohol hangover in the morning. Exercise, try to eat healthy, keep the alcohol, drug and nicotine to a minimum in the evening. All of those items are temporary fixes. In the moment they feel good and feel like they are taking away your anxiety or anger. The reality is once they wear off, your anger and anxiety comes back even worse. Take care of your health so you can go to bed happy.
I’m not perfect. There are times I go to bed angry, but I now recognize that if I do that I wake up feeling crummy, tired, miserable and dreading the day. I’ve learned that if I can go to bed happier, I have a much better change of waking up and being the unicorn I want to be. 🦄