Your Voice: From rage rooms to journaling, how to deal with anger; managing climate anxiety (long letters)

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  • One teen shares her experience dealing with stress and anger and talks to a psychotherapist about the best ways to cope with tough emotions
  • Another student writes about the hopelessness she feels when constantly reading about alarming environmental issues
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What do you do when you’re feeling angry? Photo: Shutterstock

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Anger management for teens is all the rage

Holly Wei, Kent School (US)

Holly Wei spoke with a psychotherapist to find out whether rage rooms are actually useful for dealing with anger. Photo: Handout

During your teenage years, a lot is going on. As a 15-year-old, I know this well. I often experience family, social and academic pressure, not to mention grappling with the uncertainty of the future.

In hopes of alleviating my stress, I visited a rage room – a controlled space to break things – and talked to a psychotherapist about whether these activities are actually helpful.

At the rage room, I paid S$41 (HK$228) for a 35-minute session and was given empty beer bottles and a hammer to smash them with.

But the experience felt artificial – it seemed more useful for posting on Instagram than unleashing anger and stress. Breaking things in the rage room did not make my stress go away. Once I left, I knew that the problems provoking my anger were still there.

Ex-con in Finland opens ‘rage room’ where people can vent their anger

According to the World Health Organization, youth violence is categorised as a public health problem. A study of 40 developing countries showed an average of 42 per cent of boys and 37 per cent of girls were exposed to bullying and physical violence.

Katie Leung, a psychotherapist at Lifespan Counselling in Hong Kong, says a reason for all the anger and stress teens face is connected to the brain.

“At this particular age in your life, because your brain is still underdeveloped ... it doesn’t have all the neuropathways for you to exercise the logical side and the emotional side of your brain,” Leung explains. “Youth have a hard time understanding emotions.”

Teens are often misunderstood and invalidated, and it contributes to anger. She says, “If you imagine not being able to be heard or understood, [being] misinterpreted, invalidated, all the time, it builds up a lot of big feelings, and often the strongest ... is anger.”

With pressure from school, social life and family, it’s no wonder that teens are so stressed. Photo: Shutterstock

This does not always manifest in physical violence. “Typically, the youth I encounter aren’t physically violent, they are verbally violent, emotionally violent,” she says, adding that youth who are physically violent usually come from underprivileged communities or hang out with negative influences.

While rage rooms are good for releasing some anger, Leung does not believe they are beneficial unless you know what you are angry about.

“Underlying all the anger could be a lot of sadness and hurt and betrayal and rejection,” she explains.

How to reduce stress through journaling

The psychotherapist says a crucial part of coping with anger is finding a “caring person who is willing to listen”. That could be a parent, teacher, friend or counsellor. Talking about anger or journaling provides an outlet to express misunderstood feelings so that they do not lead to violence. There are many guided journals out there, even ones specific to anger.

Other anger management tools include going into nature or running. Research shows that being in nature reduces the production of stress hormones and has soothing effects.

This experience taught me a lot about managing anger, and I have started journaling to alleviate stress. My biggest takeaway is that anger management is not linear – there is no singular path to solving the issues we face. Though my trip to the rage room did not alleviate my anger, it proved fruitful in understanding my emotions, and talking to Leung further validated what I was feeling, a crucial part of dealing with anger.

Emotional exhaustion and its effect on your mental health

Watch out for climate anxiety

Grace Lam, Diocesan Girls’ School

Grace Lam discusses how she deals with eco-anxiety. Photo: Handout

I’ve always enjoyed surrounding myself with nature. Its beauty is infinite and eternal. The red of the rising sun, the clear chirps of the plumed birds, the fruity smell of blooming flowers, the gentle sounds of moving water, and the fading glow of sparkling stars.

Can you imagine a world without the fascinating beauty of nature? Can you bear to see turtles and other marine life suffocating in oceans filled with plastic? Can you accept that people are suffering from unprecedented flooding and other natural disasters because of global warming? These are all caused by humanity’s selfish acts.

It’s hard not to feel anguished by these haunting scenes, and you might be following climate accounts on Instagram to stay informed. But is it actually healthy to be plugged in 24/7? It can actually harm your mental and physical health.

‘Ignoring our cries’: young climate change activists are exhausted

Climate anxiety, or eco-anxiety, is distress related to worrying about the effects of climate change. The American Psychological Association describes it as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. Little is known about its short-term and long-term effects.

Sometimes, I feel hopeless and anxious because of the alarming environmental issues I read about. But while I was doing research on the topic of recycling, I came across the idea that tackling the climate crisis requires collective action, and I came to understand that I cannot solve it alone.

It is always good to be reminded that climate change cannot be solved by any one individual, so we should make sure to focus on what we can control. In our everyday lives, we can take satisfaction in small actions.

Climate anxiety is a chronic fear of environmental doom. Photo: Shutterstock

We must push governments, corporations and other people in power to make changes, too. Whatever you do, remember not to put too much pressure on yourself because you are not carrying the burden alone.

When I start feeling hopeless about the state of the world, I take a step back and take a break by baking biscuits, editing a video, going for a walk or reading a new book.

We can’t address the climate emergency or help the Earth if we are too burnt out by climate anxiety.

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