Productivity Hacks for Managing Adult Temper Tantrums and Emotional Turmoil

Adult temper tantrums soft skills

By Jenna & Loralyn

Adult temper tantrums already existed pre-pandemic, but they’ve become all too common in this quasi-pandemic period that we’re in now. And they’re on the rise. Just look at the number of incidents on airplanes: in 2021, nearly five thousand passengers have been labeled as unruly, subdued, removed from the plane, and/or fined. More than 85% of flight attendants say that they’ve had to manage an unruly passenger over the past year.

These emotional and uncontrolled outbursts are typically attributed to toddlers who melt down when they don’t have their way rather than behaviors we expect from adults. We’ve seen tantrums go viral on social media with the silent hissy fit, the boiling rage, homophobic or racist rants, or the extended whine. Society has even labeled adult tantrums as “Karen moments.”

When we dig into what’s behind the tantrums, a few things become clear. Some people use the tactic to manipulate others into doing whatever it is that the angry person is yelling about. In these cases, it’s likely a behavior that goes beyond anger and enters the realm of emotional abuse. In other cases, mental health is a clear factor. People are at their breaking points with pent-up stress related to COVID and the lingering uncertainty – and anxiety – that the virus and vaccination have imposed on society.

We all have experienced exhaustion, burnout, stress, and impatience not only within our jobs but in our personal lives, as well. The job search has been particularly challenging for many, with unemployment rates skyrocketing and job opportunities dwindling. We’re not immune to these emotions. Instead, we need to learn to manage them. The stress of this pandemic intensified and triggered temper tantrums in adults. Those who used to complain about “the little things” have had episodic outbursts of pure rage. But can we blame them when the whole world shifted overnight and didn’t offer enough time to navigate new experiences and feelings?

Pre-Pandemic Norms vs. Pandemic Realities

Pre-pandemic, we were working in an office at our 9-5 jobs where we were trained to develop our soft skills – the ability to communicate, collaborate, problem-solve, and manage our emotions.  We were trained to be social and to interact with each other with compassion and professionalism. When the pandemic hit, it shifted every aspect of our lives essentially overnight. Our rites of passage, our work-life balance, societal “norms,” and how we exist as humans were turned upside-down.

Let us admit that before this pandemic happened, we already struggled to balance our time with life and work. Figuring out how to balance both when we were working and living in the same space, often co-occupied by our spouse, children, and a “pandemic puppy” that’s hyper because outdoor activities have been restricted – it has clearly proven to be too much for many people. The stress of the pandemic has taken a toll on our productivity levels, leading to burnout, fatigue, and reduced motivation. Celebrities Zayn Malik, Gigi Hadid, and her mother, Yolanda, are in the tabloids over Zayn’s alleged temper tantrum where he reportedly physically struck Yolanda.

Looking at the increasing incidence of public tantrums, it’s now apparent that many of us have not figured out how to balance the scales during these trying times. Sure, we gained something by foregoing the dreaded commute, but, like everything else, there are pros and cons.

Pros: We became more bonded and had the chance to spend more time with our families.

Cons: Working from home feels like our brains were re-wired to interact only with the people we live with. With the anxiety and fear of becoming infected by COVID, we became uncomfortable venturing out of our homes, and we forgot how to interact in public spaces because all our norms shifted.

Challenges of Returning to the Workplace

Now that the corporate industry is shifting once again and increasingly embracing a hybrid work model because people are getting vaccinated, people are getting comfortable with the idea of going back to their offices. This is creating more opportunities for us to interact with our colleagues. What few people are talking about is how everyone has changed during the pandemic and how that is going to add complexity to our co-existence in the workplace.

Who we thought we were and what we value has shifted for many people. It’s likely that there are going to be several surprises and at least a portion of us will be unsure of how to manage our pre-existing relationships because others may have changed, too. Office mates that bordered on friends may now be cool and distant. This has the potential to make things difficult for us to adapt to and deal with at first, especially in public and shared setting which takes getting re-accustomed to after cocooning in our homes for so long. We’ve forgotten how to deal with different personalities, peculiarities, and micro-aggression in person: shutting our cameras off during a zoom call won’t work in real life.

5 Tips on How to Cope and Understand Adult Temper Tantrums Better

There is no question that temper tantrums in adults are rising. Most of us believe that we are more prone to outbursts because we’ve reached the maximum of what we can handle, deal with, and tolerate. Most of us lose our cool and self-control when we feel threatened and no longer capable of controlling situations that we could previously manage.

Listed below are 5 tips to remember on how you can better understand the occurrence of temper tantrum in adults and how you can cope when it arises in yourself or in others around you.

  1. Breathe and calm yourself.

It is evident that when you are feeling upset, or experiencing rage or anxiety, taking three deep breaths will help you to calm down. In a situation where a colleague is throwing a temper tantrum, do not judge them. Instead, have the compassion to ask what the matter is, or offer some help if needed. Communication is always the key. However, if the person who is having a temper tantrum begins throwing things, it is better to wait for them to calm down and secure yourself to avoid getting hurt.

  1. Learn where this temper tantrum is coming from and how often it occurs.

Be mindful. This involves self-work. Only you can identify why you are having temper tantrums and what triggers them. Be honest with yourself. Acknowledging and embracing what you are feeling can help you assess and understand what you are going through. It won’t be easy to admit them at first, but it is a way to understand yourself more, to avoid or minimize their occurrence, and for other people to attend to your needs and effectively comfort you. Seeking help from coaching professionals is also a great way to deal with it. If you are having more than two tantrums per week month after month, seek help.

  1. Set realistic and healthy boundaries.

After figuring out the triggers or causes of your temper tantrums, the next step is to set your boundaries, state what you can tolerate and what you cannot, and let your colleagues know about these boundaries. Communication is the key. Be keen and respectful of the boundaries of others. Being self-aware helps to avoid crossing boundaries, minimizes chaos, and reduces the potential for misunderstandings that may potentially arise at work.

  1. Be empathetic.

Being empathetic is one of the most important social skills that we must learn. Be more sensitive to the feelings of others. We all need to strive to become more compassionate, slower to speak, and better prepared to truly listen.

  1. Be kinder to yourself and others.

We are still in this pandemic; some are experiencing things much worse than you are. Others are barely holding it together but trying to appear publicly like everything is fine. Many people are just getting by, passing their time until it’s over. Everyone has different struggles and different abilities plus resources to work through their challenges.  We all have our burdens and baggage to carry. We can choose to be kinder to each other and to ourselves – or we can choose not to be. Note that in certain situations wherein you cannot compose and handle your temper tantrum or a colleague’s temper tantrums, it’s okay to ask for help.

Final Words

Dealing with our temper tantrums and other people’s temper tantrums speaks to our proficiency in soft skills like emotional intelligence, professionalism, resilience, adaptability, and leadership. Being stuck in this pandemic and lockdown helped us to realize a lot of things. This time made us unlearn unhealthy habits, toxic traits, and unnecessary feelings. We may use this opportunity to connect deeper with our values, improve our communication skills, and strengthen our emotional intelligence. Investing in our personal and professional development will also help us manage for the long term.

This pandemic has been hard for all of us to carry, deal with, and live with each day. Why not make the world a better place by helping one another survive this pandemic? A smile, a helping hand, and common courtesy are not much to ask. Let us do it hand in hand, and always remember that being kind costs nothing but it goes a long way. Use this time to self-reflect and to develop your soft skills and leadership skills so that the next time an adult temper tantrum starts bubbling inside you, think about why it’s happening and what work you need to do on yourself to get through it. Taking your rage out on others doesn’t help anyone – everyone, including you – lose.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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