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How to Manage Stress and Anger

Anger management and stress management work in similar ways. This is partly because anger and stress have a similar makeup, in that they both have a psychological component. They can both affect us in very negative ways and that is why it is important to understand their relationship. Anger is a basic human emotion that is experienced by all people. Typically triggered by an emotional hurt, anger is usually experienced as an unpleasant feeling that occurs when we think we have been injured, mistreated, opposed in our long-held views, or when we are faced with obstacles that keep us from attaining personal goals. Anger can be constructive or destructive. When well managed, anger or annoyance has very few detrimental health or interpersonal consequences. At its roots, anger is a signal to you that something in your environment isn’t right. It captures your attention and motivates you to take action to correct that wrong thing. How you end up handling the anger signal has very important consequences for your overall health and welfare, however when you express anger, your actions trigger others to become defensive and angry too. Blood pressures rises and stress hormones flow. Violence can ensue. You may develop a reputation as a dangerous ‘loose cannon’ that no one wants to be around.

Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress. Some stresses get you going and they are good for you – without any stress at all many say our lives would be boring and would probably feel pointless. However, when the stresses undermine both our mental and physical health they are bad. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood. These chemicals give people more energy to be angry or stress.

In order to begin managing the negative effects of stress and anger, we need to look at how they affect our lives. Stress can lead to anger and, likewise, anger can lead to stress. Neither is healthy, but we shouldn’t try to eliminate them, instead attempt to control them by learning positive strategies.

Stress can affect both your body and your mind. People under large amounts of stress can become tired, sick, and unable to concentrate or think clearly. Sometimes, they even suffer mental breakdowns. So how can we manage anger and stress?

It’s always a good idea to think before you speak. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Once you’re calm, express your anger…. Simply put, cognitive restructuring means changing the way you think. When you’re angry, you’re thinking can get overly dramatic. When something goes wrong, you might tell yourself, “Everything’s ruined!” With cognitive restructuring, you replace those kinds of thoughts with more reasonable ones. You might tell yourself instead, “This is frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world.”

When you are angry, the LAST thing you need to do is to stay engaged in the situation that is making you mad–all that does is escalate your anger. It is critically important that at this point you do NOT try to deal with the situation that is making you angry. You cannot solve a problem in a fit of anger; it will likely just escalate the situation or create a new layer of problems to deal with. You will need to step away from yourself so that you can calm and collect yourself. Once you’ve calmed down, try to see what really happened. A good way to analyze what happened is to imagine that it happened. Looking at the situation as an outsider might help you see the truth. You might more clearly understand where your anger came from, or you may see that your reaction was way out of proportion. Once you’ve stated the problem, you can then consider options for solving it. You may want to jot down several possible options on paper or talk about options with another family member, friend, or co-worker.

Symptoms of stress can take on many forms. Stress may cause physical complaints, such as tension headaches, back pain, indigestion, or heart palpitations. It may appear as cognitive problems, such as poor concentration and indecisiveness. An emotional symptom of stress includes crying, irritability, and edginess. And stress can also show up as negative behaviors. Coping methods to deal with stress like, turning to food, alcohol or drugs often just turns one set of problems into another that can balloon out of control. It’s better to avoid those unhealthy coping mechanisms from the start and find good ways to keep your stress under control.

These are some ways to reduce stress and anger:

  • When people set goals for themselves, they have a positive sense of commitment, and feel they’re in control.
  • These are activities that trigger the relaxation response, a physiological change that can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones. You can achieve this with activities such as meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.
  • Lie face down on the floor and begin breathing deeply and slowly, with your hands resting under your face. Do this for five minutes.
  • Learn to identify and monitor stressors. Come up with an organized plan for handling stressful situations. Be careful not to overgeneralize negative reactions to things.
  • Keep a list of the large and little hassles in your day versus the major stressful events in your life. This helps you focus on the fact that you’re keeping track of and managing those as well as you can.
  • Learn to just say, “No” occasionally. It won’t hurt other people’s feelings as much as you think and it is simply a method to be more assertive in your own life, to better help you meet your own needs.
  • Exercise releases endorphins that allow feeling happy. Exercise can help you eliminate these feelings and give you the energy to tackle daily tasks.
  • Doing one thing at a time will make you feel better and less stressed. No matter if it is at work, in school or in your private life. This will make it easier to focus and to do a job of higher quality right away. Rather than having to go back several times and polish and rearrange to get the result you want.
  • If you don’t know something; just ask and don’t try to read the other person’s mind. Reading minds is very hard. Misunderstandings will be plentiful if you try to do it. So, communicate instead. You’ll have a lot less unnecessary conflicts, negativity and wasting less of you and the other people’s time.

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