Anger & Stress Management
ABOUT STRESS MANAGEMENT
Stress is in our day-to-day life, from simple things such as paying a bill to major stressors such as changing jobs, moving, or going through a divorce. The key to stress management is control – over your life, thoughts, emotions, and problems. Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
TO IDENTIFY SOURCES OF STRESS, LOOK CLOSELY AT YOUR HABITS, ATTITUDE, AND EXCUSES
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
The goal of effective stress management is to feel less under pressure and more in balanced. Healthy strategies include tracking when you feel stressed in a journal to help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Notice patterns, common themes, and write down what may have caused your stress how you felt physically and emotionally, how you acted in response, what you did to make yourself feel better. Exercise, time management, healthy diet, good sleep, and reducing caffeine and alcohol are also positive ways to manage stress. It is also important to remember the four A’s – Avoid, Alter, Adapt & Accept:
- Avoid unnecessary stress and learn how to address situations that do need attention. For example, how to say no, what to pare down from your schedule, and not being out with people who stress you out.
- Alter the situation if you can’t avoid it by expressing your feelings instead of bottling them up, being willing to compromise, and creating a balanced schedule.
- Adapt and change yourself if you can’t change the stressor by adjusting our expectations and attitude with reframing skills (looking at problems in a different way), looking at the bigger picture, adjusting your standards, and practicing gratitude.
- Accept the things you can’t change or avoid such as a death of a loved one, don’t try to control the uncontrollable, look for the upside, learn to forgive, and share your feelings.
A specific example is a stress in the workplace, which is not all controllable but is normal and we are not powerless to help ourselves. With the right tools, we can prevent excessive stress from interfering with your productivity and performance, impacting your physical and emotional health, and affecting your relationships and home life.
COMMON CAUSES OF WORKPLACE STRESS
- Fear of being laid off
- More overtime due to staff cutbacks
- Pressure to perform to meet rising expectations but with no increase in job satisfaction
- Pressure to work at the optimum level (all the time!)
- Lack of control over how you do your work
- Signs and symptoms of excessive workplace stress
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
- Apathy, loss of interest in work
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Stomach problems
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of sex drive
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope
- Cultivate supportive relationships at work and beyond by turning to co-workers for support, lean on your friends and family members, and build new satisfying friendships.
- Make time for regular exercise.
- Make smart food choices.
- Don’t skimp on sleep.
- Improve time management by creating a balanced schedule, leaving earlier in the mornings, planning regular breaks, establishing healthy boundaries, and not over-committing.
- Include task management skills such as prioritizing tasks, breaking projects into small steps, delegating responsibility, and being willing to compromise.
- Break bad habits such as limiting perfectionism, flipping negative thinking, clearing up your act, looking for humor, and not trying to control the uncontrollable.
- Increase productivity by talking to your employer about workplace stressors, clarifying your job description, requesting a transfer, ask for new duties, and taking time off.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. We have the power to understand it and manage it and it can be easy to manage with the right tools and insight. Anger becomes unhealthy when it reaches an extreme end such as rage; it becomes difficult to control and even destructive. Explosive anger can affect your relationships, work, and state of mind.
It’s important to understand what you are trying to communicate and how we want to say it so that we don’t hurt others or ourselves. Often times, anger can be a cover-up for what we are really feeling, such as deep hurt or shame. Anger can also be a symptom of underlying health problems, such as depression, trauma, or chronic stress. Finally, in some families growing up, expressing feelings is not encouraged. That’s why anger management and learning how to express anger is important; the goal is not to suppress it. Learning to control your anger and express it appropriately will help you have better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a more satisfying and healthy life.
IF IT IS MORE THAN ANGER, YOU:
- Have a hard time compromising or understanding how to get your point of view across.
- You have trouble expressing emotions other than anger or pride yourself in being “tough.”
- View different opinions as a personal challenge, for example, getting angry when you’re not right for feeling like your values are being attacked rather than looking at things in a different way.
You can notice anger signs early in your body from:
- Knots in your stomach
- Clenching your hands or jaw
- Feeling clammy or flushed
- Breathing faster
It’s always best to avoid situations that bring out your worst. Other potential triggers and negative patterns in thinking include:
- Overgeneralizing with words such as always, never, and everyone.
- Having a rigid view and obsessing on how things should or must be when things don’t line up with your vision.
- Mind reading and jumping to conclusions about others.
- Collecting straws and reaching the “final straw” moment after looking for little things to get upset about and letting them build, usually while overlooking or blowing past anything positive.
- Blaming someone else when something happens rather than taking responsibility.
Anger management takes time and practice, but some tools to cool down include:
- Focusing on the physical sensations of anger and understanding where you feel it in your body.
- Taking some deep, slow breaths helps counteract rising tension.
- Exercising for release.
- Take advantage of the relaxing power of your sense of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. For example, listening to music or picturing yourself in a favorite place.
- Stretching or massaging areas of tension.
- Counting to ten slowly to let your rational mind focus on catch up with your feelings.
- Giving yourself a reality check with questions such as: How important is it in the grand scheme of things? Is it really worth getting angry about it? Is it worth ruining the rest of my day? Is my response appropriate to the situation? Is there anything I can do about it? Is taking action worth my time?
HEALTHIER WAYS TO EXPRESS YOUR ANGER INCLUDE:
- Pinpoint what you’re really angry about.
- Take five if things get too heated.
- Always fight fair.
- Make the relationship your priority.
- Focus on the present.
- Choose your battles.
- Be willing to forgive.
- Know when to let something go.
Seek help if you still feel like you are not in control of your anger; anger shouldn’t control you. Individual therapy provides a safe place to process real reasons and triggers behind anger; classes and groups can also be very beneficial by hearing other people’s stories and examples; you are not alone.