Controlling and Managing Anger for Stress Relief
By Susan Stewart
Sep 28, 2004
Stress is an unavoidable condition of life today. It’s a very natural reaction to situations that may cause us disappointment, hurt, frustration, sadness, confusion, shame or other negative emotions. It can be the result of hurt pride or unreasonable expectations. In some instances, angry emotions are beneficial; if we are being taken advantage of, anger motivates us to take action to correct the situation.
Besides getting our way, we may unconsciously use anger to blame others for our own shortcomings, to justify oppressing others, to boost our own sagging egos, to conceal other feelings, and to handle other emotions. Any situation that frustrates us or causes us to feel stressed out, especially when we think someone else is to blame, is a potential trigger for anger and aggression.
Anger can be an extremely uncomfortable and confusing emotion and everyone has their own way of handling it. Some people have learned to immediately become hostile or aggressive in response to their anger and its related tension. Others have learned to stuff their anger deep inside themselves or to minimize the situation causing the anger.
Some of us have learned not to experience anger. Instead of anger, we more readily experience depression, pain, excessive guilt, and shame. Holding the anger in usually creates stress and stress can raise your blood pressure. It can also raise your heart rate and tie your muscles up in knots.
However, when we make sense of anger and learn ways to constructively manage it, we can experience less stress, a new freedom and increased real control in our lives. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
When you are not feeling angry, learn and practice skills to relax your body – meditation, or maybe imagining yourself in a peaceful place for ten minutes, or tensing and relaxing the muscles around your eyes, your jaw, shoulders, arms, chest, etc.) Then when you do become angry, you will know how to calm yourself down.
Deeply inhale and exhale at least three times when you feel yourself beginning to get angry. Repeat as often as necessary. Inhaling essential oils at this time can be very beneficial and calming.
Learn communications skills so you can discuss your anger and related negative emotions rationally instead of taking negative actions that reflect your anger.
Recognize and replace unrealistic expectations you may have unconsciously set up for yourself and others – the need to be perfect, the need to be “right”, and other expectations you have regarding how you and others “should” be. Try to view your “expectation” as a wish or hope that may or may not be satisfied so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
Try not to take the behavior of others personally. Try not to get angry and immediately get stressed out when you don’t have all the facts. Think of a few alternate reasons for their behavior instead of instantly jumping to conclusions.
Remember that anger that feels “overly intense” may be pushing a personal sensitive “button” – this can take you right back to past experiences of hurt, shame, rejection, or a variety of negative emotions and cause you to over react in the present.
Exercising regularly makes coping with anger, frustration and depression much more effective. Exercise also can counteract some of the negative physical effects of anger, for example, it can lower blood pressure.
Although there are many things we cannot control, we are in charge of how we respond to stress, anger and other negative emotions. Just by being more aware, we can feel more relaxed, competent, and productive by controlling our responses to emotional situations.