When you’re trying to figure out how to deal with stress and anger, it can feel like you’re doing battle on two fronts. You get stressed because you’re angry, and the anger makes you more stressed. But like many other stress related issues, it is easier and more effective to deal with one problem at a time. The first problem to pick? I’d go with the anger.
The term stress is a relatively modern invention. But the words for anger are as old as time. “Cain rose up in anger,” it says in Genesis. And from the very beginnings of humanity, anger has shown it cuts both ways. The ancient Chinese said, “The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns you more than him.” We call that burning stress.
What causes anger? One common way of looking at it considers anger a result of disappointed expectations…expectations arising from our egos. “You” didn’t fulfill your obligation to “me,” or let me down, or hurt me, or offended me, or failed to notice me, or short changed me, or cut me off in traffic, or said or did a myriad of possible things, and now “I” am angry at “you.”
The doubly annoying thing about anger, is that “you”, the victim of my anger in this scenario, may be totally unaware of my anger, or if you learn about it you may slough it off because I must either be really touchy, a hot head, or a nut. Or you may not even care. I, on the other hand, may still be seething weeks after whatever slight you did, my head hurts, my stomach is on fire, and my heart pounds if I know I have to see you again. And I am probably doubly offended if you failed to feel remorse.
How do we short circuit the stress and anger? At its source. Let’s reverse our story and say that you are the angry one. That makes you the source. Now you may think that the situation is caused by whoever did the thing that made you angry, but the anger is your reaction, and yours alone. Their action may have been hurtful, stupid, or careless, or it may have nothing to do with you at all. They act, or fail to act, and they’re done. Until you react in anger, and things start up again.
If you retaliate in your anger, and allow your anger to turn into violence, you start a whole new cycle, which can last through time. All you have to do is look around the world to see people suffering from severe stress and hardship, from some violent cycle of anger from a thousand years before.
Anger can also come from fear or grief. If you’ve ever been furious at your child for some reckless behavior, your anger is how you demonstrate your heightened fear. You’re mad because seeing him in danger just scares you to death.
The death of a spouse or loved one brings a special anger from feelings of abandonment, which are a natural part of grief. Both these kinds of anger stem from your fear of loss, and the pain that it would bring you. This kind of stress you feel can make you feel numb, but it eventually passes.
How to deal with stress and anger? Whatever the cause, get the anger out. Running, pounding a punching bag, or a hitting your sofa with a Nerf bat all work to get adrenaline out of your system. Then you immediately need to breathe deeply and use relaxation techniques to calm yourself down.
While it isn’t good to “bottle up” anger, ranting and yelling only escalates hard feelings. Find some non-violent way to release your pain, then you can address the problem calmly at a more appropriate time.
Make a conscious decision to fail to react. Anger may feel like an auto response, but you can train yourself not to respond that way. If you have unmet expectations, stop expecting what will never happen. A lot of anger in relationships comes when our partners fail to meet our expectations, and we are unable to accept them as they are.
This may take a lot of practice, so give yourself a chance to start small. And yet, don’t be surprised if you find you can make a change in a flash, and people that make you angry change right along with you.
Practice, practice, practice. Great pianists never stop doing scales. Practicing meditation and forgiveness, throughout your life, will save you from a great deal of stress and anger in your future. Today is a great day to start.
Do you have an anger issue you would like to share? Please let us know in the comments. We love hearing from you. And please share with your social media friends. We could all use a little less anger in the world.