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Managing Anger and Stress For A More Well-Balanced Life

by Dr. Ari Novick February 14, 2015

Anger and stress often go hand-in-hand. They are both normal experiences that we all have but it’s the way that we approach the feelings that determines if we are handling them in a healthy or unhealthy way. Each of us interprets events in a different light. For example, one person might look at someone else who cuts in front of them in line at the supermarket as being inconsiderate and hostile towards them, while another person might just think that the person didn’t realize there was a line. The first person might respond by getting angry and commenting in a hostile tone therefore causing a scene while the 2 nd person might politely and calmly explain to the line-cutter what he or she has done. While it’s unrealistic to think that we can prevent ourselves from ever getting angry and stressed, we can manage how we respond.

To start to tackle anger and stress management issues for overall improved quality of life, it’s helpful to take a close look at what is causing the negative emotions. Is it always the same thing? For example, are you constantly showing up late to work or activities because of too much traffic? Is a difficult friend, family member or boss creating unnecessary drama? Or, is your child ignoring your direction? Once you have identified the causes, you can move forward by taking a group anger management class or one online to help you get a better understanding of how to make a significant life change.

The next step is to take action and apply these new skills to everyday life. This starts with understanding that your knee-jerk reactions to situations are only making things worse. Specifically, the people around you are walking on eggshells, are afraid of you, don’t want to be around you, all of which is contributing to a breakdown in relationships, and trouble at work. You can and should control your impulses and instead react to an upsetting situation or person by taking a deep breath and removing yourself from the area. This means going for a walk in the fresh air, exiting to the break room to make some tea or to the kitchen to have a healthy snack until you have calmed down. If time allows, share your feelings and worries with a counselor or friend for some feedback and just to get it off your chest before taking any direct action.

When you are ready to reenter the stressful or anger provoking discussion express yourself in a calm, respectful and constructive way. As you know by now, yelling, getting red in the face and/or violent increases the negativity and rarely resolves the conflict. Realize that you can’t control everything, so the best you can do is to listen or observe the other side of the story closely, explain where you are coming from and then work at finding a satisfactory middle ground. In the example of the line-cutter, you would explain that you have politely been waiting behind the person in front of you for 10 minutes and would appreciate if they would be so polite as to take their place at the back of the line.

If you are feeling particularly stressed out or angry, it helps to also take a look at how well you are taking care of yourself. If you’ve been drinking a lot of caffeine, not getting enough sleep, and eating unhealthy foods, you will inevitably become less tolerant and more anxious. Work on changing these negative habits and replacing them with a little exercise, more water and going to bed at least 30 minutes earlier each night. Utilizing a combination of research based anger and stress reduction skills will help you to reduce tension and create a more well balanced life.

About the author

Ari Novick, Ph.D. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Anger Management Professional and trainer.

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