There is an interesting thought about stress and that is that stress is not bad for us. Stress does not mess us up. Our body’s reaction to the stress is the problem. In the time period when ‘humans’ had to be aware of attacks from wild animals the stress was brief and acute.
But in today’s world we do not have to generally contend with lion attacks. Instead of the stress being brief and acute though – the stress we deal with today is more mental and comes from worrying about things. Our bodies are not designed to contend with that continuous, month after month, year after year of destructive overload of stress. It is this kind of stress that produces all sorts of long lasting negative effects. Not the least of which results in ANGER.
We were not built to deal with continuous acute stress – raising our blood pressure, building plaque in our arteries and leading to heart attacks. How can you stress guard your life? While these steps are simple and while there is really no way to completely eliminate stress nor would you really want to do that – you can take some steps to reduce your stress and promote peace in your life.
- Exercise – Walking, running, martial arts, yoga are all simple ways of staying active.
- Diet – A healthy diet with reduced sugar intake and affect your mood and coping ability.
- Sleep – Not enough sleep or having it interrupted at the wrong times can make you feel more stressed and irritable.
- Relaxation / Meditation – Simple deep breathing both when you are feeling stress and just as a practice can help you cope with the daily issues that are facing you.
Managing anger begins with taking care of ourselves and managing stress. Just knowing that we are doing the right things for ourselves puts us on the right path.
No one enjoys being wrong or when they make a mistake. But since we all make mistakes and many times when we are wrong – there is almost always someone around to point them out – getting criticized can be very stressful.
Learning to deal with criticism can be very helpful when it comes to anger management. Many times the hardest criticism to hear is the one that has a little bit of truth to it or one that we fear is a bit true. This can be difficult to face and we may become defensive because a nerve has been hit. Someone may even question our motive for our behavior – and this can really take us off our even keel. In both of these situations if there is any truth to the criticism, it is an opportunity for us to grow, change or modify ourselves – as long as we are able to avoid becoming defensive. If there is no truth to the criticism we need to remember that there is always going to be someone who has an agenda and is ready to criticize not just us but anybody or anything. We need to learn to brush it off and not let it affect us.
Learning to deal with the stress of criticism also includes our ability to consider the source of the criticism. Have you ever noticed that the person who has children who misbehave all the time wants to give parenting advice?, or the guy who is always broke wants to give financial advice? Consider the source, when those kind of people are being critical. It never hurts to hear them out, but to do so and take it personally may become too stressful, resulting in an angry mood.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, take responsibility for the mistakes we make by 1. admit them, 2. apologize, 3. see if there is a way of fixing them – but do not beat yourself up over them. Doing so really takes the stress off. We begin to view our mistakes as learning experiences and we can do better the next time.
There you have three steps to dealing with criticism that comes from the well intentioned, to those with bad motives to criticizing ourselves. Thinking about this ahead of time will protect us from losing control of our anger due to criticism.
Have you ever known a person that has to be in control? In fact they must tell others – especially those close to them – what they need to do all of the time. There are a number of reasons that a person may be a ‘control freak’, but rarely do they see themselves as that controlling person. Unfortunately the need to control others is also a factor in feeling more stressed and ultimately to anger.
As a parent, my personal need to control may be justified with the reasoning ‘that I know what is best for you’, or ‘I am just trying to protect you’. This is reasonable with the youngest of children, but as they get older it becomes a problem if we are not willing to give them choices and a voice in decisions about themselves. It may also be a problem for us as we may feel anger and behave in an angry manner.
Conflict, stress and angry behavior occur when the other party begins to push back. With a child this may happen at a very young age or it may wait longer till their tween years. If it does wait till the tween’s and we as parents have become comfortable and even desire having that control, the push back can get pretty ugly.
If we find ourselves feeling stressed and feeling angry, maybe even raising our voice and behaving in a manner that we know is not setting the right example, think about the following possibilities.
Rather than trying to control every little thing, give the child (young or teen) choices (with some leeway) and consequences for their behavior. That way they can choose to do – not to do – what you want (and experience – or not experience – the consequences). To continue to feel good about yourself, you must be willing to be good with the choices you or they are suggesting and be willing to enforce the consequences.
Consider an example of a teen that is late coming home even though he/she has promised to do so by a certain time. The solution is to set a time with leeway (of possibly 15 minutes) or lose a predetermined privilege that all have agreed to. As the parent you maintain control in a reasonable manner and you have given the choice of compliance or consequence to the child or teen. Think of your own examples of how this concept might work in your family. This practice will reduce the stress you are feeling from not being in complete control.
I want to tell you a story about two people that went on a camping trip. Neither of them were seasoned campers, but it sounded like fun. They got all of their gear together – probably a lot more than they really needed. They packed up the car, and off they went on their adventure. They got to their camp site and set everything up and all was fun, until two days later the rains began. Oh yes, not just the rain – but the wind too. It blew so hard and the rain was coming down sideways.
The two campers were scared as the winds grew stronger, pulling the stakes out of the ground and they were getting wet. They were so miserable. Finally deciding they could take no more they abandoned the site, found a cheap hotel and spent 2 days in the hotel with nothing to do but watch a small black and white TV. No fun activities, no sight seeing, nothing to do. Soon the rain stopped and they went back to the camp site to retrieve their equipment, only to find that it was destroyed. What was not destroyed was missing. They were devastated.
Two people with the same experience. One of the them could not wait to tell their friends how they had survived in the “wilderness” and the other was in a total state of depression. Embarrassed about not seeing the weather ahead, the destruction of the equipment and disappointed about the event. How could one see the trip in a positive fun way and the other on the same trip be totally depressed about the same trip.
Self talk and control of thoughts totally determine our attitude. If we do not be careful about the way we talk to ourselves and careful about not magnifying our beliefs or thoughts, the same may create a lot of stress for us and this could be a trigger for anger.
What is worst about the anger at this level is that we may direct our angry behavior towards those who do not deserve it and we will suffer again when we look back on our actions in that state of anger.
William James once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Reduce stress – reduce feelings of stress that result in anger. Here is another tip in reducing stress. Know what your mission is – what your goal is – where you are wanting to go and why. If someone is having an argument with a friend and your goal is to be able to stay friends, you may want to find a way to make peace with them. You may find a way to compromise, even changing the things that you do that might be annoying to the other person. This may require looking at the situation from the other persons point of view.
It is very easy for all of us to get so tied up with “life” or “day to day” activities that we forget the beg picture. The big picture view though will help us to cope with what is seeming to be stressful. While all of us have different kind of goals – it is important that we do the following:
- Decide what our goals are for any given situation or acquaintance.
- Don’t get locked into any one path. Look at situations with the “what if I tried this” attitude.
- Be open-minded to possibilities to unlock solutions you have not thought of before.
Knowing what you want and deciding how you can reach them, you may find yourself ignoring distractions more and feeling less stressed. A psychologist once said, “When you are waist deep in alligators, it is hard to recall your original reason for wanting to drain the swamp.” When you know your end goal – you may learn to expect to see “alligators” and with the expectation will come less stress.
When an event takes place in your life you no doubt will describe it in either positive or negative terms. Doing so will set the tone for how we feel about the situation and dwelling on the event with the idea of it being the greatest or the worst thing that can happen to us can create a great deal of stress on our minds and bodies.
If you describe an event with words like, “terrible”, “horrible”, or “nightmare”, we generate negative feelings in our body which may actually disable you emotionally. It is much better to focus on what might be done to minimize the effect of the event or as we have suggested previously ask yourself, “What is great about this?” Does this sound like a crazy question when a “disastrous event” just took place?
Think about it for a minute. At first you will say “there is nothing great” – but on thinking about it further you may find something good that could come. Now you are problem solving. How much better to do this than to complain and get worked up, maybe to the point of being short or aggressive with others who really do not deserve the aggression? Most of us can look back on an experience that at the moment looked like the worst thing ever, that 5 years from then we look back on say it turned out well.
I personally like the question, “What is great about this?”, but in addition to that question just using different words will also help to keep the stress levels lower. If you see a problem or event as an inconvenience or a challenge – that is very different than seeing it as the end of the world. Maybe there is an opportunity for growth, or it is a setback – but not a permanent one that cannot be recovered from.
Remember that the feeling of anger occurs when we do not reach a goal or someone does not act or react the way we think that they should have or we wanted them to. The behavior of anger though can be better managed when we ask ourselves the right questions or use words that put us in problem solving mode vs. negative aggressive roles.