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Stress is, essentially, simply a word to describe the full spectrum of physical and emotional reactions we experience when we encounter threats. Stress triggers that old fight or flight response, and in part because some people tend to flee while others fight, your body under stress varies from that of others.
You know that being really stressed can lead to physical symptoms like fatigue, a loss of appetite, and a headache, as well as cognitive ones like constant worry and restlessness. On the behavioral and emotional level, though, stress causes some people to withdraw from social situations as much as possible, while leading others to lash out in anger and irritation.
Are you one of those folks who responds to stress by flying into a rage? That's bad news. Not only is feeling angry all the time simply unpleasant, you're also going to be hurting and angering others, directly adding even more stressors to your life. You can't control your emotions, but you can change the way you handle them.
Take A Deep Breath...
Stress-related anger is likely to be a structural problem in your life, and liberating yourself from it will take more than a few quick-and-easy techniques. If you are feeling angry and irritated right now, however, you'll need something that will instantly de-escalate the situation so you can start looking beyond the present.
Is your co-worker treating you unfairly, did your spouse forget about the school play, or did the dry cleaner mess up your favorite jacket? Try this:
- Take a minute to engage in deep abdominal breathing, grab a glass of water, or go to the bathroom. Commit to thinking before acting. Consciously tell yourself that you are feeling really angry right now.
- Acknowledge that reacting angrily will only escalate the situation, but don't refrain from voicing your displeasure either. Calmly stating that you are feeling quite angry right now tends to go over better than yelling and cussing at people.
- Commit to listening to the other side carefully and allowing them to make amends before coming to negative conclusions, and avoid taking other people's actions personally — they usually aren't meant that way.
Sometimes, we're angry without knowing why. In that situation, make calming yourself down a priority and refrain from engaging in interactions that could get unpleasant until you have done so whenever you can. When you're feeling grumpy and irritated for no particular reason and yet have no choice but to talk to others, acknowledge that you're somewhat of a walking time bomb and make efforts to express yourself as diplomatically as possible. "There's some space for improvement here" is always going lead to more productive results than "that really sucks".