Stress Management For Dummies
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Studies show that venting and expressing anger increase stress, contrary to popular belief. So here are six positive things to do to work out anger and reduce your stress. Think of this part as preventive medicine. If you make minor changes in the way you think when put in potentially stressful situations, you can actually reduce and perhaps eliminate stress.

Rehearse a positive release of anger

Often, you may become angry because you’re caught off guard, and your gut reacts before your head has a chance to evaluate the situation a little more sensibly. One effective strategy for combating this irrational response is to anticipate which situations and circumstances may trigger your anger and plan ahead.

Before the situation occurs, rehearse what you’ll say and how you want to feel. You can always identify upcoming situations in which you know that your chances of becoming angry are high.

These situations may be just before you’re about to discuss a point of disagreement or contention with someone, and you know that the person will be less than receptive or downright opposed to what you have to say. You may be dealing with a client, a coworker, a relative, or the sales clerk at the local shopping mall.

When you can, anticipate the situation, imagine it occurring, and then imagine what you’ll say and how you’ll act. Your goal, of course, is not to go ballistic or become excessively angry. Choose the words you think will work best.

Also, imagine that the other person is getting angry and is close to getting you angry in turn. Use your coping self-talk. Imagine telling yourself to calm down, to not go for the bait, and to keep your anger level low. Rehearse this situation several times in your head. Chances are, when the situation does materialize, you’ll be much better prepared to handle it.

Do an emotional replay after an anger outburst

Okay, for whatever reason, you were unable to rehearse or get ready for that situation. You were caught off-guard, and the situation resulted in an undesirable show of anger. All is still not lost. A useful technique in reducing future anger is something called emotional replay. Here’s how it works:

  1. At some point after you’ve had an experience or encounter where you felt and maybe expressed excessive anger (this could be an hour later, or maybe even days later), replay that situation in your mind.

    This time, instead of seeing yourself becoming angry, imagine yourself responding in a calmer, more controlled manner. You’re imagining the same situation, but your response is the one you want it to be.

  2. Try to get in touch with the kind of thinking and interpretation that may generate this less-angry state. Use your coping self-talk.

    If you can, jot down some of these thoughts and beliefs and see if you can use them earlier in the anger sequence — like before you get angry. Examples of this kind of adaptive thinking include “Is this really worth getting so angry about?” Your coping self-talk can help you see things differently.

Become an actor and control your anger

Although your anger control may not be the world’s best, you probably know one or two people whom you admire for their calmness and coolness under fire. The next time you’re confronted with a potentially anger-provoking situation, try to see the situation through their eyes. Imagine how they would look at this. What would they say to themselves? How would they react?

By immersing yourself in their character, at least briefly, you can try to look at situations as they would. You role-play with a script, but instead of using your own, you choose the script of an anger role model, someone you feel has something to teach.

Be discreet and manage your anger

Managing your anger doesn’t mean letting it all out in some hostile manner, but nor does it mean keeping it in and letting it aggravate you.

Being assertive and discreet means packaging and expressing your anger in a way that doesn’t send your physiological system into orbit and doesn’t result in you throttling someone — or finding yourself being throttled. The fact that you’re angry doesn’t mean you have to say your piece in that moment of emotional heat.

Most often, you’re better off if you wait. Choose a time when your anger is reduced and the other person is in a better mood.

Breathe your anger away

When you’re angry, your body is probably running in high gear. Your heart rate and blood pressure are up, and just about all the other measures of physiological distress are elevated, as well. You can speed up the process of dissipating your anger by adding some physical strategies to your psychological bag of tricks. Relaxing your body is a good place to start.

And because you can always find time to breathe, a deep-breathing exercise can be an effective way of lowering your body’s level of physiological arousal and can make reducing your anger an easier job.

The next time you find yourself getting angry, follow these steps:

  1. Take a deep breath, inhaling through your nostrils.

    Hold that breath for three or four seconds.

  2. Slowly exhale through your slightly parted lips.

    Let a wave of relaxation spread from the top of your head, down your body, to your toes.

  3. Wait a little bit and then take another deep breath.

    Repeat the process.

You’ll soon feel more physically relaxed and less angry.

Look for the funny part

Humor can be an excellent tool to help you diffuse your anger. If you can find something about the anger-triggering situation to make you laugh or at least bring a smile to your face, you can be assured that your anger will be lessened and possibly even eliminated.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Allen Elkin, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the director of The Stress Management & Counseling Center in New York City. Nationally known for his expertise in the field of stress and emotional disorders, he has appeared frequently on Today, Good Morning America, and Good Day New York.

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