Stress isn’t bad. It’s a normal physical and psychological reaction to, mostly, negative situations and, sometimes, even positive events in life. For example, relocating to a new city will seem like a good change of pace, offering new opportunities, but may quickly become too much for someone who isn’t prepared.
Although a natural reaction, stress often disrupts life in harmful ways. What happens when you’re not able to deal with stress? How is stress connected to anger? And what can you do to manage irritability and anger when stressors become too much?
Stress and Mental Health: Can Stress Cause Constant Anger?
One indicator to too much stress is the outburst of angry feelings.
You’re not just feeling angry, you also find yourself irritable. If you’re more self-aware than most people, you may start to wonder why you’re always in a bad mood. You know it’s happening because you have physical signs: the blood pressure spikes, your heart races and your breathing is shallow.
Anger and irritability are signs of high levels of stress. It’s the kind of stress that no longer motivates you; it’s the kind that harms your mental health without proper management. The easiest way to take control of these strong emotions is to strengthen your coping mechanism against stressful situations and to reduce stressors in your life.
But if eliminating some of the stressors isn’t doable because of your job or situation in life, you must learn ways to release anger.
Anger Management: What are 3 Strategies for Managing Anger?
Anger that takes over has a way of complicating your life. So it’s important to get ahead of it. But what can you do? How do you calm down anger?
Sometimes it’s healthy to express some displeasure. It’s a way to be assertive without escalating an already explosive situation. When a something goes awry at work or at home, don’t say the first thing that pops into your head or act on an immediate response.
Delay is a good approach if you want to express anger because it allows you to reframe your thinking and, in some way, take control of what happens next.
- Stop and listen before reacting
- Think carefully about your reply
- Change your “demand” into a “request”
In some cases, suppressing angry thoughts can control the emotion. You may even be able to rechannel negative thoughts into healthy ways. But suppression can take its toll when you practice it too often. Your mind and body can only take so much negative feelings and energy.
When you deny the expression of your anger or hold back your temper long enough, depression, hypertension and heart disease could develop.
So use this approach to relieve anger sparingly.
Instead of suppression, try calming techniques.
- Start with relaxing breaths: 4-7-8 breathing. Find a quiet place. Sit in a chair with your back well supported. And inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. It’s a breathing pattern that controls or reduces your anger response.
- Get active. If you have a bike, use it even if you only have less than an hour. If not, take a walk outside and get some fresh air.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation, or Jacobson’s technique. It’s ideal for work-related stress, getting you to tense up and slowly relax every part of your body.
Identify Anger Triggers
Another way to manage stress and the resulting anger is to recognize what makes your blood boil or have an aggressive reaction to certain situations. This kind of self-awareness takes time to practice because a strong emotion like anger tends to obliterate self
But some common triggers do happen for most people. You may have experienced some that have elicited negative thoughts or reaction.
- Unfair treatment at work (e.g., being passed over for a promotion you may have deserved) or at home (e.g., getting blamed for something you didn’t do)
- People taking advantage of you
- Traffic jam or getting a ticket when you weren’t speeding
- Incompetence at work
- Waiting for other people
- People disappointing you with broken promises
- Arrogant or rude people
How do you track your reactions to these situations? Use an “anger diary.” Write the situations that provoked you, what you said or did, how you felt during and after, and even, how everyone else reacted to your reaction.
What Can I Take for Stress and Anger?
Some cases of anger may not be eased or managed through natural means, from relaxation techniques to physical activities. Can you control anger through medication?
When your anger becomes uncontrollable with erratic behavior and angry outbursts, a therapist may prescribe a treatment program with prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Herbal extracts like valerian and Primal Calm may promote calm feelings and reduce stress levels. A therapist may also recommend you take chamomile or passionflower tea, both of which reduce anxiety and regulate mood.
Mental professionals will also prescribe antidepressants, and they’ll mostly be selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). What SSRIs do is block the absorption of serotonin, letting the naturally occurring chemical stay in the brain and alleviate symptoms, like anger.
Some examples are:
- Sertralin (e.g., Zoloft)
- Fluoxetine (e.g., Prozac, Pexeva)
- Escitalopram (e.g., Lexapro)
- Paroxetin (e.g., Paxil)
- Citalopram (e.g., Celexa)
Although medication could help you manage outbursts, rage and anxiety, some side effects may worsen your condition. Some notable side effects include decreased appetite, sexual dysfunction and constipation.
For anger medicines that may not be a good match for a person, the “cure” may be worse than “sickness.” So talk to a mental health professional who is well informed about your state. And come back to them if the prescribed medicine prevents you from going about your daily life.
When Do You Seek Help from a Mental Health Professional?
Everyone will lose their temper at one point. The difference between someone who’s following a typical fight or flight response and someone who has anger issues is the resulting harm. When your uncontrolled anger has affected not just your day-to-day but the lives of others around you, it may be time to seek professional help.
Choose a professional who has proven experience and expertise in treating anger; some sessions may be done in a group or one-on-one. And during your sessions, be honest about what you’re going through because every bit of truthful information, however hurtful or damaging it may be to you, will help your therapist create a program that will manage your anger.