June 6, 2022

Get the better of your anger

Stress can easily become anger. But you can practice self-care to head it off.

There’s a growing list of global and national stresses these days: COVID-19, war in Ukraine, political and social unrest, climate change, and the most recent gun violence. Understandably, there’s an increase in individuals’ stressed reactions, too.

“People are operating at a high stress level due to many factors. Some people are isolating and becoming depressed. Others are growing edgier, which leads to being more reactive,” said Matthew Blakeley, MFT, director of Behavioral Health at the Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Center. “When your stress level is that much higher, it is easier to reach the breaking point and be so reactive that you even surprise yourself. That is an indication that you have too much stress and need coping skills in order to learn how to de-escalate.”

Blakeley recommends these measures for managing anger.

Anticipate what sets you off

When you know what provokes your anger — heavy traffic, for example — directly work on mitigating your emotional response. Develop a plan that includes specific steps to prepare yourself before and after, such as doing breathing exercises, calling a loved one to get emotional support, or using the wellness app Calm, which is available to Kaiser Permanente members at no cost. 

Identify your support system

These days, everyone needs a consistent support system, whether their stress is resulting in anger or not. That consistent system may include family, friends, a spiritual advisor, or anyone you can contact in an emergency or lean on regularly. This group of people can help with preventive coping as we all weather this difficult time.

Practice self-care

Now more than ever, we need to engage in self-care for good sleep, nutrition, and exercise.

If you witness an argument or other stressful event, take yourself out of the situation and focus on your own health. Ground yourself and acknowledge that the incident was not related to you, check that you are okay, and, if you need to, talk to someone for support, do a guided meditation, or try progressive muscle relaxation to bring down your stress. 

Plan pleasant activities

During stressful times, make sure you are prescribing for yourself fun times that allow your mind to relax so you can get some emotional respite. Examples include getting a massage or going on a walk. Positive, proactive plans may reduce the stress that can spark anger.   

Seek professional help

There are many uncertainties lately that create worry and concern. When your stress level is high, it is easy to reach the breaking point. If you find that you can’t control or predict your anger, it is hurting you or others, or it is starting to interfere with your life in a negative way, reach out for professional help. Kaiser Permanente members will find resources and contact information at kp.org/mentalhealth.