Tag Archives: stress

014 – 3 Practical Steps to Gaining Control Over Anger

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Last week in “Anger!!! What Lies Beneath” we discussed the fuel underneath anger.  It seems to be largely connected to fear and its friends: shame, guilt, etc.  This week we continue on our path toward growth and victory.

Out of control anger does not only affect our relationship; but it also physically affects our hearts—and a lot more of our bodies.  So how do we START to deal with problematic anger?

1. The R and E of RESTORE

Recognize and Evaluate:

But there is more to it R and E.  We can learn to detect the sings in our bodies as we start to escalate.  We can learn to identify the thinking patterns that start to lead us down the road toward rage.

(See Episodes 002 RESTORE and 003 Recognize)

2. Physically Prepare: Sleep, Eat and Exercise

Sleep:

What happens when you do not get enough sleep?  For starters: increased depression and moodiness.  Your brain goes through a rest process when you sleep.  While sleeping the electrical and chemical makeup of the brain changes.  This is apparently necessary for proper function while you are awake.  Without proper sleep we are also likely to gain weight, have trouble learning, focusing and remembering.

[CDC Sleep Report; Effects of the Lack of Sleep; Anger and Heart Disease]

A few things about PTSD that can add extra complication to the sleeping problem. 

Hypervigilance (always on guard) can make it difficult to fall asleep.  For some, they are easily awoken by sounds.

Nightmares: These can interfere with sleep on many levels: (a) wake you out of sleep; (b) keep you from falling back to sleep; (c) interfere with the quality of sleep.  Even if it does not wake you out of sleep the thrashing screaming and sweating can interfere with the quality of sleep.

What can I do to get a better night sleep?

  • Exercise – 5 to 6 hours before attempting to sleep.  20 min of intensive activity (Talk with your Doctor before starting an exercise plan) [Exercise and Sleep]
  • Get rid of the electronics/TV watch from the bedroom
  • Exposure to outdoor (bright) light in the morning

Eat:  Ok, we constantly being told how we need to eat a balance and healthy diet.  Well, it is true.  But there is too much to really get into this topic here – although I mention a couple of things that you may find useful in the show.

“But caffeine doesn’t keep me awake.”  I hear this a lot!  Studies show that it does interfere with the quality of sleep.  In other words, even when you sleep it decreases the quality of sleep.  Suggestion: don’t drink caffeine after lunch and only a couple cups of caffeinated coffee or tea in the morning.

[Effects of caffeine on sleep]

3. Practice Tactical Breathing

Say what?  Yes, you can significantly change your body and mind by learning and practicing a breathing technique known as “Tactical Breathing”.

When the body is in the fight-flight response the blood flow decreases to the reasoning center of the brain and increases to the mid-brain focused on preserving your life.  Researchers have developed a breathing technique that has proven useful to people in tactical situations to help them lower their heart rate and help reestablish more control.

It is not difficult but it takes practice.  Like with most skills used during a crisis mode we need to first practice them when we are not in a crisis mode.

Question: What helps you deal with anger?

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How can we successfully deal with angry people?

So, you are not a hot head.  But you have to deal with one or two or three.  Below are some ideas to consider when dealing with outwardly angry people—note: we will have to talk about the quiet angry types in another post.

[Most important: your safety!  If the angry person becomes abusive (or you believe it is heading in that direction) you should remove yourself from the situation and seek appropriate help.  What we are discussing here is anger that does not result in abuse.]

Anger usually comes from some insecurity, fear, guilt, sense of inadequacy, etc.:

Understanding this can help us to NOT internalize the other person’s expression of anger.  When we internalize someone else’s anger we tend to get defensive—at least this is true for me.  When we get defensive we can get side tracked from the real issues at hand.

Expectations: Do you have unrealistic expectations about the reasonableness of the angry person?

It is unreasonable to expect a person in the passion of anger to be completely reasonable.  The biology of anger does not support it.  The more angry the individual the less the reasoning center of the brain can operate.  The blood flow actually decreases to the reasoning center (pre-frontal cortex—the part behind your forehead).  Instead the body/brain puts its resources in to the fight/flight response.

Anger, fear, anxiety and alike all have a similar physiological response.  It is important that this balance be restored before attempting to engage in a reasonable discussion.  Justifying our actions—even if we are in the right—accomplishes nothing in the heat of the moment.

Post-traumatic stress responses can involve anger outbursts.  PTSD is not a means for excusing inappropriate actions.  However, it can be helpful to keep in mind that the stress and anxiety that accompany PTSD can help contribute to a shorter fuse.

Diffuse before Engaging:                 

In the heat of anger (our own or that of another) our goal should be to diffuse the situation before attempting to solve the problem(s) surrounding the event.  Time is an important ingredient in this mix.  People’s bodies need time to work out the rush of hormones that accompanies anger and the fight/flight response.

It may not be helpful to declare an official “time-out”.  However, some kind of separation in time and space should be considered.

It is important that the individuals involved reengage the issues when all have had an opportunity to cool down.  If we are not careful time and space can lead to avoidance and the underlying problems will never get resolved.

Get someone else involved:

I don’t mean that you should drag someone else into the middle of the argument.  Rather, when a relative calm has set in, invite someone to help mediate the discussion.  This person should be perceived by all involved as being relatively neutral.

Addressing their anger issue:

Yelling back, “You have anger issues!” In the middle of their outburst is not likely to be helpful. (I know, I have tried it.)  When all is calm it may be possible to discuss your concern for how they are handling anger.

However, in order to be able to successfully deliver this message, it helps if you actually care.  I have not found many people ready to accept a “critical” message from someone who does not care.  If that is the case, then try and find someone who does care to deliver the message of concern.

This is by no means a complete list of things to help deal with angry people.  What ideas or strategies have helped you deal with angry people? (Please share your thoughts in the comments section.)

Check out the first part of our podcast series on anger: “Anger!!! What Lies Beneath

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Can peace be experienced in the midst of chaos? Part 1 of 2

Hurricane_Isabel_ISS“Just make it go away!”  Many of us can relate to this desire to escape or just get rid of a problem we are facing.  At times circumstances in our lives can seem overwhelming.  It is no wonder why many turn to substances (alcohol/drugs) or unhealthy levels of certain activities (shopping, gambling, eating, etc.), in order to try and cope with their circumstances.

There is no escape.  These things may provide a diversion.  The reality of the problems still remain.  Our attempts to alter the perception of reality do nothing to the real situation.

Is it possible to experience a peace, and the resulting clarity and strength, in the middle of whatever is happening?

YES!  This has been my experience.  And not my experience alone.  Many followers of Jesus Christ report the same experience.  One such follower is Paul, the Apostle.  He wrote in his letter to the Christians at the city of Philippi in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey): “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7 – NRSV)

Sometimes we may confuse the idea of “prayer” with wish making or demands.  St. Paul, in prison for his faith at the time of writing, expresses prayer as “requests”—not demands.  When we use prayer as some magical wish or demand formula we miss the relational aspect God is offering.

God does not sit on high and only have an abstract connection with our suffering.  He entered into our suffering.  Jesus lived a life that included much suffering.  He still enters our suffering every time we call upon Him. 

People, in their freedom, may choose to hurt us.  They may choose to do wrong to others for whom we care.  At times there seems to be no shortage of people choosing to do hurtful acts.  No matter what others choose to do; God will never leave us alone in our distress.

From my perspective I would rather God simply remove the problems, problem people, etc.  However, God most often does not choose to violate our (or other’s) human freedom.  At the same time He will provide all that we need to make it through the difficult environment we create for ourselves or others create that impacts our lives.  His presence, strength, wisdom and peace are available to all who call upon the Name of the Lord.

If all our problems were removed then the peace Paul speaks of would not go “beyond understanding.”  It is understandable to experience peace in the absence of conflict or adversity.  A peace that “goes beyond understanding” is a peace experienced in the middle of turmoil and chaos.

In Part 2 we will consider some examples of experience God’s peace and provision in the midst of our troubles.

Question: Have you ever experience a peace that “goes beyond understanding”?

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What do you do when one thing piles upon another? 3 suggestions…

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Sometimes things happen on top of things that happen on top of other things.  Sound familiar?  If it were not familiar than statements like, “When it rains it pours,” would not be so common.

This has not been an uncommon theme in my experience as a pastor and a coach.  Often the events seem to be unrelated.  Physical illness, loos a job, car breaks down, furnace breaks, dog gets sick, a close friend passes…  You get the picture.  It could be any number of things that pile up one each other—on you.  And if you are already dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress or anxiety…

  1. Double down on what you know works.  This is the time to stand firm.  Take a breath and review all the tools you have already acquired.  What has worked for you in the past: exercise, healthy food choices, meditation, prayer, study, and time with friends, action…?  This is likely different for each of us.  Stand strong in all that you know how to do to deal with adversity.  If that is not enough, learn new strategies to deal with adversity!  The more difficult the circumstance the greater possibility for growth.
  2. Reach out for help!  Humble yourself and let trusted resources know you are struggling.  Let them know how they could help.  Don’t dump your problems on them.  Rather, let them know how they could help you solve or deal with one of the issues.
  3. Consider reaching out to help another person.  (listen to our podcast: “3 Reasons to Reach Out To Help“) When things seem to be snowballing in our lives it can be helpful to take some of the focus off of our circumstances and reach out to help someone else through something difficult in their lives.  This is not to deny the reality of our situation.  Rather, it helps contextualize our situation.  We also seem to receive so much more when we give.

Question:  What do you do that is helpful with everything seems to be happening at the same time?  Or What affect do other life circumstances have on PTSD?

Stressed? How about a cup of tea?

Coffee cupWhen we feel stress we are experiencing the effect of the chemicals in our bodies involved in the stress response.  Cortisol is one of the key chemical hormones involved in our body’s response to stress.  It also plays an important role in the normal function of many systems in our body’s.  The levels normally fluctuate through the day.  When stress occurs our body releases a large amount to aid in the fight/flight response.

Cortisol is an important part of a stress response.  It helps our hearts beet faster, our blood vessels constricting (higher blood pressure), helps reduce inflammation, sugars (energy) to be released by the liver, and many more positive roles.  All this is useful when you need to react to a fight or flight situation.

However, prolonged elevated levels of cortisol can have a negative impact on the body.  We do not always need our blood pressure raised.  It can interfere with our immune system and the function of insulin.  It can also interfere with our ability to recall memories.  Oh, did I mention, it is also credited with weight gain.

We need cortisol.  We may not want to decrease its levels when we need it during a stressful task.  It has an important role in keeping us safe and functioning at our best under difficult circumstances.

Research indicates that our health can benefit by lower (normal) cortisol levels when we are not facing danger.  So, what can we do to help keep healthy, normal, cortisol levels throughout the day and help them return to normal after a stressful situation?

Scientists at University College London (2005) studied drinkers of black tea.  They found that the cortisol levels of those who drank black tea decreased more quickly after a stressful activity then non-tea drinkers.  There levels during the activity was not change.  However, the black tea drinkers had a 47% decrease in cortisol 50 minutes after the activity—as opposed to a 27% decrease in non-tea drinkers.

A cup of black tea just may help us calm down after a stressful day or situation.  I have friends who would agree.

Question: Have you tried tea to help you relax after a stressful situation?  If so, what are your observations?

Additional resources: