Stress and Anger: How Little Things Add Up

In today’s world it seems as if it’s not the large things, the identifiable, big things that lead to eruptions of hostility. It’s the little, tiny things that go on all the time that build up and cause anger.

It’s missing a parking place; it’s the person in the grocery line with eleven items in their basket and they’re only supposed to have ten items. Having the phone ring when you’re trying to concentrate. Or calling up somebody and then you get put on hold and then you get disconnected, and then the computer doesn’t work.

There are so many small things that are going on all the time, which overwhelm you. These are the things that activate or trigger anger, which are called stressors. And then the body does something in relationship to these stressors.

Stress is how your body warns you that you or others are being hurt or threatened, like the warning lights or gauges in your car. The car’s gauges tell you what is working or breaking down with the important parts of the engine. If the oil light comes on and you don’t address it, you can burn out the engine in your car. As soon as the brain perceives a stressor, it pumps itself up on hormones. This surge helps mobilize energy to the muscles, and it also primes several parts of the brain, temporarily improving some types of memory and fine-tuning the senses. However, when this state endures over time, the body breaks down and gets angry.

Anger is a warning from the body that something is threatening occurred and you are ignoring it. In the short-term, anger helps you become aware that something is wrong in your life and opens your eyes to the situation around you. The physical changes in your body, focus your attention and increase your motivation, rather than allowing problems to linger unnoticed. Yet, your sleep and appetite go down, so you lose energy. This loss of self-care, impacts your judgment.

As a result, actions that originate from anger are not always in your best long term interest. However, they carry a particularly powerful sense of certainty and urgency to act in the short term. These acts take the form of blaming, arguing, yelling, attacks, violence; the list goes on.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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