Psychologists Sydney / Stress / Stress and Life Change

Major life changes often lead to stress, and stress often leads to agitation or angry outbursts. Stress also causes unhappiness and, if left unresolved, can have serious health consequences. In situations of significant life change, counsellors, psychologists and therapists can help you contain your stress and cope with big change.

Life changes & stress: How to manage stress and anger

Have you recently:

changed jobs?

moved out of home?

emigrated to another country?

had a new baby?

moved your parent to a nursing home?

Anytime our life situation changes substantially, we experience a rise in stress. Life changing events can include getting married, welcoming a new child into our lives, changing jobs, losing a job or experiencing financial distress. When stress boils over and translates into angry behaviours, arguing and fighting, it can become threatening to our relationships and even our health. Learning stress and anger management techniques by working with a trained counsellor, psychologist or therapist can ease our reactions to stressful situations and help us to manage and cope with change.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s physical reaction to difficult and challenging situations. We may experience stress as a result of sitting in traffic because we are late for an appointment; we may feel stressed when we have a large and important presentation to complete for work; or we may feel stressed because the children are arguing about what to watch on television and we just want a bit of peace and quiet. Stress is a natural reaction to all of these events.

When we are stressed, the body reacts physically by pumping adrenaline into our blood stream. This increases our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. Suddenly, the ‘fight or flight’ chemical reaction comes into play and our muscles tense, ready for action. Unfortunately, the ‘fight or flight’ reaction often translates into anger and we find often ourselves involved in arguments or yelling at our children or loved ones. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Why do I become angry when I am stressed?

Life events can definitely be stressful, even when those events are generally considered to be positive. For example, everyone acknowledges that events such as the loss of a job, divorce, financial hardship, death of a family member or a major illness are all extremely stressful life experiences. But life experiences which are essentially positive, like getting married or the arrival of a new baby, can also cause people substantial stress.

When we become stressed, our ability to logically and calmly process information and deal with changing circumstances becomes compromised. We have less and less tolerance for change or unexpected challenges and our stress level rises even more.

The physical reaction to stress is very similar to the physical reaction to anger. Anger is a natural emotion and everyone experiences anger from time to time. Anger is, in and of itself, not a bad thing, and in fact, counsellors become concerned when they encounter individuals who claim to never experience anger or upset. However, too much anger is not healthy either.

Why Are major life events stressful?

It seems counter-intuitive that a wonderful event like getting married or having a new child could substantially increase stress to the point where we become uncontrollably angry. However, with major life changes, our regular routine is interrupted and disrupted. New children require attention all hours of the day and night, often resulting in sleep deprivation for new parents and short tempers. Horrified new parents can find themselves glaring in anger at a colicky baby who will not stop crying and has them at their wit’s end.

It is clear that even positive life changes cause extreme stress. For example, when we are planning a wedding, we desperately want everything to be perfect. For women especially, we may have dreamed about the “perfect” wedding since we were a little girl. As an adult, our vision of the perfect wedding is constrained by budgets, family expectations, time parameters and a number of other restrictions. Soon what should be an exciting and joyful experience can turn into a nightmare that makes eloping suddenly seem like an attractive option. Even after the wedding is past, adjusting to a new marriage can be challenging, to say the least. Even for a couple who may have been living together for a time prior to marriage, adjusting to the idea of being “married” and blending two lives, finances and cultures together can be extremely challenging and stressful, and give rise to angry outbursts when we feel we are not being heard or understood. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Of course, not all life changing events are positive ones. Losing a job, going through a divorce or having a major death in the family, can all be extremely stressful. The resulting emotions associated with these events can include depression and grief, fears about financial fall-out, anger, anxiety and of course, stress.

As with all life changes, adjusting to a new way of being can be difficult. We must begin to think and adjust to new responsibilities, new practical challenges and new ways of thinking in order to solve the problems we face as a result of the life event. While these challenges can be stressful and we can find ourselves rising to the challenge, we can also find ourselves becoming short tempered, frequently angry and easily upset.

What is stress tolerance?

Very often, we become angry when we are overly stressed because we feel out of control, as if we have very little influence over the outcome of the events that surround us. Underneath the anger, we are actually upset that whatever is causing the stress is not being easily relieved or addressed.

Furthermore, everyone has a certain level of acceptable stress tolerance. For instance, most of us can cope with being late for work or having the kids call us every 10 minutes to tattle on each other, but add to that being concerned about losing a needed and valued job, or feeling pressured about finances and soon our stress level is soaring through the roof and so is our tendency to get angry. Simply put, once our individual stress threshold is met, we are more likely to become more easily angered at things that might otherwise not bother us at all.

How can working with a counsell help with stress and anger issues?

There are several benefits to working with a professional counsellor, psychologist or therapist to maintain your stress levels at times of great life change. A counsellor can help you untangle the reasons for the major stresses in your life and help you understand why you are reacting the way you are. In addition to helping you understand your circumstances better, they can also teach you stress and anger management tips and techniques that will help you better cope with the changes in your life. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

A professional counsellor will be able to help you place major life events like a new marriage, a new baby, a blended family, or losing a job or spouse into perspective. They will be able to help you work through the emotions that are associated with the stresses in life and the challenges that you face. They may also be able to help you develop a stress and life event plan to help you work toward the future that you desire and want for yourself.

How to seek help for stress management

If you or someone you know is having workplace stress and anger problems, a counsellor, psychologist or therapist may be able to help. They can teach you or your friends about stress management techniques, improve communication skills and uncover the underlying reasons for your agitation. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

If you or someone you know is struggling with these or similar problems and would like to book a consultation with a qualified counsellor, or would like to obtain further advice please contact Associated Counselors & Psychologists Sydney

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