What Anxiety and Anger Have in Common

You’re running late, feeling keyed up about not being on time; no one seems to be co-operating and the littlest one is starting to have a meltdown because she can’t find her favourite hat. Before you know it, you are yelling at the kids and yanking the closet door practically off of its hinges.

How did you go from anxious to angry so easily? Simply answered, our bodies set us up for it. When we are anxious, our body’s muscles tense up, our blood pressure rises, our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes more shallow and our attention narrows. The same thing happens when we are angry. Both our anxiety and our anger activate what is called the sympathetic nervous system which gets us ready for action. It becomes very easy when feeling stressed, to simply shift into anger because our bodies are already there.

It is our parasympathetic system that gets us back to a relaxed state. Eventually, whether anxious or angry, built in mechanisms eventually bring us back to calmness (picture driving to work after having dropped off the kids, coffee purchased and music playing). In the midst of feeling stressed, we can help that process along and allow it to get us there sooner by taking some deep breaths.

Focusing on slowing down our breathing pushes the reset button on both our physiological state and our mindset. We are much better served to stop, take some deep breaths and state to ourselves “It’s okay, like every other morning, we’ll get there.” Leaving everyone less rattled and the door still on its hinges 🙂

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@nguyendhn


2 thoughts on “What Anxiety and Anger Have in Common”

  1. Thank you for the explanation, Kristine. Good advice, as always. However, I seem to be in that heightened state of anxiety most of the time. Ready to snap at the smallest of things. Dog trips me up or a driver cuts me off, in any case, I suppose the first thing to do is recognize my action/ reaction. Somehow, I must learn to control my responses. “Breathe” is a start. Thanks again.

    • Yes, sometimes our 0 to 60 response can trip us up and we become irritable very quickly. A deep breath in that moment still can help to slow it down. Making sure you have enough self-care in your day can also help you feel less overwhelmed, and as a result, more patient 🙂


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