Healthy ways to get anger and aggression out of my system?
July 21, 2009 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Things have been super-stressful at work. My therapist keeps asking if I have a way to get all this anger and aggression and stress out of my system... and I don't! I usually just rant and get more angry. What are some better ways to get the frustration out?

I'm trying to avoid going full-on into burn-out mode, but the stress at work has been high enough and lasted long enough that my fuse is really short and I come home frustrated and irritable. It's disturbing my sleep because I can't seem to relax. I'm working with people at work to change the things that are causing the problems, but that's going to be a long process, and I'm at the end of my rope now.

Rather than ranting at my partner for hours (which just gets me more worked up), how can I get all this adrenaline out of my system? I'm usually a "sit and stew and rant" sort of gal, and that's really not working for me. I need to figure out a way to let myself be angry and actually get the adrenaline out so I can be tired and get some endorphins and maybe even move on and think about other things.

My therapist says he has another client who has an unfinished basement who throws plates at the wall. I live in a condo and I'm pretty sure the neighbours wouldn't be down with that. I thought of learning to shoot guns and going to a shooting range, but there are none in downtown Toronto, so it wouldn't be an accessible "had a bad day at work" kind of thing. I don't usually play sports, and don't have a gym membership, but would be open to those suggestions. But I would probably be more open to non-sports options, if I could only think of any. Let's be inventive!

And before we diagnose me, yes, I have anxiety and depression (and perfectionism and INTJ-ness and first-child-syndrome, etc), and my psychiatrist is fabulous and my meds are good. I just need to get the anger and frustration out of my system.
posted by heatherann to Human Relations (54 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Inventive? Go run a mile.
posted by heather-b at 5:41 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yoga. Don't need a gym, buy a dvd. You can do it in your living room. Not only does it help the mental stress, but also the tension in your body itself. You do not have to be an athlete to do it either.
posted by maxg94 at 5:45 AM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

Exercise, certainly.

Honestly, though, your job sounds unhealthy. I'll never understand why people put themselves in unhealthy environments for the sake of money. I'd quit.
posted by smorange at 5:46 AM on July 21, 2009

I've been working on a similar problem interestingly. I go to the gym and take out all my frustration on the treadmill/weights etc. If you kickbox etc you can probably punch a sandbag.

Ranting at someone else tends to do very little to help in my experience; it makes things appear more annoying than usual. This approach tends to bring the person at the receiving end as annoyed as you and its fairly useless as most people aren't usually in a position to mitigate your stress.

So I use other people as distractions instead and avoid talking about my day. Both strategies quite work very well for me.

There's lots of philosophy etc out here that helps as well; for eg, attempt to keep the 'big picture' perspective in mind at stressful times and it'll aid your mental sanity quite well.
posted by the_ancient_mariner at 5:50 AM on July 21, 2009

EXERCISE -- 30 minutes to an hour a day. You don't need to join a gym. Get an aerobic step, a yoga mat and freeweights, find some good DVDs, and you're set. I love Sharon Mann's workouts because you can mix and match segments (e.g., step, kickboxing, circuit training, aerobics) for a different half hour-ish workout every day.

I also have anxiety troubles and find that a daily half hour of cardio is incredibly effective. On really bad days, I will add a half hour of yoga.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 5:54 AM on July 21, 2009 [3 favorites]

BDSM or a bit of aggressive sex combined with role playing Being able to control a situation and/or yell, strike (as long as your partner consents of course!) out at those bothering you could help relieve that anger, stress and aggression.

Find a particularly violent videogame that lets you shoot people and blow up things and play it when you get to relieve the stress.

Clean the condo.

Masturbate furiously.
posted by artisticastronaut at 5:57 AM on July 21, 2009

Boxing lessons. Yoga? Not so much.
posted by scratch at 6:01 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, I forgot: No guns. Bad idea.
posted by scratch at 6:01 AM on July 21, 2009

"... I thought of learning to shoot guns and going to a shooting range, but there are none in downtown Toronto, so it wouldn't be an accessible "had a bad day at work" kind of thing. ..."

The Grange Club in Gormley, while not downtown Toronto, is pretty accessible, and caters to new shooters. But if that is not a viable option for you, might I suggest that you look into a precision air rifle or pistol as a means of enjoying target shooting? They are an inexpensive and readily available substitute for actual firearms, and because of their reduced energy, it is possible to get indoor/outdoor target/traps, that let you even set up an indoor "range" in your own home.
posted by paulsc at 6:06 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get one brick, and one hammer. Hit the brick on the ground with the hammer. Take the smallest of the pieces, and hit that. Take the smallest of *those* pieces, and hit that. Repeate until you have one little bit, pounded to dust. Then move back up the chain to the next smallest piece. Pound it into oblivion. Switch hands, keep pounding.

By the time the entire brick is dust, you will be so wore out you'll make the most hard-core stoner look like a speed freak.

(I did this in high school many a time. Kept me from killin' people.)
posted by notsnot at 6:09 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's obvious, but you should consider taking up running. It somehow turns off the mind. Serious hiking might also do it.

I read an interesting article a few days ago about how self-medication is really the only way to deal with the modern world. Self-medication can be drugs (prescription or street), alcohol, or just something like exercise. But the point is that the modern world calls for a response like this. It's not unnatural to feel how you feel, and to have to seek a solution.
posted by humblepigeon at 6:10 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Honestly, though, your job sounds unhealthy. I'll never understand why people put themselves in unhealthy environments for the sake of money. I'd quit.

I do, career development is a huge investment of time, a personal commitment to achieve goals for oneself and potentially in wider socierty, and being frustrated in that because one's management and colleagues makes life unbearable is something that one has to try and negotiate before giving up. This is the career advice equivalent of DTMFA, and is valid only in similarly limited circumstances.
posted by biffa at 6:20 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Honestly, though, your job sounds unhealthy. I'll never understand why people put themselves in unhealthy environments for the sake of money. I'd quit.

Easy to say. Harder to do, particularly in this economy. I have my reasons for staying, and reasons for choosing "fight" rather than "flight".

(Thanks, biffa!)
posted by heatherann at 6:26 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Running, Cycling -- anything that's constant motion.
posted by eriko at 6:26 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Everything above is a good suggestion, especially running, but what about cooking some nice recipes for dinner when you get home? If they're just complicated enough, you get forced into the same mindfulness as when you're exercising, plus you get some tasty food. If you're pissed off at work, you could take a look at TasteSpotting and start daydreaming about what you'll make.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:27 AM on July 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

I don't think you need to "take out your aggression"; that just pumps more adrenaline into your system. I think you need to take your mind off what's bugging you.

Learn to play guitar (or another musical instrument). You'll have to focus on where your fingers are, and that will take your mind off your frustrations. And, you'll get to hear music. And you'll wind up learning guitar.
posted by musofire at 6:35 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to throw a tennis ball against a wall and retrieve it until I was too exhausted to be angry.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:37 AM on July 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

I don't have the cite, but there's research to show that "getting your frustration/anger out" just makes you more angry. Exercise of any kind is an excellent way to take angry or frustrated energy and divert it to something healthy. If you must do something to express your anger, save up old bottles, take them to the recycling bin, and heave them in with gusto.
posted by theora55 at 6:40 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I find 30 minutes on the elliptical or a session of strength training helps a lot. Our YMCA has a trail membership so you could try a day if it's convenient for you, though I don't know much about the Toronto YMCA.
When I can't get to the gym, I dance around my house to really loud music on my iPod. The cheesier (80's pop and leather-pants-wearing hair bands are good) and this is very therapeutic. No links due to being at work, but there's great cheese on YouTube too.
Finally, I go through my bookmarks of funny stuff on the internet (MeFI is obvioucly a great source) and read about Porn in the Woods or the wonderous offerings at Skymall or something.
Good Luck!
posted by pointystick at 6:40 AM on July 21, 2009

Getting out aggression:

Most importantly have some kind of cardio exercise that you do routinely, even walks are good.

Shoot things: if you can't get out to a range, buy an air gun and set up an indoor target if have no back yard.

PK: Any video game that will let you compete against other players works.

Troll - while some people may think this is horribly wrong thing to do - there are tons of fun things you can do while trolling on the various internet forums - yahoo answers, /. and craigslist spring to mind as places to people who take the internet far to seriously.


popping bubbles on the bubble wrapping paper

And if can do anything competitively at an amateur level, get out and do it - it's important.
posted by Drama Penguin at 6:42 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: i'm a lot like you -- job that makes me hate everything AND dealing with anxiety/depression/bipolar issues... so smaller things can make us more amped than usual.

exercise works for me, in part. but i've also been studying the practice of breathing and meditation. my therapist taught me a method that involves 3 steps:

1. soft-belly breathing -- you concentrate on your breath going in and out and make sure that with each breath in your belly expands, and with each breath out, it deflates. (this instantly takes away the two types of stress breathing, which are not breathing at all or breathing really fast and aggressively through the chest)

2. letting whatever is underneath you support you -- this means you let the chair or bed or floor support each part of your body, your muscles don't have to tense up to support your weight

3. repeating a phrase -- his was "this too shall pass" -- but you repeat that over and over as a meditative thing, and each time a different thought comes in your head, you gently kick it out and return to this phrase.

i'm sure there is a more official word for it -- but it is AMAZING what this does -- it almost instantly takes the stress out of whatever is going on. i actually use it at work all the time, because it calms me so quickly (and more effectively than xanax).

so you might look into that, as well... meditation, breathing to relieve stress -- i think you could google it and find more on it, and a better explanation than what i gave...
posted by unlucky.lisp at 6:54 AM on July 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Do you live in a high rise? Run up and down the stairs! Nobody will see you so you can curse freely as you do it.

Have you ever taken a pottery course? I've found that manipulating the clay is very satisfying.
posted by mareli at 6:57 AM on July 21, 2009

you wrote you need to get the adrenalin out of your system, so find something that absolutely kicks your butt. you need to be exhausted beyond belief. consider running, biking, kickboxing classes or bikram yoga. make sure it's challenging as hell. I'd recommend getting a personal running coach who will treat you like a laz-y-boy during the superbowl. the idea is to clear your head and you nothing does that as good as exhaustion.
posted by krautland at 7:00 AM on July 21, 2009

Giving judo or Brazilian jiu-jitsu a shot might help. You (fairly safely) start sparring almost immediately. It'll let you fight out aggression, while also really tiring you out so you can sleep well.
posted by ignignokt at 7:00 AM on July 21, 2009

I like needle felting, a craft I learned from metafilter. It is creative, aggression-relieving, and I have to pay attention to what I am doing or I felt my finger. My other outlet is sports with tackling: rugby and Aussie Rules.
posted by MS_gal at 7:04 AM on July 21, 2009

Nthing the suggestion to exercise, whether it's running, cycling, or the elliptical. If you don't want to join a gym or run outside, why not get a WiiFit?
posted by mogget at 7:09 AM on July 21, 2009

When I was in my first year of law school, whenever I got really angry or frustrated, I would a plastic baseball bat to beat up my furniture. It makes a very satisfying thwacking sound and doesn't leave any lasting damage on couches or other soft items. I called it "working with the bat."

It was very cathartic, but I took it too far one day when I lost 3 hours worth of work due to a Windows ME crash. I must have been beating on that couch for 30 minutes while screaming obscenities.

My neighbors began to avoid me, but I felt a lot better. YMMV.
posted by reenum at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It might be worth you having a dual approach to this.

Firstly, something to burn off the adrenaline going through your system. Boxing, running, throwing object d'art about. Whatever feels good.

Then, once the initial tumult has passed, find something that will wind you back in. Yoga, knitting, sudoku. Whatever feels good.

It's easy to swing either way with anger. You can get to the point where you become anger-holic, where you start feeding the anger instead of just feeling it. But you can also get to the point where you don't feel angry at all, ever. Which is just as scary. It's not "zen", it's just dead. Anger is a powerful emotion, and squashing it down & bottling it up is just as dangerous as feeding that feeling.

There's a tipping point with anger, where it stops being emotional, and becomes intellectual. That is the point at which you focus on your second activity. It might be hard to spot at first, but it gets easier. It's the point at which you're winding yourself up, imagining what you're going to do to the guy who cut you up on the freeway, and enjoying it.

Both parts are essential to a healthy resolution of the mood.
posted by Solomon at 7:24 AM on July 21, 2009 [21 favorites]

Response by poster: Solomon, that's so wise it's almost eponysterical. I hit that "dead, not zen" point about 3 weeks ago, and I'm trying to avoid going back there. I'm definitely feeling that I'm not balancing the feeling vs. feeding anger very well. Definitely something to ponder; thank you.
posted by heatherann at 7:28 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the anger, try to focus on the positive change process, and the people who are willing to work on that with you. Get some mantras, so when you start to feel a rush of frustration/anger, you can say "I'm doing X to deal with Y tomorrow" a few times until the anger dissipates (as you've already noticed, indulging anger causes it to grow--another suggestion: "I don't have to take this home with me. I'm dealing with it at work").

For the adrenaline, a lot of the exercise stuff might be good. I also thought maybe something creative and physical: sculpting in clay, baking bread... something that you can really get your hands into, but also at the end of it, you can say "I made this!" It might be good to do something that takes energy and learning, so that once you start getting involved in the activity, it takes concentration and activates different thought patterns and emotions.
posted by carmen at 7:29 AM on July 21, 2009

Best answer: Carpentry. You get all the emotional release you'd get from banging on a brick with a hammer, but also it's careful work that takes concentration and distracts you from your problems, plus when you're done you can be like "Fuck those bitches at work. I'm better than all them. I made a birdhouse."
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:34 AM on July 21, 2009 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Lego blocks. On the floor. I build a lovely castle-esque thingy, or whatever, which is relaxing and enjoyable. And then I topple it. Deeply satisfying.

And then I do it again. At some point the building becomes more enjoyable than the toppling. That's when I know I'm done.
posted by anitanita at 8:03 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

You need to have an object, like a conch, which when you hold it allows you to vent and rant. But only when you hold this object. When you put it down, the promise is that you let that anger go with it. Here's how it works:

– you come home from work and you grab the conch and you vent internally or to someone else until you've basically run the gamit of things to say (15 minutes tops)
– now you put the conch down and you let those thoughts STAY with the conch
– if you want to have more thoughts and anger etc. you pick the conch back up but you have to ask yourself if it's really worth doing that (what if you're in the kitchen, and the conch is in the living room, is it worth walking all the way there to think about those same things you've been thinking about?)

It may sound silly, but attaching those negative thoughts to an object will ground them instead of having them float around your brain 24 hours a day. Good luck.
posted by fantasticninety at 8:08 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I found hitting golf balls at a driving range gets my aggression out.
posted by sweetkid at 8:11 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think I know what you mean. When I'm feeling that work stress feeling, it's almost always because I'm feeling like the pinball in someone else's machine. I am responsible for some outcome, but I am hampered by something that is out of my control.

Finding something else to project my frustrations on doesn't work for me. As others have said, it just makes me angrier. I suspect that it's because I'm training myself to get satisfaction from the destruction, and then when I can't destroy Bob from accounting, I am still frustrated.

What works for me is to find some activity that is absolutely failure-proof. In the winter, shoveling snow is perfect for that. It is man against nature, and my success is directly proportional to the effort I expend. I focus on getting nice even lines, scraping the walks as clean as possible, even on having a nice pattern of thrown snow at the sides of the walks. If I screw up, it doesn't hurt me because it will melt, and nobody cares but me. And if it snows more, it's just another opportunity for success. And I can revel in the good work that I did last time, which makes it easier to succeed this time.

Other things like that are washing the car, dusting shelves, playing Solitaire, folding laundry, running. Something that burns off the physical/emotional/mental energy without creating more.

My dad enjoyed chopping firewood.

Things that DON'T work for me are classic "hobbies" where it is a constant effort at honing a skill. Like playing a musical instrument. I'm really bad, and can always find something frustrating about my performance.

I suspect it depends on the mental makeup of the person, and what's causing the stress. But I think the universal truth is finding things that burn off the energy without creating any more. (And, making time to do those things. Sadly, you have to find a way to get enough control over your time so that you can focus on your thing at hand without worrying that you are blowing off your other responsibilities.)
posted by gjc at 8:12 AM on July 21, 2009

Kickboxing. I started taking a class recently and had no idea I had so much aggression to vent. Plus I end of laughing at myself or getting into the music, so my mood is improved on all fronts. At the end I'm too tired to rant about anything. And it burns something like 500 calories for 45 minutes.
posted by snowymorninblues at 8:41 AM on July 21, 2009

Extremely vigorous dancing to very loud Bollywood music. Or anything vigorous (scrubbing?) to Bollywood music. It can be angry and happy and triumphant music all at the same time--just shop around a bit. Start by going to iTunes and searching for "Say Na Say Na," "Salamati," and "Mast Kalander."

If you want a more structured group experience, see if a local gym offers Zumba (aerobic Latin dancing) or Bollywood Dancefit.
posted by PatoPata at 8:52 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whenever I'm stressed and angry I've found that watching comedies really helps (or funny Youtube videos, recorded comedian acts, whatever). Often something that would just be mildly amusing on a normal day becomes oddly HILARIOUS when I'm stressed and I start to laugh and laugh until I can't breathe--this is the stress escaping, I think. Sometimes it's a little alarming ("Why is this so funny? I can't stop laughing! AHAHAHAHAHA!"), but it soon passes and I feel all wrung out and a lot better.

Anyways, worth a shot. It'll distract you and up your endorphins, for sure. Maybe try it after you exercise?
posted by castlebravo at 8:52 AM on July 21, 2009

When I was a teenager and about thisclose to killing my little brother, I would instead shut myself in my room, put on headphones, get a song with the angriest lyrics and the loudest drum track I could find, and get a couple pencils and a couple pillows and then blast the song and "play drums" along with it, repeating a few times until I'd calmed down some. And I'd really whale on those pillows, too -- I made the mistake once of just using my hands to beat out the drum track on my own thighs, and was shocked to discover the next day that I'd been "playing drums" so hard I bruised myself pretty badly without even noticing.

(I typically used Phil Collins' "I Don't Care Any More", which I'll grant you is probably fairly tame when it comes to angry-rant music -- but hey, it had a fairly intricate drum track and that was really all I was lookin' for.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2009

One of my favorite askme responses, from dirtynumbangelboy:


Sit down, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. Keep doing this until you're calm. Then start looking at things rationally. Why are you angry? Spider Robinson contends that "Anger is always fear in disguise, always." I think I agree. If you're angry, figure out what's making you angry. From there, figure out what fear is prompting it. And then confront your fear.

aisleofview says much the same. All this 'go yell, go punch, throw something' stuff is not constructive. Quite the opposite, in many cases. Channeling your anger into working out, I think, simply sets you up to associate anger with working out. That doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Training yourself to see anger as a tool to learn something about yourself, and as an impetus for doing something constructive, seems to be a much healthier option, to me.

And, lest you get the wrong idea, this is something I'm striving towards. I get angry and punch things too.

posted by PFL at 9:38 AM on July 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Running, or some type of aerobic exercise. All the latest research points to the multitude of benefits that aerobic exercise has on your physical and emotional health. Kill 2 birds with one stone.
posted by jasondigitized at 10:01 AM on July 21, 2009

Lost of good advice in here. Exercise, exercise, exercise.

One thing that helps with emotional stress is to not set yourself up for it. In other words, "positive self talk". One thing that gets me all worked up is when I go over unpleasant situations in my head, either real or imagined, over and over. You need to identify when you are doing that. Let go of those unpleasant, angry thoughts, that "negative self talk". Focus on positive self talk. You can teach yourself good mental habits.

I used to get really inappropriate and ugly thoughts. This frustrated and scared me. I began to visualize a little squad of policemen in my brain that would come and grab these unpleasant thoughts and get rid of them.

Years later, I just don't get those kinds of thoughts.

It sounds silly, but it works.
posted by Xoebe at 10:01 AM on July 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

A therapist once recommended me to have a temper tantrum on my bed, crying, cursing, kicking, punching pillows and screaming into them. I felt ridiculous doing it, but it works. I was in an excellent mood all that week.
posted by clearlydemon at 10:01 AM on July 21, 2009

Back when I had an impossible schedule, worked for the manager from hell in a job that was high stress already and had my mum in the house yapping and complaining at me when I got home to a crying kid, I'd take a pillow and whack the wall while I was upstairs getting changed into mum in the house uniform. Growing up in a house of door bangers and screamers, I know how scary angry noise can be, so tried something quieter. No time to take off for a run or exercise when there was supper to be made and mum to placate, so wall whacking it was. Worked pretty well, too, esp when accompanied with a 'take that, you bitch' or three. Sometimes you just can't get out to run or exercise or even get 5 minutes to yourself. I'd exercise after the kids were in bed.
posted by x46 at 10:41 AM on July 21, 2009

Music. Especially if you like punk or some other genre with a good bit of anger. Voicing your anger can be as effective as smashing things -- maybe more, and this won't get you fired or on anybody's hate list. Get in your car and turn it up loud and vent for a while.

Something like a Cardio Glide exercises upper and lower body, fairly quietly, in one place, and doesn't take up much room. Pushups and crunches cost nothing, but there is no interaction there, if you dig.

Second whoever said video games. Find one with a satisfying "blast" or "smash."

Phone a friend. For goodness sake don't write emails or blog about will regret it later.
posted by rahnefan at 10:45 AM on July 21, 2009

Buy yourself a pasta mill and make pasta from scratch. The kneading and mixing lets you use strangling and punching motions moving on to strenuous kneading, leaves you fairly pooped out, and then rolling, rolling, rolling through progressively tighter rollers is very "in the zone". It requires that you concentrate enough that you are watching the dough as it goes through, but not so much that it is difficult. At the end of it you have some lovely pasta to eat, and plenty left over to give to friends and (nice) coworkers.

I think I have mentioned before that flying two-line kites is a really good destresser. A little physical activity, running back and forth with the lines etc and then just enough concentration requiredthat you can't think about other things, but just little enough attention required that you can zone out a little. If you are a bit of a hippy it is also really cool to just let the kite sit in the area of strongest pull and feel yourself connected to the wind.

Either of these passtimes can be developed when you come out the other side of the superstress and you can try learning some kite tricks, or kite-cart/surf, or start making more exotic sorts of pasta with flavours, ravioli and so on.

Been where you are, hope you are out of it soon.
posted by Iteki at 10:45 AM on July 21, 2009

Run, with loud house/dance/thumpa-thumpa music, wherever you can. Swimming is also good - you've got to work to move, so the energy transfer out of you/away from you is much more tangible.
posted by mdonley at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2009

posted by ainsley at 5:48 PM on July 21, 2009

A short-term fix when you're in the throes of strong emotions: dip your face in a bowl of ice water for as long as you can stand it. The colder the water, the better. It's like resetting your brain.
posted by granted at 5:59 PM on July 21, 2009

Gardening will do the trick. Digging to prep the beds, weeding, etc will help take care of the nervous energy, and you get to reap the rewards of growing a thing of beauty. Also the garden is quiet and produces results proportionate to effort in most cases. If only work was that way.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:31 PM on July 21, 2009

Don't make it complicated; I too recommend running. Best high in the world and I've certainly had my share of them.

I've been running for more than 25 years. I ain't no athlete but I'm proud of the fact that even though I be turning 50 this year, I can still run 5 miles. I get up about 4 AM to run or workout. It's THAT IMPORTANT.

Why do I run? To relieve stress. More so than to keep fit. Oh yeah, the fitness is good too. I can still ride bikes and play catch with by 9 and 7 year-olds.
posted by qsysopr at 8:11 AM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking about this one since yesterday. I have an idea, but it's a little off the wall, and might get you some strange looks.

I have worked at a LOT of really frustrating and stressful jobs, so I feel you there. Recently my own office has started to be a better place to work, and it's precisely because I put in the work with the higher-ups to get processes in place to make it better, so advice number 1: stay the course, be patient -- it will get better as long as you stick with it.

Advice #2: that said, it can still just be a really shitty place to work sometimes, and I have a strict rule about not bringing work problems home (and not bringing home problems to work). I have a short commute to get it out. So here's the slightly odd part:

In the car, on the way home from work (particularly after a shitty day), I have begun to occasionally just yell "WOOOOOOO!" at the top of my lungs. Not in anger or frustration, but with joy, the way you might yell "Woo!" when you're on a roller coaster. A celebratory "Woo!", if you will, celebrating the fact that this shitty day is now Behind Me.

I don't speed, I don't cut people off, the "Woo!" doesn't distract me from my driving. Hell, sometimes I do it at stop lights. But it's kind of a fun, joyous sound to make, and as odd as it seems, it really does cheer me up. By the time I get home, I have left work behind and am ready for home life.

By the same token, if you can have good days at work, you will not need the release at the end of the day. The place to start is before the work day begins. I have started giving myself a mantra (again, on the way in to work) -- repeating over and over: "This will be a good day. I will remain calm and good-humored. No one else can ruin my good day." That's helped TONS in keeping me in a good mood at work even when things go wrong. It's not infallible, but it helps a lot.
posted by stennieville at 5:03 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Update, some months later:

A week or so after asking this question, my partner and I implemented a new household rule. I am allowed to rant about work, but only for 15 minutes and he tells me when my time is up. Hilariously, every time we do this, I get into full-on rant mode and start wondering why he's glancing at the clock. Does he have to be somewhere? Is something in the oven? I totally forget that he's timing me until he says "one more minute!" Ha! Just goes to show how much this takes over my brain! After that, if I stray back onto the topic, he reminds me that I already had my 15 minutes, and I can say "Yes, you're right, let's talk about something else."

This has helped so much.

It helped in the ways that Solomon's comment suggested, in that I got some anger out but didn't feed it and wind myself back up. I found that to be very true.

The effect that really surprised me though was that it made work easier for me, because I wasn't so angry about things, so I was calmer there and more receptive to people. This made our interactions smoother and then I had less to rant about for that day. Rinse and repeat, and now I'm quite happy at work.

I've also been reading Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People and trying some of his techniques at work. Over time, that is making it easier to be more positive and receptive to people and to present myself so I get similar reactions from them.
posted by heatherann at 6:43 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm glad things have improved! That sounds like a really good solution.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:58 AM on November 12, 2009

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