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Managing Anger in Animal Welfare Work

Several years ago, while working at the local humane society, a co-worker of mine came bursting through the door screaming, “I can’t (F-bomb) take this anymore!” I suggested we go outside and get some air. As his trembling hands lit up a cigarette, he began to sob. “If one more person surrenders an animal today, I’m going to reach across the counter and strangle them. I just can’t do this anymore,” he told me. My friend, a tough-on-the-outside kind of guy with a great sense of humor, now had tears streaming down his face.

For all of you who are involved in animal welfare in some capacity, I’m sure you can probably relate to his pain and frustration all too well. Dealing with an often ignorant public can make your blood boil to the point of exhaustion and emotional breakdown. Anger is a very common symptom of compassion fatigue. But anger is also a normal emotion, often associated with other feelings, such as fear, sadness, guilt, shame, loneliness, or hurt. In fact, anger often inspires and motivates us to fight for positive change – such as saving homeless animals.

Too Much Anger Can Take a Toll

But when our emotions get the best of us, we can actually end up causing harm to ourselves – and even others. Studies have suggested that excessive, extreme, or chronic anger can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease (Bushman, 2013).

So what is one to do when pissed off at the world? To get a grip on your anger, it’s helpful to understand what sets you off in the first place. In other words, see if you can identify some of your early warning signs:

  • Increase in heart rate
  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • Clenched fists or jaw
  • Tight muscles
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Trembling in body or hands
  • Sweating
  • Feeling sad or anxious
  • Begin pacing
  • Face feels hot
  • Become aggressive
  • Throw or hit things
  • Become emotionally or physically abusive toward others
  • Yell or scream
  • Cry
  • Become quiet
  • Use sarcasm
  • Frown
  • Lose sense of humor

Chances are, you first learned how to deal with anger as a child. Were you allowed to express your anger or were you forced to stuff it down? Did you witness or experience verbal, physical, or sexual abuse and now find yourself blowing up? It has been suggested that two common ways of dealing with anger, such as keeping it inside or exploding can actually do more damage in the long run (Bushman, 2013). The best way to handle anger? Let it go.

Anger Management 101

So the next time you want to punch a wall, vent to anyone who will listen, or hold it inside, try some of these healthier techniques to help you tame your temper:

  • Count to 10…or more
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Take a time-out
  • Use humor and laughter
  • Go outside for a walk
  • Draw or paint your anger
  • Practice deep breathing
  • Try progressive muscle relaxation
  • Journal your thoughts
  • Use assertive communication
  • Limit your exposure to violence in the media (TV, movies, video games, Internet, etc.)
  • Write a letter expressing your anger and then destroy it. Tear it up, shred it, burn it, bury it!
  • Join a support group
  • Talk it out with a mental health professional

 

Reference

Bushman, BJ. 2013. “Anger Management: What Works and What Doesn’t.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-psyched/201309/anger-management-what-works-and-what-doesnt.

Photo by Jorbasa

Managing Anger in Animal Welfare Work

Jennifer Blough

Jennifer Blough is a professional counselor, certified compassion fatigue therapist, certified pet loss grief recovery specialist, and the owner of Deepwater Counseling in southeast Michigan. In addition to counseling individuals and couples, she presents compassion fatigue workshops to local animal welfare and veterinary organizations. She is the author of the book, To Save a Starfish: A Compassion Fatigue Workbook for the Animal Welfare Warrior, available on Amazon. Jennifer shares her home with her husband and their eight rescued companion animals.


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APA Reference
, . (2016). Managing Anger in Animal Welfare Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/compassion-fatigue/2016/11/15/managing-anger-in-animal-welfare-work/

 

Last updated: 15 Nov 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Nov 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.