Anger is a common way for us to take out our stress on others, but there are other surprising and hard-to-spot ways in which we take out our frustrations on other people without even realizing it.
“These non-direct expressions of stress tend to be associated with other emotions, such as feeling overwhelmed, anxious, guilty or ashamed, which are more difficult and painful to both identify ourselves and express to others,” psychologist Nora Gerardi tells HuffPo.
The mental health experts tell HuffPo if we can identify these "stress-perpetuating behaviors," and not become a victim of them, we can take the necessary steps needed to hopefully avoid unleashing them on others.
The less-than-obvious ways you might be taking out your stress may include:
Self-isolating: It is important to decompress and give yourself a break and now and then, but a deliberate avoidance of others and depriving people of an opportunity to connect with you can actually lead to more stress and strained relationships. *Instead of isolating for long periods of time or cutting off people, the experts suggest scheduling time during your week for just yourself, which should allow you to give more of your time to loved ones.
One-side venting: Of course we all need to vent, but are you allowing the other person space to vent? "The person you’re venting to is holding space for your feelings, which are likely intense and some of the tougher ones to experience, like anxiety and anger,” psychologist Amanda Darnley says. “Doing this repeatedly could leave that person feeling drained —especially if it’s consistently one-sided.” *Instead, make sure to give the other person time to share their feelings and let them know how appreciative you are for their time when you do need to unload.
Only relying on your "safe person": Is your stress being directed to one person typically? The experts say relying on just 1 person can lead to feelings of stress, guilt about not being able to support you effectively, or frustration with your behavior. All of these can damage the relationship and your safe person's own mental health. *Instead, psychologist Carla Marie Manly says we need "a variety of support systems... [and advocates for] creating additional safe friendships, journaling about your stress, finding a creative outlet, or turning to an online support group.”
Turning into a fixer: When we have too much stress in our own life, it can lead you to feel the need to fix other people's lives. This can be an issue when a loved one comes to you for support and you try to fix their issues when maybe they just need a listener. *Instead of trying to fix everyone else, the experts say when someone comes to you with their issues, to always empathize with what they are going through and offer advice when asked for it.
Pretending you're fine when you're not: Acting like everything is fine when it's not is an easy way to avoid stress, but the experts say most people see through the "I'm fine" routine and it can cause confusion about how to help and may lead people to reconsider offering support in the future. *Instead of avoiding your feelings altogether, HuffPo suggests starting out small and discuss the little things causing you to stress and check in with the other person to find out if they feel burdened.
Problem dumping: If your answer to stress is to make other people handle your problems or tasks, “the dumped-on person may feel angry, overwhelmed, stressed and disappointed by the dumper’s habitual lack of responsibility,” psychologist Carla Marie Manly notes. *Instead, the experts suggest creating more time and space in your life to handle what life throws at you. They suggest "getting up earlier so there’s more breathing room between tasks, creating detailed schedules that break tasks down into tiny, non-overwhelming steps, and creating short- and long-term goals that specifically tackle your penchant for avoidance can all be powerful go-to tools."
Resenting someone after you agree to help them: If you have too much on your plate, the experts say to be very mindful about taking on more, especially if you are already feeling overextended and stressed. When someone is in need of help and the person who has offered aid acts irritated or resentful giving their time, it can create more unneeded stress for each person. *Instead, before you agree to help, take a moment and really figure out if you are in a space to offer assistance and if you are not, try offering up an alternative approach or another strategy.