The other day over lunch, my friend recounted a story. She was presiding over an afternoon meeting in the conference room. Already tired and cranky from a full morning preparing, she was greeted by an array of half-empty coffee cups and paper trash scattered across the conference table. Even her coworker’s laptop was still on the table, while he went to lunch, his last power point slide still visible on the projection screen. This was the third time in one month.

Although cleanup would only take a few moments, she was already running late. They all used the conference room when their offices couldn’t accommodate enough clients. She thought his lack of consideration was inexcusable.

She kept her emotions in check until after her meeting. She sought out her coworker. By then her anger was out of proportion to the offense. The minor incident turned into a major shouting match.

Most people would agree that she had every right to be mad. Yet after her “blow up” she felt worse. The small inconvenience wasn’t worth jeopardizing her relationship with her coworker.


Prodded by an article I had read that morning, I couldn’t help drawing a parallel. A new policy by the Forest Service calls for letting more fires burn. Controlled burning of grasslands and forests has been used for thousands of years. The “burn” stimulates plant germination, replenishes the ground with valuable nutrients and thins out trees. It is necessary, for the health of the forest and grassland ecology. Nature has done it for centuries, with lightning strikes.

Anger is like a fire. It can be very destructive, or, handled correctly, it can renew. Smothering anger is only a temporary fix. It will pop up again, often with greater intensity. Don’t repress your anger. Control the burn!

BEFORE you confront someone, use one of these techniques to let off steam and reduce stress.

  • Exercise. Anger is a great way to energize your workout. Exercise releases stress and increases endorphins.
  • Write. Whether you keep it or delete it, put your feelings down in words.
  • Hit something. Inanimate and soft! A pillow or a punching bag.
  • Cry. Doesn’t everybody feel better after a good cry?
  • Dance. Turn up the music and dance.