December 11, 2021
All of us have become angry at some point in our lives, likely more than a few times. Anger is a strong and very powerful emotion and is an entirely natural response when you feel threatened in some way. This natural reaction can help you to overcome fear when you perceive danger and helps you react to defend yourself or your loved ones. Anger can also help you to be motivated to change your circumstances when they are less than ideal.
But of course, anger has a darker side as well. First of all, the emotion of anger has very real physical effects on your body. Your hands and face flush with blood, your heart rate goes up and your muscles become tense. Research studies suggest keeping your feelings of anger pent up can actually be harmful to your wellbeing. For example, in patients who experienced chronic pain, suppressing their anger made their pain worse, while expressing it dialed down their pain’s intensity. Studies also show that people who get angry easily have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Anger “triggers” are different for everyone. Some people feel anger when they perceive their efforts are not valued by others, or they get angry when they lose patience. Many people react to injustice with feelings of anger. Your genetic heritage also seems to play a role and some disease states, such as dementia, can be associated with angry outbursts.
Unfortunately, for about a quarter of people, getting angry brings up strong feelings of wanting to retaliate against the person, animal, or object or situation that made them angry. Road rage revenge incidents, in which a driver is cut off by a car or a vehicle ahead of them or was driving at a speed they perceived as too slow, have become all too common and can lead to disastrous effects, including death.
Some people express their anger verbally, by yelling, swearing or getting into an argument. Other people are prone to more physical expressions, such as throwing something or hitting a wall. Others withdraw into their internal world and ruminate over the incident.
The idea here is not to try to suppress your feelings of anger, but to learn how to handle this natural emotion so it doesn’t harm you, or others. So what is the best way to handle anger?
Here are four proven ways to help you corral and tame this strong emotion:
One - Relaxation
Because the emotion of anger is so tied to physical symptoms such as muscle tensing, headaches and an increased heart rate, learning to physically relax can be a great antidote. Regularly training your body to relax through meditation or progressive muscular relaxation is a great arrow to have in your quiver.
Two - Avoidance and Escape
Sometimes, simply removing yourself from an anger provoking situation is the best course of action. For example, never, ever give in to the urge to respond to a driver who has provoked you while driving. Also, letting your spouse deal with your child’s outburst if you feel unable to contain yourself is wise as well.
Three - Cognitive Restructuring
This simply means learning how to objectively analyze your responses and learning that when you become angry, your thought processes are likely to be distorted, leading you to easily misread the situation.
Four - Assertive expression
Sometimes it’s ok to express your anger but keep it in bounds. If you feel disrespected then simply say, directly and calmly “When you said that about my work in front of my team John, I felt really hurt. I’d like to discuss this with you so we can work on our relationship to make it better.
Some people need professional help with anger management. If you experience frequent anger episodes, your anger is intense, and you often find yourself holding grudges or even planning on how you can “get even” then it’s time to see a mental health professional for help.
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