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Managing Anger

Managing Anger Anger is a normal response to internal or external stimuli that we have trouble dealing with or accepting. You could be angry at a specific person, an event, or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. It’s a mixture of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are associated with annoyance. At the extreme end of the spectrum this can lead to hostility towards a situation or person.

Anger can be a difficult emotion to express and manage, particularly because we have often been taught not to show or express our anger. It is not uncommon to feel guilty or ashamed about being angry despite it being a very normal and necessary emotion. Anger only becomes unhealthy when we express it in a way that hurts others or yourself. Likewise if you bottle it up and don’t express how you feel, you may find that it will come out in ways that you didn’t expect.

Anger expression can be modeled and influence by our upbringing.  It has many triggers and for each person they are different.

Is anger always a negative thing?

No. Anger can signal to us that something is amiss and that something needs attention. It is a useful and normal emotion. However when your anger is being triggered too often or you feel that your anger is causing problems in your life, your study, work or your relationships with people, it is no longer a helpful emotion.

The physical effects of anger

Anger triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. The body is flooded with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. The brain pushes blood away from the stomach area and towards the muscles, in preparation for physical exertion. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and the skin perspires. The mind is sharpened and focused.

Potential health problems of reoccuring anger

Uncontrolled and unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to the body. Some of the short and long term health problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include high blood pressure, skin problems like eczema, digestion problems, headaches, insomnia, stroke and heart attack.

Strategies for managing anger

  • Relaxation: Try deep breathing and guided imagery to calm yourself.
  • Cognitive restructuring: Change the way you think and avoid using words like “never” or “always” when expressing your opinions. Approach problems in a logical and systematic way. Translate expectations into desires. Change terminology from “I demand” to “I would like.” Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything and may make you feel worse.
  • Problem Solving: Focus on facing the problem rather than always looking for a quick solution. Learn ways to deal with your reaction to things that you can’t control. You can make plans but allow for changes and revisions that counteract your environment.
  • Better communication: Listen to others before reacting. When considering requests, use logic not emotions. If a discussion becomes heated, think carefully before responding and walk away to reschedule the conversation at a later time.

Express your anger

Learn to express your anger in an assertive way rather than aggressively. Once you can, you will deal with issues while avoiding painful, hurtful and embarrassing confrontations.

Try these tips:

  • Count to 10: Stop, think, breath and count to ten. Ensure you don’t say things you may regret later.  Walk away if you need to and tell others you will disuses the situation when they and/or you are calm.
  • Exercise regularly: This will help counteract the release of stress hormones in your system and assist in rebalancing the body.
  • Distraction: Grab the iPod and listen to music that makes you feel good. Watch your favourite film.
  • Sit in a quiet place: Think about what triggered you and look for ways to address issues in a positive way. Read a book or magazine – refocus the mind somewhere else.

By controlling anger and expressing yourself in an assertive rather than an aggressive way your personal health, well being and relationships with others can be improved.

If you cannot learn to control your anger and express yourself assertively rather than aggressively. professional intervention is required. For further help and strategies for dealing with anger call Advantage Psychology.

Last Updated: 3 Feb, 2009

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