Managing Your Anger

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“For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of America’s great philosophers.

Before we learn how to manage anger, let us first understand what exactly ‘anger’ is. Anger is an emotion or feeling that ranges from irritation to extreme rage. It is not to be confused with aggression or hostility, which are more violent behaviors intended to cause bodily harm or damage to property.

Anger becomes a problem when it is expressed too intensely. It could lead to excessive physical strain on the body. It is a combination of emotional and physical changes.

A little bit of anger, in fact, is not that harmful in the short-term. It’s effective in releasing tension or can be used to control people. But in the long-term, it could lead to negative consequences.

When anger is expressed too frequently and aggressively, it can so easily become a habitual response in day-to-day situations. This is viewed as a maladaptive habit and could seriously hamper your way of life and often resulting in negative consequences.

The purpose of this article is to understand some techniques to manage anger effectively.

To break the habit of getting angry too often is to become aware of the situations and events that trigger conflicts in the first place. Once you’ve identified the triggers, you need to formulate strategies to effectively manage conflicts that could result in anger.

5 steps to resolve conflict

  1. First you need to identify the specific problem that is causing you to get angry. For example, your train is delayed or your friend has said something nasty
  2. Identify how you feel. For example, do you feel hurt, offended, annoyed or simply frustrated
  3. Identify the outcome of the problem that is causing the conflict. For example, how your colleague would react if you went late to a meeting
  4. Decide whether you want to resolve the conflict or forget about it altogether. It is essential to consider whether the conflict is important enough to bring it up
  5. Resolve the conflict by setting up a fixed time and coming to terms with your feelings to get to the bottom of it

What are these triggers that make you angry? It could be an event or a situation you’ve encountered in your life, provoking you to react. These could be incidents that have happened in the past too. And just remembering them might bring back all those negative emotions and result in anger. A few common examples are: blamed for no mistake of yours, waiting in long queues, neighbor playing loud music, false rumors about you, your mate joking about a sensitive issue and etc.

The next step is to identify certain cues or signals that occur in response to the anger-provoking incident. These signals can be physical, behavioral, emotional or cognitive.

Let us look at the anger management techniques, which include Timeouts, Relaxation through breathing and Thought stopping.

Timeouts – This is a common anger management technique. Timeout means responding in any given situation instead of reacting hastily. You can start practicing by taking a few deep breaths and leaving the situation before it escalates or simply stopping a provoking discussion. It is an effective method that can be used in a heated conversation. You can take a timeout and talk to a close friend or go for a short walk.

Relaxation through breathing – It is an exercise that entirely concentrates on how to breathe deep and easy. First, take several deep breaths and try to release all tension in your body. Gently take three deep inhalations and exhalations. You can practice this regularly at home, office, in a bus or even when you are standing in a queue. It helps to relax before your anger escalates

Thought stopping – How often have you talked to yourself? This method resonates with it completely by simply stopping all negative thoughts and telling yourself not to do certain things that might escalate anger. For example, you can tell yourself, “I don’t need to get into this conversation or else I’ll get into trouble,” or “This is not for me, and let me get out of here.”

How anger affects health

Intense and unrestrained anger is linked to health conditions such as high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, heart attack, and digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

A rush of energy goes through the body as chemicals, such as stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, are released resulting in increased heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. Anger could also decline your immune system, making you more vulnerable to pick up infections.

In neuroimaging studies of anger, the most activated region of the brain was the lateral orbitofrontal cortex that is associated with motivation.

Psychological aspects of anger

For some people, anger could lead to breaking up with their families, ending their career, cause havoc in their relationships and even lead them to commit criminal offences. Uncontrolled anger has disastrous effects on the mind, prompting the individual to take actions that are unreasonable and irrational. Anger is known to cloud your thinking and judgment.

Mental Health Foundation conducted a survey and found out that 28 percent of adults said they are seriously concerned about how angry they sometimes feel, and 32 percent said they know a friend or relative who has problems controlling their anger.

A few myths about anger

Myth 1 – Anger is inherited
People often assume that anger is inherited and therefore cannot be changed. Research indicates that nobody is born with a specific way of expressing anger. However, expression of anger is a learned behavior and specific ways of expressing anger can be picked up during a lifetime.

Myth 2 – Anger normally leads to aggression
There is a misconception that the only way to articulate anger is through aggression. The truth is that there are better constructive and assertive ways to express anger.

Myth 3 – You have to be aggressive to get what you want
People often confuse assertiveness with aggression. Aggression is basically an act deemed to dominate, intimidate or harm a person, but assertiveness on the other hand is a method of expressing feelings of anger in a calm, respectful way without threatening or causing any harm.

Myth 4 – Venting your anger is desirable
People have always felt that aggressive expression of anger such as screaming out loudly or beating a pillow was therapeutic. Research has revealed that venting your anger aggressively will reinforce aggressive tendencies and nothing else.