Although anger is a completely normal and often healthy emotion, when it gets out of control it can lead to problems. It can vary from mild irritation to intense fury and rage and, like any other emotion, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart and blood pressure go up as do the level of energy hormones and adrenaline.
The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to react aggressively to fight and to defend ourselves. On the other hand, we cannot physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms and common sense usually place limits on how far our anger can take us.
It’s not easy but there are healthy ways to deal with and let go of angry feelings; it’s healthier to express anger directly in words rather than violent action. Anger expressed assertively in this way
- Benefits relationships and self-esteem
- Defuses tensions before they get to explosion point
- Helps to keep us physically and emotionally healthy
If you have spent most of your life squashing your feelings, it will take some effort to get into a habit of expressing your anger in an assertive non-aggressive way but there are several ways to help with this:
- Stop, think and look at the bigger picture: this is about creating time to think about the consequences of the event and the reaction.
- Remember, it’s OK to have a different opinion: opinions are not facts!
- Use your support network – people you can call on when you are angry with someone else and who can help stop your anger getting out of control.
- Don’t take everything personally: not everything that is directed at you is about When we are more immune to the opinions and behaviours of others, we are not victims of their behaviour in the same way.
- Keep a journal: this is a powerful way of not internalising anger. A journal can be used to record how you feel about what happened and the circumstances surrounding that situation. Using a journal can bring clarity to the situation.
- Controlled release: walk away/divert the energy in some way/let off steam in a number of ways. Playing sport is often helpful and releases a build up of stress. Punching a punch bag or walking in the fresh air can also help.
- Assertiveness training: read about anger and assertiveness and if possible find an assertiveness training group (local authority adult education may run appropriate classes – details available at local libraries).
- Caring for yourself: looking after your general health, especially with diet and exercise can help you feel less irritable whilst exercise generally lifts self-esteem. Finding pleasurable ways of letting off steam, involving vigorous physical activity will prevent tension building up in destructive ways.
- Sit or lie comfortably and loosen your clothing.
2. Put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.
3. Breathe in through your nose and slowly count to three in your head.
4. As you breathe in, feel your stomach inflate with your hand. If your chest expands, focus on breathing with your diaphragm.
5. Slowly breathe out through pursed lips and slowly count to six.
6. Repeat two more times.
- Music- listening to calming music, such as classical or ‘sounds of nature’ music can help you relax. It is known to slow your pulse and heart rate, reduce stress hormones and lower blood pressure.
- Massage – the kneading and stroking movements relax tense muscles and improve circulation.
- Warm bath – it may seem obvious but a warm bath can help your body and mind relax. Close your eyes and let the water soothe any aching tense muscles and push away any angry or stressful thoughts, to rest your mind.
- Sprinkle lavender oil on your pillow at night to help you sleep.
- Remove yourself from whatever or whoever has made your blood boil (e.g. receiving an abrupt e.mail from a colleague or manager). Spending a little time out, clutching a cup of coffee and glowering out of the window can do the trick. On returning to your desk, you may well be able to write a calm and measured response to the offending e.mail.
- Take a hike – get outside and do a few laps of the local park or square. You’ll return with a clear head and a better perspective on the situation.
- Tell the colleague or friend that you’ll speak to them later. Unless you’re performing open heart surgery, there’s rarely any reason not to postpone the discussion until things have settled down.
Keep practising the above until they become easier to carry out and you find your anger easier to control.
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