Author: Dr. Neeta Pant

Anger is like a flame blazing up and consuming our self-control, making us think, say, and do things that we will probably regret later ~ Nhat Hanh

Have you been losing your temper lately? Are you struggling to control your irritation and frustration? Do you often regret what you may have said or done in anger? You’re not alone.

We all experience anger at some point in time. The intensity of it can range from irritation to annoyance to extreme rage. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion and shouldn’t be labelled as bad.  Like any emotion, it suggests that something must be addressed.  It acts as a catalyst for change. If not handled properly, it can lead to issues in relationships, social connections and at work, impacting the overall quality of our life. Anger can help us be honest or stand up for something we believe in. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeling angry.  The real key is in learning how to handle it without it ruling our life. Let us see how.

Our natural and instinctive way to express anger is to respond/react aggressively. Anger is an adaptive response to threats that allows us to fight and defend when we’re attacked. Limited anger, hence, is necessary for our survival. We can’t physically lash out at everything that irritates or annoys us – laws, norms, and common-sense place limits on our expression of anger.

EXPRESSION OF ANGER – There are both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with anger. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming.

Expressing – The healthiest way to express anger isn’t aggressive, but assertive.  We must learn to express our needs without hurting others. Being assertive means being respectful of ourselves and others rather than being pushy or demanding.

Suppressing – Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected by holding in, by not thinking about it, and by focusing on something positive. The idea is to suppress it and convert it into more constructive behavior.

When we do not express our anger, and try to push it down, it causes pent up anger.  Anger when gets accumulated in our body, causing diseases and mental imbalances. The danger in suppression is that if it isn’t expressed outwardly, it can turn inward—towards us. It can also cause us to explode someday when we least expect it, which can actually damage the world around us.

Calming – This means not just controlling our outward behavior, but also controlling our internal responses, taking steps to lower our heart rate, calm ourselves down, and let the feelings subside.

As per Dr. Spielberger, “when none of these 3 techniques work, that’s when someone—or something—is going to get hurt.”

What is the way out?

Since we cannot eliminate anger from our life no matter what we do, it is good to learn how to handle it when it happens.  The first step to dealing with anger is to know what sets us off in the first place. Let us understand anger deeply –

RECOGNISE THE WARNING SIGNS

Being aware of the physical warning signs helps us to take steps to manage which may be –

  • pounding heart
  • gritting teeth
  • sweating
  • tight chest
  • knots in stomach
  • shaking
  • anxiety
  • raised voice
  • being snappy or defensive
  • being overly critical of someone
  • feeling argumentative.

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IDENTIFY TRIGGERS FOR ANGER

Reflect through the day and try to pinpoint what set one off.  There can be lots of reasons why one might feel angry such as –

  • Pressure overload
  • Stressful events
  • Not respected enough
  • Negative thought patterns
  • Bodily or hormonal changes
  • Frustration with how life is going.

Being able to predict what situations will provoke us helps keeping our temper under control.  We may not be able to eliminate everything that causes anger and frustration in life, but cutting out what we can, certainly go a long way.  If we work on first recognising and then dealing with our anger, the damaging effect on our relationships, body, mind, and emotions can be reduced.

STOP VENTING

Venting is viewed as a way to release pent-up anger and frustration but research states that instead of helping us let off steam, venting just fuels the fire of our anger. It’s hard to forget an annoyance if we’re constantly talking about it. The more we talk about it, the angrier we’ll feel.

10 HEALTHY STRATEGIES TO MANAGE ANGER –

Research indicates that when we learn how to manage our anger effectively, it not only improves our health and relationships but overall level of life quality and satisfaction.

  1. Write It Down – Writing stuff always help figuring out why one is feeling angry and how to deal with it. It’ll also help us to put things in perspective.  Just the process of putting our anger into thoughts and journaling them, is a way to let it all out. This helps to release pent up energy and explore better ways of expressing ourselves in difficult situations.
  • Count To 20  –  Focus on counting help our rational mind catch up with our feelings.  Thinking about something other than what’s making us upset also help us avoid blowing a fuse and allow time for the emotion to subside. It gives us a chance to gather our thoughts before action.
  • Deep Breathing –  Breathing techniques can actually help us release anger.  Take in deep breaths and let them out slowly. Like meditation, concentrate on taking in each breath and feel the body relax as we breathe out. This will lower our heart rate and blood pressure, making us feel calmer and relaxed.  Deep breathing is an excellent way of dealing with anger instantly. 
  • Physical Activities –  When we get angry, our body releases hormones. The antidote to manage the stress hormones is physical activity.  Research proves that physical movement helps to minimise anger, frustration and irritation and promote greater feelings of happiness and well-being.  When  we  consciously  move  our  body,  feel-good hormones like endorphins get released, which help us feel calmer and relax immensely.
  • Talk To Someone -Talking to someone trustworthy about our feeling can take a weight off our shoulders and mind.  It helps us release pent up emotions, without damaging relationships or escalating tensed situations.  Often people don’t talk about their feelings, because they are embarrassed, or believe people may not understand them.  However, it’s important to create this support system for our own-being.
  • Take Time To Relax – One can use senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste to quickly relieve stress and cool down. One might try listening to a favorite piece of music, looking at a treasured photo, savoring a cup of tea, reading a book, or stroking a pet; anything that one enjoys.
  • Repeat A Chant – Find a word or phrase that helps one calm down and refocus. Repeat that word again and again when one is upset. “Relax,” “Take it easy, and “You’ll be OK” are good examples.
  • Mental Escape –  Slipping into a quiet room, closing eyes, and practice visualizing self in a relaxing scene. Focus on details in the imaginary scene : Wind, sound, weather etc. This practice can help one find calm amidst anger.

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  • Forgiving Them – When someone hurts us and we let go, we give ourselves the gift of FREEDOM. If we choose not to forgive, we remain entangled in anger trap.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to us or patching up with the person who caused the harm.  Forgiveness simply means the willingness to let go of resentment.  It brings a kind of peace that helps one go on with life.
  1. Practice Empathy – Try to walk in the other person’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective. When we tell the story or re-live the events as they saw it, we may gain a new understanding and become less angry.

Take a reality check –

When we start getting upset about something, taking a moment to think about the situation helps –

  • How important is it in the grand scheme of things?
  • Is it really worth getting angry about it?
  • Is it worth ruining the rest of my day?
  • Is my response appropriate to the situation?
  • Is there anything I can do about it?
  • Is taking action worth my time?

Anger is a strong, overwhelming emotion.  Learning how to deal with it, without losing control, is part of becoming more mature; an important life skill.  It takes a little effort, practice, and patience, but we can get there if we want to.  Each step that we take towards our better, leads to a more ‘emotionally intelligent’ US.  If not now, then when?

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured ~ Mark Twain

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