8 Tips for Managing Anger Effectively and Healthily
No one likes to get angry. It’s uncomfortable. Stressful. It clouds thinking…and judgement. It starts the heart pump-pump-pumping double time, making us feel jittery, anxious (and sometimes even a little out of control.) Anger makes us defensive. It robs us of contentment and peace. It stirs in our bellies, rumbling, frothing over....
And, believe it or not, that’s not the worst of it. Unfortunately, anger also lends itself to serious health risks. It increases a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke, negatively impairs immune systems—and it’s addictive, too. (Think: dopamine.) So the more often someone gets angry, the likelier their chance for repeat occurrences. The more often the angry occurrence, the harder it is on the heart. The harder it is on the heart…well, as you see, it can spiral pretty quickly.
**And to be clear, when we talk about anger we’re not just referring to the people that yell and scream and flail about loudly. Repressed anger (the kind that’s left unsaid, simmering quietly in someone’s mind) is just as harmful as explosive anger. While one excessively speeds up the heart in a single active burst, the other lingers, reliving that feeling over and over. It’s distracting and wearing on the body.
Bottom line: Anger makes the body work harder. No matter what. Overworking it is dangerous.
So let’s talk about a few ways to help both beat back anger and also address it in a healthy, constructive manner—to help keep that blood pressure from spiking wildly out of control, that heart thumping so erratically or so frequently….
1. Don’t Run and Hide. But Please, No Fighting Words.
Talk it out. Don’t bottle it inside. Don’t blow up. Make yourself understood, instead. Be specific. Identify clearly what’s upset you, and why. And then listen for feedback… Be assertive—straightforward, calm, and decisive.
2. Inhale. Exhale.
You got it: breathing techniques. Diaphragmatic breaths. This will immediately help alleviate tension, bring oxygenation back to the body, and lower blood pressure. Just take a deep breath in through the nose; feel your stomach rising, your lungs expanding… Hold. And breathe out. Repeat as necessary.
3. As Peter Pan Would Say—Think Happy Thoughts!
This is also known as cognitive behavioral therapy. When you’re upset, take a moment to remember something that makes you smile (pehaps two flamingos sitting down for a chat...). Or have something you associate with happiness nearby—especially in environments that are frequently upsetting. It might be a comic strip that always makes you laugh, or the memory of a family vacation that puts a goofy grin on your face; or the painting of a garden, because you love flowers. You catch the drift here…
4. Cooler Heads Prevail.
Yes, the good old twenty-four-hour calm down. Wait before you let yourself react to that anger. Give it a day. And if it’s still upsetting, and if it honestly still matters to you, then say/do something about it. *Added benefit, the cool down period will help you remain calm and straightforward when/if you do decide to confront the problem. It’ll help you gain a little extra perspective and shed some of the emotion clouding the issue.
5. Flop It.
Instead of focusing on the negative, look for the positive. (Hint: the positive is how to eliminate the negative. What’s the best part of fighting a dragon after all? Defeat!) Think of how you can circumvent or avoid this same problem in the future. As a wise woman once said to me: don’t tell me there’s a problem without also telling me the solution to it. Don’t bemoan and begrudge in vain.
6. Ahhh. The Meta-Move…
Ask yourself: Am I actually mad, or do I just want to be mad? The answer will dictate your next move. If you’re actually mad, talk about it. If, on the other hand, you just want to be mad, get your ego out of the way!
7. Let it Go.
Use a little mindfulness meditation to help exercise those feelings. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment, leaving the past behind. So if you’re trying to give up lingering anger, go and find a quiet, peaceful place. Get comfortable. Sitting there, let the anger melt off your body—feel it as it rushes around your neck and down your arms; hear it thumping through your veins, clearing out of your system…singing down your legs, past your knees, and out the tips of your toes—!
8. Be the Grace.
Make-up excuses for the person/thing frustrating you (perhaps she’s running late to work; or maybe he’s got a sick child at home who kept the house awake all night). Learn to forgive. Learn to laugh. Find the humor in it all and be above the annoyance. Be the role model for positivity and communication. You get to choose how you respond, after all.
When anger builds, it’s not about ignoring it and hoping it’ll go away. It probably won’t. Instead, it’s about handling that volatile emotion in a beneficial and productive way. Take a moment. Reflect. Talk about it. But don’t yell and stomp around if you can help it. Be clear and to the point. Focus on resolving the problem, not just saying there is one. Be respectful. Listen to others. Consider multiple sides and points of view. Do that, and watch what happens to that anger next—