Want to know more about anger? Head out into South Florida traffic at just about any time of the day. Or cut into line at the supermarket. Then you’ll see some tempers in action.
What is this emotion, why do so many people lose control of it, and is it really a bad thing to “get mad?”
Let me share what I know about anger: how it helps you, how it harms you, and how you can handle it in a healthy way.
First, anger isn’t a bad emotion. Anger can be healthy if it causes you to stand up against injustice and confront issues and handle them in an honest way (i.e., through dialogue, realistic compromise, etc.). Anger can even help you think more rationally in times of crisis.
It’s only when anger is held onto and suppressed for long periods of time that it can prove to be explosive, even fatal.
Prolonged and internalized anger can be a major health hazard. According to physicians and psychologists, the chance of having a heart attack doubles within one hour of just one explosive meltdown. In addition, elevated blood pressure during anger puts you at greater risk of strokes. Anger has been linked to heart disease, type II diabetes, many forms of cancer, and an overall weakened immune system.
Besides wreaking havoc on your physical health, anger can cause any number of psychological problems. It’s been said that depression is nothing more than anger turned inward. Depression causes you to feel listless, helpless and, ultimately, hopeless. Anger can also exacerbate feelings of anxiety associated with financial concerns, job performance, and life in general. Harboring hostility also takes its toll on friends, family, and co-workers as one by one they are turned off by your behavior.
What can you do about anger in your life?
Know your limitations. When you’re angry, it’s easy to say things you’ll later regret. Instead, remove yourself from the situation — before you lose control. Breathe deeply. Take a walk. Define your concerns and needs and, when you’re ready, confront the situation or person clearly and directly without letting anger get the best of you.
Exercise and other physical activities are great ways to work off anger and stress: Pump iron, go for a run, swim, pound a speed bag, or take a judo or Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. These are all healthy activities that will keep you fit and allow you to release anger.
For many people, dealing with anger is a lifelong process, one that can be aided by a variety of strategies and practices. Yoga builds flexibility and helps you chill. Humor can lighten and defuse heated situations. Guided meditation, visualization, and deep breathing techniques are all helpful ways to cope with or manage anger.
If you’ve tried a number of these techniques and your anger is still out of control, then have the wisdom to seek professional help.