Anger. The word itself is unpleasant, but it's part of life. But anger has side effects. Our bodies' first response to the stress of anger is elevated breathing, blood pressure, and energy hormones. If angry feelings continue, the body must react to the stress. When stress demands too much of the body or mind and coping strategies aren't sufficient, we become exhausted and "distressed." Stress can lead to chronic problems and may make us more susceptible to disease.
Anger is a response that nature devised to help us defend ourselves when attacked. The emotion can vary from mild irritation to intense fury. Our instinctive expression of anger is aggression, but controlled aggression can be very destructive to others and to the one who is angry. Psychologists now say that "letting it all out" is dangerous. Research shows that anger begets more anger, creating more problems.
People who are easily angered have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They are not able to take life in stride. Everyone is frustrated or disappointed when we don't get these things, but angry people tend to demand them: fairness, appreciation, or agreement. The underlying message of anger is: "Things should go my way."
Angry people may be born or created. There is evidence that some children are born irritable, touchy, and easily angered. However, most of us were taught to express anxiety, depression, happiness, or other emotions, but not anger, so we may not have developed positive skills for expressing anger. Also, people from families that are disruptive or chaotic often do not develop positive skills for dealing with anger.
If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control or frightening to others, you need to find better ways to deal with anger. Anger turned inward may eventually cause high blood pressure or depression. Pent-up anger may build until you explode in uncontrolled rage. Anger may express itself as passive-aggressive behavior. This behavior involves getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on. Anger can make you cynical and hostile. People who criticize others and make cynical comments may also suffer from angry feelings. Controlling anger is important for healthy relationships.
You can control anger by managing stress. If you gain control of the physical arousal that stresses the body, you can usually control anger. In fact, controlled anger can be a powerful tool and provide positive energy to help resolve problems. So, how do you deal with anger?
Distract Yourself: Don't stew! Scrub the pots, do a crossword puzzle, take a brisk walk.
Relax: Use deep breathing and soothing images to defuse your anger: Think of a place or a time that you particularly enjoy. Eliminate extremes of thought.
Think! Use cold logic on yourself. Logic defeats anger.
Request: Don't demand, request. Instead of focusing on not getting what you want, focus on appreciating what you have.
Communicate: Don't jump to conclusions. Listen to others. The problem beneath the anger may have a simple solution. Resist the impulse to respond angrily; continue to communicate.
Laugh: Humor can balance your perspective. Picture yourself as a supreme ruler, having people bow to you as you stride through your domain. The more detail you can visualize, the better you may be able to see how unimportant the things you're angry about sometimes really are.
Anger can be a healthy response to real and inescapable problems in our lives. Our culture believes every problem has a solution, but this is not always the case. So it pays to focus, not just on the solution, but how you approach the problem. Life is not an all-or-nothing preposition but a long series of compromises. If you can control how anger affects you, you and those around you will be better for it.
If you are in doubt about where to turn for assistance, please feel free to call the Counseling Center at 661-654-3366
This information was prepared by "Enjoying Good Health" Magazine.
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