Good and mad - the healthy way to be angry

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You walk in the door after work. Before you can kick off your shoes, you see it hanging there on the wall: a 60-inch TV your partner bought without talking to you first. You explode. A huge argument ensues. You part angry.

Anger is a normal and even a healthy emotion - but it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships.

What is anger?

Anger is a response to an unmet expectation. Emotions cause impulsive reactions. The amygdala, a bundle of neurons deep inside the brain, is the hub for emotional behaviour. It sends impulses to the hypothalamus, which triggers the fight-or-flight stress response.

The rational prefrontal cortex evaluates threats and decides whether they warrant an explosive response. But sometimes the emotional centre takes off running before the rational brain can get started.

People experience anger in different ways and for different reasons. You might be furious about something that may only mildly irritate someone else. Because of this subjectivity, it may be difficult to understand and manage anger. It is however, important to note that your response to anger is up to you.

Tips to tame your temper

Keeping your temper in check can be challenging. Use simple anger management tips - from taking a timeout to using 'I' statements - to stay in control.

  • Think before you speak

    In the heat of the moment, it's easy to say something you'll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything - and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

  • Once you're calm, express your anger

    As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

  • Get some exercise

    Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

  • Identify possible solutions

    Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child's messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Remind yourself that anger won't fix anything and might only make it worse.

  • Stick with 'I' statements

    To avoid criticizing or placing blame, use 'I' statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, "I'm upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes," instead of, "You never do any housework."

  • Don't hold a grudge

    Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation. It's unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly as you want at all times.

  • Use humour to release tension

    Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Avoid sarcasm, though - it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

  • Practice relaxation skills

    When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as, "Take it easy." You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses - whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

  • Know when to seek help

    Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.

Sources:
www.mayoclinic.org
www.mindtools.com
www.webmd.com

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