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5 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health by Anger Management

What do you do when you feel angry? (Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)
What do you do when you feel angry? (Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)

Anger is a widely misunderstood term and often perceived as a "negative" emotion. Six common emotions are recognized: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. Anger is considered to be especially worrisome as it can harm or hurt others. It can be equally dangerous if it leads to self-harm. When there is a gap between our expectations and the reality, anger emerges.

Have you ever said or done something when angry, which you later regretted? Most of us have. Anger can be either constructive or destructive, but a lot of us do unhealthy things with our anger. Anger is like a child; you don't want it to drive the car but you don't want to stuff it in the trunk either.

Research from McLean Hospital suggests that even seemingly benign anger might affect young children's developing brains in subtle ways. According to research by Martin Teicher, an associate professor of psychiatry at HMS and McLean, verbal abuse from peers and parents alters growing brains in ways that last into adulthood.


Anger Management

An elderly couple is sitting together and having dinner. The husband takes a deep breath and apologizes to his wife for letting out his anger so often and wonders how she manages to stay calm when he explodes like that. She replies that she rushes to clean the toilet when he has an outburst. He seems shocked and asks how that helps. She replies quietly, "I do it with your toothbrush."

Although the above is meant to be a joke, leaving aside the unhygienic consequences and the revenge-mongering attitude, we should know how to channelise anger. We can either get aggressive, blame others, do reckless acts, like binge eating, or even turn violent. We could, on the other hand, stuff our anger deep within. Research has shown that either way a host of physiological changes occur and lead to many ailments if left unchecked.

Anger management is a therapeutic program for anger prevention and control. Although you may not always like the presence of your anger, you can make choices about how you handle it.

1. Mindfulness

According to Shauna Shapiro, an internationally recognized expert on mindfulness, refers to the practice as paying attention with kindness and curiosity. Mindfulness helps our prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that helps us make rational decisions) to take the driver's seat when anger wants to hijack it. Take deep breaths, for example. Though this is the most obvious, we tend to forget it when we feel angry. Taking deep breaths helps to activate the parasympathetic system that soothes our threat response or anger.

Mindfulness is one of the keys to anger management. (Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)
Mindfulness is one of the keys to anger management. (Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)

2. Muscle Relaxation

We can often feel anger building in our bodies. Make a conscious effort to unclench your fists and loosen up a little. Once we let our bodies loose, it automatically changes our mood. Once you are relaxed, make sure to write what made you angry in the first place.

3. Understand Warning Signs

If you're like most people, you can feel an instantaneous onset of rage. Perhaps you switch instantly from being calm to being irritated. However, there are still potential indicators that your anger is intensifying. Early detection of those can assist you in taking appropriate steps to stop your rage from building up.

Anger lies on a continuum and it is possible to detect it early. (Image via Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto)
Anger lies on a continuum and it is possible to detect it early. (Image via Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto)

Consider the symptoms of rage you experience physically. Perhaps your face gets flush or your heart beats more quickly. You might also clench your fists. Additionally, some cognitive alterations might also become apparent. Perhaps you start to "see red" or your thoughts start to race. Recognizing your warning indicators gives you the chance to act right away and stop yourself from saying or doing anything adverse.

4. Change Your Thinking

When you're upset, it's easy to believe that the situation is worse than it is. You can replace unhelpful negative beliefs with more logical ones using a method called cognitive restructuring. For instance, remind yourself, "This is frustrating, but it's not the end of the world," rather than saying "Everything is ruined."

When talking about oneself or others, avoid using the terms "never" or "always." You feel your anger is warranted when someone says things like "This never works" or "You're always forgetting things." Additionally, such words turn off those who might otherwise be eager to collaborate with you to find a solution.

5. Exercise

Exercise and sports are good for controlling emotions and managing rage. Walking, running, and gardening reduce anxiety, elevate mood, and provide relief from stress and irritability. According to research, aerobic exercise in particular helps lessen aggression, distress, and anxiety. Even short bouts of exercise may help prevent an angry mood.


Takeaway

According to the journal of the National Medical Association, people who respond negatively to anger are 9% more likely to have heart attacks. Anger management doesn't mean that you have to control your anger all the time. It means you are able to express it according to the situation. Catching your warning signs isn't easy, but practice can help you regulate your response in the long term.

Edited by Ramaa Kishore
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