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How Anger Management Techniques Benefit Mental and Physical Health

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Anger management - Dr. Axe

Anger is a normal and healthy human emotion that is linked to physiological and biological changes. While it’s an important emotion that allows people to express their emotions, the intensity of anger varies, and anger management is critical for maintaining control.

When you aren’t able to deal with adversity or disagreements in a positive, constructive way, it can impact your relationships, work environment, family life and more. Using anger management techniques like calming your mind, taking a break and using logic to think through the situation helps you deal with these situations in a purposeful, mature and healthy manner.

What Is Anger?

Anger is an expression of displacement and frustration. We instinctively express anger with aggression, although the intensity of the response varies from mild irritation to full-on rage.

Researchers explain the expression of anger as the exploration of an environment and establishment of sense of personal control over one’s own actions, conflict negotiation and defense of personal integrity.

It can be triggered by many factors, including an argument or altercation, feeling attacked or disrespected, dealing with an unforeseen situation, and more. Controlled anger is normal and actually needed for human survival, but anger management is important, especially if you are easily triggered and often lash out at even small setbacks.

There are approaches to expressing or dealing with anger, including expressing it, suppressing it and calming your feelings. It’s beneficial to express your anger in an assertive, yet respectful and controlled manner. In fact, unexpressed or suppressed anger has been shown to cause a buildup of negative feelings, tension and resentment, and it can cause you to turn your anger inward.

Calming your anger or practicing anger management means that you’re controlling your response and taking measures to approach the issue from a clear-headed place. It does not mean that the anger is being suppressed, but instead it’s addressed in a healthy, productive way.

How Anger Can Negatively Benefit Health

Chronic anger or being angered easily can impact your mental and physical health and hinder your relationships, career and more. The “hot headed” person in the office or family may not be trusted to maintain a healthy, meaningful relationship.

Feelings of anger can increase your cortisol levels, the stress hormone that allows for your natural fight or flight response. In normal amounts, cortisol is perfectly normal and healthy, but chronic increased cortisol can cause some major health concerns.

Researchers have found that chronic anger or antagonist behavior can contribute to the following:

  • headaches
  • appetite changes
  • weight gain or loss
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • blood sugar fluctuations
  • sleep disorders
  • acne and other skin conditions
  • digestion problems
  • fatigue

Anger Management Techniques

When it comes to anger management, there are techniques you can use in the moment to help you better deal with the situation. Remember that you don’t want to suppress the anger, but face it from a calm, logical headspace so that you can move on in a healthy way.

1. Take a Beat

Anger or rage often occurs in the moment and can be expressed spontaneously, with little control. While this reaction is natural when faced with a trigger that causes negative feelings, it will be much better handled if you take a moment to decompress and better understand the conflict.

Taking a moment to think about the issue before reacting to it will allow you to process the cause of anger and formulate a plan on how to deal with it.

2. Find Your Calm

Use relaxation techniques like deep breathing, repetition of positive reinforcements or words (like “relax” or “be calm”), taking a walk outdoors alone, or visualizing a safe, happy place to put your mind at ease in a moment of anger. These stress relievers will help with anger management and allow you to deal with the situation from a clearheaded space.

3. Identify Triggers

Anger can be caused by internal and external triggers. Negative or traumatic memories can cause anger, and so can altercations with co-workers or loved ones, financial pressures, traffic or car trouble (road rage), and events that don’t turn out as planned.

There are many factors in a given day that can cause anger — that’s normal to some degree — but if you find yourself triggered by the same things repeatedly, then you can better prepare for these situations.

Remember that logic can defeat anger in a moment. If a trigger sets you off, focus on restructuring the way you think about the situation. This is called cognitive restructuring, and it allows you to think about things differently, in a rational way that makes you better able to deal with the problem in a healthy way.

4. Communicate Your Feelings

A major cause of anger is feeling unheard, unappreciated or disrespected. In fact, research indicates that even in challenging work settings, like staff in the emergency department, practicing communication techniques is effective in giving employees tools to address their own feelings and expressions of anger in difficult situations.

While feelings linked to anger can be hard to acknowledge and communicate, suppressing them will only turn your anger inward and can cause feelings of regret or resentment. To deal with anger in a healthy way, focus on communicating your feelings honestly and calmly.

5. Take a Walk Outdoors

Taking a walk outdoors for anger management will help lift your mood and calm your body. Research shows that exposure to natural scenes has stress-reducing effects and helps improve a negative mood.

Other Ways to Control Anger

In addition to tools that you can use for anger management when you’re faced with a difficult or anger-promoting situation, there are also long-term actions you can take to improve your overall mood and health.

1. Get Enough Rest

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that there are important consequences of everyday sleep loss on anger, and sleepiness can cause issues with anger management.

2. Exercise Daily

Exercise is a natural stress reliever, and it can certainly help with anger management, especially if you’re dealing with chronic anger or enduring a stressful situation that you can’t control. Exercising releases powerful endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act like mood-lifters.

A 2008 study published in Pediatric Exercise Science suggests that aerobic exercise may reduce or prevent the increase in anger expression, which researchers found to be true among overweight children who participated in an after-school exercise program.

3. Try Meditation or Quiet Time

A study published in Consciousness and Cognition examined the effects of meditation of both experienced and novice meditators who reported feelings of anger. Researchers found that both groups experienced signs of relaxation, including slowed breathing and heart rate, and decreased blood pressure after meditating.

4. Check Your Diet

Nutrient deficiencies can cause hormone imbalance, low energy and mood changes. We need a steady supply of essential nutrients, including healthy fats, amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals, to help our brains better manage emotions.

Focus on eating a well-balanced diet that’s low in processed foods, sugary foods and refined vegetable oils. Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake, as consumption of these beverages can impact your mood.

The foods that you want to make sure are part of your daily diet include:

  • Healthy fats and omega-3 foods, like wild salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil
  • High-quality proteins, including grass-fed beef, organic poultry, eggs, lentils and quinoa
  • Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and fresh fruits

5. Seek Professional Support

If you’re dealing with chronic, uncontrolled anger, then seeking professional support is recommended. A licensed mental health professional can help you identity triggers and use anger management techniques to deal with them in a healthy, sustainable way.

Conclusion

  • Anger is an expression of displacement and frustration. We instinctively express anger with aggression, although the intensity of the response varies from mild irritation to full-on rage.
  • Anger management is when you use techniques to deal with feelings of anger and express them in a healthy, productive way.
  • You don’t want to suppress anger, but confront the trigger in a calm way. When you are dealing with a situation that contributes to anger, take a break, and relax your mind. Perhaps take a walk outdoors ,or restructure the situation in your mind so it feels more approachable.
  • Other ways to practice anger management for the long term are to get enough rest, exercise daily, eat a healthy diet and meditate.

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