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Here’s how to curb anger

health-and-fitness Updated: Jan 09, 2010 21:33 IST
Parul Khanna
Parul Khanna
Hindustan Times
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AngerMaddened by the sluggish traffic and the incessant noise on the streets, you often lose your temper and scream imprecations at all till your throat is hoarse.



* Annoyed by the constant chatter and shrieks of your happily playing children, you can’t stop yourself from screaming at them to just keep quiet.



* Discussing the person you met for the first time at last night’s party, your partner is amazed at the venom you’re spewing about someone you don’t even know.



If any of this sounds familiar, chances are you are suffering from an anger problem. Now, there’s nothing wrong with anger. It’s a very natural reaction of the body, meant to put you into self-protective mode. But if you experience repeated episodes of anger, sometimes over very trivial things, then it becomes a problem. Because not only do your frequent outbursts of anger harm your personal relationships and quality of life, they also have a bad effect on your health.



"Anger can cause insomnia and depression," explains Dr Ajay Pal Singh, senior psychologist, Max Hospitals. "Chronic anger can lead to high blood pressure and stress. It increases the pulse rate. You can suffer from heart attacks post anger episodes."



Constant anger can also lead to bad relationships and therefore negative coping skills, says holistic lifestyle expert Dr Rachna Singh. "Anger can spoil your public image. It reduces efficiency at work and leads to poor concentration. To cope, people turn to tobacco and alcohol."



To correct chronic anger, it is importantfor you to be aware that you have an anger problem in the first place. Here are three common ways in which we tend to show our anger:

SUPPRESSION
When something – a situation, event or person – makes you angry, but you do not express that annoyance, you are
suppressing the emotion. For example, you may be angry with a friend who forgot to greet you on your birthday. But you do not tell her or him so. Instead, you ignore her or his phone calls or take offence at everything she or he says.

Suppression of anger leads to a distortion of your relationship with the person – if, indeed, your anger is with a person. Says Rachna Singh, “Communication is the key to a successful relationship, whether at the office, with friends or family. Lack of communication ruins the relationship. If a person you are angry with speaks to you, you respond rudely, or express your emotional displeasure in some other way.”

This kind of anger doesn’t hurt the person you are rude to – who usually doesn’t know why you’re behaving this way – as much as it hurts you. Because you internalise your anger, you have high chances of falling into a depression, say experts.

You are likely to suppress your anger because you don’t know how to express yourself or how to express your anger. People tend to suppress anger if they are in a position of subjugation (if the person they’re angry with is a figure of authority, such as a boss or a family elder). Or they don’t want to be perceived as ‘nasty.’

OUTBURSTS
It’s normal to explode once in a while, but repeated episodes of uncontrolled rage are unhealthy, say experts. When you explode with rage, you do not see where you are, who you are talking to and what you are doing, but you express your anger in the most unpleasant way. Think Salman Khan and Harbhajan Singh and you’ll know what we mean.

Frequent outbursts of rage usually occur among people who have low tolerance levels. They get irritated and angry because of any minor disturbance in life. It could be a jam on the way to work, a nagging spouse or a failure to meet deadlines. Usually, such people are very ambitious, aim for perfection and have high expectations of others and themselves.

DISPLACEMENT
When you are angry with person A, but take out the emotion on person B or C, it’s called displacement. For instance, unable to tell your boss what you really feel, you shout at your driver on the way back home, or shriek at your kids.

Most often, people who displace their anger are not even aware of it. This isn’t similar to suppression because when you suppress or give in to anger, you know whom the anger is directed at.

“Usually, such people only realise that they are displacing anger when someone close points it out,” says Dr Ajay Pal Singh, senior psychologist, Max Healthcare. “That’s the first step to changing the behaviour.” There is no particular personality trait or circumstance associated with anger displacement.

Manage your anger

* Utilise the energy in a positive way. Exercise is the best. Moderate daily exercise helps keep the mind fit and expends the extra energy positively.
* Do ten minutes of breathing exercises daily. You could even do this while driving or at work. Inhale and exhale deeply. This has been scientifically proven to calm the nervous system down.
* Count to a hundred. Experts say that people often forget to count in a fit of rage, and that’s why it doesn’t work. They should practice doing this.
* Try Jacobson’s technique: When you feel a wave of anxiety or anger, scan your body immediately and try and locate a tense muscle. Then relax it. Locate another tense muscle. Relax that too. As your muscles relax, your heart rate and breathing both slow down and you begin to feel calmer.
* Write your problems on a piece of paper. Feel free to abuse the person or situation that caused you this anger. Then burn the sheet or tear it up. Ideally, do this every night before bed. It apparently works wonders.
* Try the empty chair technique. Visualise the person you are angry with sitting on a chair opposite you. Shout or say what you want to the person. It’s an immediate release.
* Keep a thought diary. Every night, pen down the number of times you got angry and showed it, the length of time you stayed angry, what you said and what was the trigger. This helps you understand your anger cycle. Self-realisation is the first step to correcting an anger problem.
* Coach yourself to express anger the correct way. For instance, if you are angry with your boss, write her/him a mail explaining all your points, rather than suppressing your anger.
* Try and see humour in situations and avoid reacting immediately.
* Share your anger with a person you are close to. That way, you will dispense with it.
* A lot of anger is about expectations. Try and lower them.
* Practice restraint. Before you say anything to anyone, write it down on a piece of paper. Look at it again in the morning. This will give you time to calm down and think. Often, you will realise that the issue doesn’t bother you anymore.

Courtesy: Dr Ajay Pal Singh and Dr Rachna Singh