It’s good to practice relaxation techniques when you’re feeling calm. That way, you’ll teach yourself how to control your anger when your temper is rising.
All of us get angry from time-to-time. What matters is when it gets out of control. A scientific study revealed that people are 8.5 times more likely to have a heart attack within two hours following a burst of intense anger.
The doctors conducting this research from the University of Sydney found physical symptoms from clenched fists or teeth, a tense body, and throwing objects, to emotional ones of feeling out of control and helplessness increase the risks of severe cardiac arrest.
“Our findings confirm that episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack,” said Thomas Buckley, lead author of the study at Sydney Nursing School at the University of Sydney and researcher at Royal North Shore Hospital. “The data shows that the higher risk of a heart attack isn’t necessarily just while you’re angry. It lasts for two hours after the outburst.”
The study also found that the risk stems from “increased heart rate, blood pressure, tightening of blood vessels, and increased clotting,” Buckley said. “These symptoms are all associated with triggering heart attacks.”
It’s long been reported that anger leads to stress, and stress has a negative impact on our health. Despite that, sometimes anger can be positive because it motivates us to act and change negative situations. What we need to watch for is when our anger overpowers us; that’s when it becomes a problem.
Here are a few tips on how to control your anger:
- Breathe deeply and relax. Take deep slow inhalations from your diaphragm. As you do this count to five. Then exhale at a slower rate; this time count to 10. Repeat five to 10 times.
- Meditate by focusing on one word. Sit in a comfortable position and have your eyes closed. Repeat a word that makes you happy. It can be “relaxation,” “chocolate,” or the name of your favorite pet. It’s a word that keeps you calm.
- Visualize. While you’re sitting with your eyes closed, picture yourself walking in the woods or at a secluded beach. Pick an image that is calming to you.
- Practice yoga or take a walk. Many yoga poses are intended to keep you relaxed. A walk outdoors in a quiet location such as a park also lowers stress.
- Change the way you think about situations that trigger your anger. Instead of feeling defeated when things don’t go your way, acknowledge that you’re frustrated and focus on the positive. Think about the people in your life who can help. Try a new activity to channel your anger into a sport or craft that you’ll enjoy.
- Look at the positive side of anger. Yes, anger can be a natural response to things in life that are disappointing to us. By understanding this, you can use logic and rewards (do something that makes you happy) to control an outburst.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Reacting to a negative situation with an outburst clouds your thinking and can ramp up your anger. Think about the situation and try to see all sides before responding.
- Laugh. When you’re angry humor doesn’t often come into play. However, it’s great at defusing rage. Try to see the absurdity in what’s going on. This isn’t about laughing off your problems. It’s about looking at them in a humorous way. It can also help you see what’s bothering you more clearly and calmly.
- Plan ahead. If you expect to be in a stressful situation, give yourself some quiet time to relax beforehand. Survey what your triggers are, and make a plan that will help you deal with them. You can even treat yourself to something pleasant like a cup of tea, a small slice of cake (We usually don’t get angry when we eat cake.), or a run.
- Talk to a professional. Having friends and family to talk to helps. Sometimes, you need to consult with a psychologist or other licensed mental health worker who can help you learn how to control your anger.
July 07, 2017
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA