Managing Anger

Everyone gets angry sometimes. We all behave differently when angry. Some of us “internalise” our anger and can end up harming ourselves physically or emotionally.

We are angry at ourselves for not doing something else or for being victimised it goes along with feelings of guilt or shame or helplessness. This behaviour can take various forms, like over-using alcohol, taking illegal drugs, eating unhealthily, self-harming, punching walls etc. sometimes living in a chaotic or unfocused manner or having difficulty in problem solving.

We can also externalise our anger by behaving negatively towards others: always being irascible, being verbally or physically aggressive or acting in threatening or violent ways. Behaving this way will create many further difficulties particularly in personal relationships. Managing our anger is very important because if we experience high or frequent levels of anger it ultimately damages our health, our relationships, our happiness and possibly our job.

Let’s look again at your anger in detail.

Think about a situation in which you have felt angry.

Write down the details of that occasion:

How did you feel before it happened? How did you feel when you were being angry? How long were you angry? How long did it take you to cool down? How did you feel after?

What is happening to you physically, what changes can you notice?

What thoughts are connected to this anger?

How do you behave?

What are the outcomes of your behaviour?

Are you happy with all of this?

If not, then let’s try and visualise a different way the scene could have been played out?. Visualise the same scenario with yourself reacting calmly in this situation or with this person.

a. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What are you saying? b. How do think you would feel at the end of that visualised scenario? c. How different would you need to be in order to act in this way?

Sometimes we believe that our anger is out of control. It is not. It is our behaviour that we are allowing to be out of our control. If we choose to behave negatively in response to our anger the outcome will always be negative.

Remember there are always consequences as a result of unmanaged anger. Relationships breakdown, we get into trouble legally, we get into fights, relationships become based on fear, and we can harm ourselves. All of these and many more negative outcomes are the consequences we have to face. Ask yourself is it worth it. You have more to lose and nothing to gain by not controlling your negative behaviour.

Anger causes stress and one of the many symptoms of stress is muscular tension. We most often find that this tension affects our necks, shoulders, jaw and lower backs. The tension of muscles is a natural reaction created by the ‘fight or flight’ response. When we are not managing stress this reaction can be constant and as such we may not even be aware that it is there anymore. When muscles are tense the blood supply is reduced, and this coupled with faster, more shallow breathing means that our muscles are not getting enough oxygen which fatigues them. This can mean that we feel as if we have no energy and our muscles in this condition are more prone to injury. This is why muscular relaxation techniques are so vital. Often people who have been tense for a long time find this difficult at first.

Be reassured that it does get easier with practise. Muscular relaxation, for full benefit, should be practised everyday for 10-20 minutes. This not only assists to manage the symptoms of stress we are currently experiencing but also enables us to be a calmer, more confident person increasing our abilities to manage everyday stresses and better able to cope with stressors in the futures.

Many people do not recognise when they are becoming tense. They may say they feel OK because they are unaware of the tension in their bodies. Tension has become such a habit that they believe that this is their normal state. It is therefore important to relearn what relaxed muscles feel like. To do this you need to deliberately tense then relax the muscles. By tensing and relaxing you will become aware of the difference between being tense and being relaxed. You can then relax when you want to. When you are relaxing the muscles correctly you will feel warm and heavy.

Find a warm, comfortable area to practice where you will not be disturbed. You can play gentle music softly in the background if you choose to or a relaxation tape. Adjust the lighting perhaps using lamps instead of ceiling lights. Lie down or sit in a comfortable chair.

Work muscles of the body starting with your feet and working upwards; tensing and relaxing as you concentrate on each of the muscular groups in your body. As you breath out relax the muscles allowing yourself the sensation of sinking deeper and deeper.

From stress to tranquility ... breathing for relaxation

Relaxed breathing is a natural method of breathing, which is performed with deep, long and regular rhythm (imagine the gentle tidal movements of waves lapping against the shore).

Learning and practising relaxed breathing is the first step to stress reduction and moving towards relaxation. Each time you practise relaxed breathing the easier it will become, your confidence will increase and this confidence will allow you to better perform relaxed breathing, which will increase your relaxation. Practise this exercise and keep at it until you feel confident and comfortable with it.

Find a comfortable space where you know you will not be disturbed and where you can sit or lie down. Make sure the room you are relaxing in is at a comfortable temperature. Take the phone of the hook, turn off the mobile. If you enjoy music, find a tape with slow and calming rhythms and play this quietly as a background sound. If you enjoy any particular aromas light scented candles or burn oils, dim the lights and get ready to relax.

Sit or lie in a comfortable position, place your arms by your sides, palms facing the ceiling. Legs relaxed and uncrossed, try to distribute the weight of your body evenly on both the right-hand and left-hand sides. Close your eyes. Turn your attention to your breathing. To create a deep, long, slow rhythm, allow your breathing to become deeper, longer and slower. Allow yourself to breathe down deep in the abdomen area, pushing the stomach out as you breath in and letting the stomach sink back down again as you breathe out. Repeat as you inhale, ‘deep and long and slow’. As you exhale repeat, ‘slow and long and deep’. Whenever your mind wanders gently bring it back to your breathing. You are now performing relaxed breathing. As the lungs continue to breathe deeper, longer and slower, become aware of how the whole of your body begins to breathe deeper, longer and slower. As you inhale, take in pure energy, as you exhale, breathe out your stress. End your relaxation slowly. First gently stir your body, second, open your eyes, third if lying down roll onto your side, then onto your knees and gradually stand up.

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