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10 Ways to Manage Anger

by Rosanne Ullman | June 27, 2016
 Caspar Benson for Getty Images
Caspar Benson for Getty Images

We know that anger doesn’t literally make our “blood boil” or make us “see red,” but when you’re angry it does affect your body. Physical reactions range from a rise in blood pressure and a faster heartbeat to muscle tension and the release of adrenaline and other body chemicals into the blood stream. The body shifts into “high gear,” generating energy for needed action.

Ignoring anger is not the answers. That can lead to chronic high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, stomach issues, accidents, anxiety, relationship problems, depression and even criminal behavior and violence. So it’s important to learn to control what happens to your body when you feel anger and to channel your angry energy in positive ways, according to anger expert Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn, Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Advocate Medical Group–Behavioral Health in Normal, Illinois.

Woodburn identifies typical causes of anger: frustration, hurt, annoyance, disappointment, harassment, threats, fatigue and feeling overwhelmed. First,  Recognize the signs that your body is reacting to anger, such as muscle tension, being accident-prone, sarcasm and feeling frustrated or depressed. Next, do something about it! Woodburn offers 10 strategies to embrace and manage those feelings:

  1. Identify the cause of your anger. It’s not always obvious. When you yell at your friend, you actually may be upset at someone or something else.
  2. Act quickly. Figure out what to do right away. Try not to let angry feelings linger and fester.
  3. Calm down before you discuss issues. Shouting tends to lead to more shouting. If necessary, take a brief time-out until you’re calm.
  4. Be assertive, not aggressive. Express yourself firmly and clearly. Do not get personal—no insults, accusations or name-calling. Communication, negotiation and compromise are important.
  5. Use humor to help you change your perspective.
  6. Exercise! Physical activity like walking, biking or weight-lifting can help dissipate the energy associated with anger.
  7. Sleep. Make sure you’re getting adequate sleep and relaxation. Sometimes anger is nothing more than crankiness, and being tired makes us cranky.
  8. Practice relaxation skills such as deep breathing, meditation, muscle relaxation.
  9. Journal. Write about your anger, and then throw away what you’ve written.
  10. Seek help. If your anger is out of control, talk with a trusted friend or a counselor.
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