We are a culture of excess. Extra large coffees, super premium gasoline, first class airline tickets, turbo charged car engines, extra strength pain relievers and even double protein at your local restaurant. We want what we want, we want as much of it as we can handle and we won’t take no for an answer. There are many negatives to this entitled, limitless approach to life, but none more important than the anger that it can create as an unplanned side effect. Admit it: If you don’t get what you want, you’ll get angry—even if only a little. However, even a little anger can cause a great deal of damage to your mental and physical well-being. And, anger isn’t limited to situations where you don’t get your way. Don’t have enough money to buy the new BMW you’ve been eyeing? Cut off in traffic? Barista didn’t give you enough foam? There are millions of reasons to get angry and these days anger is becoming more and more common.
Why is this important to you? If anger is as common as the sun rising every morning, surely it shouldn’t matter much, right? Wrong. Anger is directly linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, depression and strokes. Moreover, if you’re angry often and don’t have a clue how to get over your emotions, you’re more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, general fatigue and apathy. The truth about anger is that if you’re a chronic sufferer, you’re three times more likely to exhibit these symptoms than those that aren’t.
Being angry and retaining hostility isn’t just about exhibiting a bad mood or exploding on an unsuspecting traffic cop. Prolonged anger is like being on an out of control train. It will keep moving forward, gathering momentum with every inch, bringing you to an eventual crash. The severity of this crash is really up to you. Nobody can eliminate anger from their lives, but we can find healthy ways to deal with it. First, let’s address a simple truth: you can’t really manage your anger like you can your diet or your workout plans. If someone tells you that you can coordinate your feelings, they need to see a psychiatrist more than anyone else in the room. You can’t plan around getting lit up at a red light or your boss shouting at you. What you have to do is create an anger relief approach to life that allows you to get angry, feel the emotion, deal with it and get over it without blowing up or letting the feeling linger. Thomas Jefferson once said: “When angry, count to 10 before speaking. If very angry, count to 100.” This advice still applies today. Here are a few more tactics to consider when faced with rage:
1. Don’t react; Respond. The gut reaction to something that makes your blood boil will only create more turmoil in the situation. Reactions are instinctual. Responding is cerebral. Think before saying anything when you’re angry.
2. Don’t stay; Leave. Sometimes talking things out is great, but when you’re angry all you’ll accomplish is escalating the argument even further. The best thing you can do is to walk away and separate yourself from the situation altogether. Let the anger pass, collect your thoughts and resolve things thereafter. Don’t just let it go without addressing it though, as this will merely let things linger, resulting in a future flare up.
3. Don’t brood; Exercise. If you retreat, you’re on the right path. If you sequester yourself away from the world and do nothing but dwell on the point of frustration, you’re sure to prolong your anguish. If you find yourself stuck on the issue, go to the gym. Exercise forces your mind to focus on other matters while also using any pent up emotions.
Bottomline: Don’t let anger take hold of you. Feel the emotion, process your thoughts, talk it through and move on. Anything else will put you on a path of self-destruction and even violence. It could also lead to depression, high blood pressure, as well as an increased risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event. If you can’t manage your anger on your own, seek professional help by asking your physician to refer you to a specialist.