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Anger: Breathe In Breathe Out

Don't let stress make you mad. Learn how to beat your anger.

It's easy to get hopping mad. Anything can set off anger—your
spouse forgot to pick up the kids at school, your co-worker is making
life at the office miserable, or your flight to Atlanta has been
cancelled. Of course, worrying, feeling hurt or even recalling unpleasant
memories can also result in anger. In fact, any number of difficulties,
both big and small, can ignite fury.

Certainly, some people are naturally angrier than others. They're
just born grumpy. These people have a low tolerance for frustration; they
can't take everyday annoyances in stride. And then there are people who
like their angry side; their rage makes them feel powerful. "Men feel
macho. A Saturday night doesn't feel right without a good barroom brawl,"
says Michael Schulman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in
anger in New York City. "Their sense of self is connected to their
ability to explode."

From mild irritation to intense rage, anger increases the heart
rate and blood pressure. And worse, the effects of anger can sometimes be
devastating. People who regularly feel steamed up often suffer physical
problems such as stomach ulcers and heart attack. A Johns Hopkins study
of more than 1,000 physicians reports that young men who quickly react to
stress with anger were five times more likely than their calmer
counterparts to have an early heart attack even without a family history
of heart disease.

Clearly, anger can take its toll. So how do you manage such
emotions? While aggression is a natural reaction to a threat,
inappropriate fury can be damaging. Finding the right response is
important. So is it healthier to express or suppress your feelings?
Researchers are still unsure.

Some people focus on positive things rather than brood over angry
thoughts. The goal is to redirect your emotions into constructive

While this can be helpful, there are some dangers in this approach.
Redirection can be a form of suppression. If your anger remains a force
and you keep it simmering inside, there is the possibility of serious
consequences such as depression. In addition, unexpressed anger can lead
to passive-aggressiveness—indirectly putting others down, for

If you are prone to internalizing anger, expressing yourself may be
a better path. The key to successful expression is assertiveness, which
is not to be confused with being pushy or demanding. Making your needs
clear without hurting others is a healthy way to deal with anger. "What
kind of relationship do you want with others?" asks Schulman. "You need
to be clear with how you want to interact with people; once you're clear,
you can step back and count to ten."

There are a number of ways to keep anger in check. Directing your
emotions in a constructive and positive way can be learned. Here are a
few strategies:

Relaxation—Try these methods to help ease your emotions:

  • Deep breathing techniques, such as meditation.
  • Exercises such as yoga.
  • Visualizing a relaxing experience, such as walking on the
  • Repeating phrases such as "calm down" also helps.

Better communication:

  • If you are in a fiery discussion, slow down and think about what
    you are saying. It also helps to listen to the other person; listening
    will help you form a careful response. If you do this, you may even
    discover the underlying problem.


  • Lightening up also eases hot emotions. If a person is annoying you,
    imagine that he isn't wearing clothes. Humor often diffuses intense

Take a break:

  • Scheduling personal time is important to regain perspective. Try
    physical activity such as a brisk walk; writing down your thoughts;
    talking to a friend or listening to music.

Coping with angry feelings can be tricky, but now you know how to
stay in control.