Failing to manage anger takes emotional, physical toll

What makes you angry? What flips your switch? How do you handle the anger once it appears?

Anger is defined as a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong.

Sometimes anger comes quickly and leaves easily; like the time you felt angry that you missed your bus. Other times it remains and simmers — like the anger you feel at your friend for lying to you.

It is a normal human emotion and can be caused by anything from a cousin’s teasing to worries about grades or memories of a sad event. However, feeling consistently angry without knowing how to manage the emotion can be unhealthy emotionally and physically.

Anger can vary in intensity from mild frustration to extreme rage. An angry person can experience physiological changes that involve increased heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline; the more intense the anger, the more drastic the physiological changes.

Have you ever felt so angry that you feel your face getting hotter, your heart beating faster and your breath becoming quick and shallow? If unmanaged, this take its toll.

Think about the different ways you react to or deal with the emotion. Have you ever been so angry you said or did something that you later regret? Have you ever used it in a positive way, such as standing up to a bully at school and stopping his harassment?

The National Runaway Switchboard Curriculum states that when handled in a positive way, anger can help people stand up for themselves and fight injustice. On the other hand, unmanaged anger can lead to violence and injury.

Each person feels, expresses and deals with anger in a different way. According to the Switchboard, relaxing is one great way to deal with anger. Some people relax by talking to someone they trust. Others relax by going for a swim, writing in journal, listening to music or going fishing. Focused breathing — taking deep breaths from your diaphragm, or belly, not from your chest — is an easy and effective way to relax during a tense or angry situation.

To breathe from your diaphragm, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Place your hand over your stomach and feel it expand about an inch as you inhale. It should deflate about an inch when you exhale.

The next time you feel angry, take 10 of these deep breaths, with one count for each breath. When you are finished, see if you feel calmer. If not, try another 10.

Another technique involves counting to four as you inhale and again as you exhale. Repeat this several times, then see if you feel better.

A third technique is to pause for a few seconds after slow, deep breaths.

With practice, these techniques become easier. You can call on them anytime they’re needed — before a big test or talking to your parents.

• Tram Vuong Meadows is the Therapeutic Foster Home Program Therapist for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i. She can be reached at tmeadows@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu’e, HI 96766.

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