Dr. Gaudet: Getting Mad Effectively

Research shows that both ends of the anger continuum -- unchecked ire and self-silencing -- can damage your health, contributing to a range of health conditions. Strike a more balanced approach with these tips.

Take a step back.
When people or situations anger you, take note of how you react. Do you tend to empathize? Feel depressed or anxious? Start negative self-talk? Raise your awareness before you rush to "make it right" or keep the peace.

Know when to walk away.
If you're in conflict with someone who's hostile -- or if you're feeling explosive and hostile -- leave the interchange immediately. Nothing productive occurs in these exchanges, and they can hurt your health.

Feel what you feel.
When you have time and space, explore the full range of your emotions. If you feel empathy for a person you're in conflict with, express that. But also express the part of you that feels angry. If you don't think you feel anger, practice stepping into that feeling, even if it feels like pretending. (If you haven't experienced a particular emotion for years, it may feel foreign at first.) Writing in a journal is a great way to off-load primal emotions.

Harness your anger.
Use the anger to plan your next steps, then set your plan aside and revisit it when you are not angry. You may find that steps you ultimately take differ from the ones you planned while you were mad -- and this is usually for the best. Using anger consciously, rather than as raw fuel (or not at all), generally yields the best results.

Don't explode, but do express.
If you're in a significant relationship with a person who angered you, avoid self-silencing. If you have difficulty summoning the courage to speak your mind, start by taking a few deep breaths and meditating or saying a prayer (whatever works for you). Start the conversation by letting that person know you care about him or her and that you need to express some feelings. That will help open the door to honest communication.

Read more ways to focus your anger in Dr. Gaudet: Harnessing Anger

Text by Dr. Tracy Gaudet

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