Hot heads need to simmer down and take stock. You need to find positive ways of dealing with your anger, and that doesn’t mean ignoring it or hoping it will just go away. The first line of heart defence against chronic anger is management, and those with serious hair-triggers should seek out anger management and counselling.
But it all starts with recognising when you’re angry and then working to shift your mind frame, according to Dr Wayne Sotile, author of Thriving With Heart Disease. He suggests that when you feel your anger and your heart rate rising, you use one of the following “coping statements” to get a grip:
* ‘I can’t accomplish anything by blaming other people, even if they are responsible for the problem. I’ll try another angle.’
* ‘Will this matter five years from now? (Five hours? Five minutes?)’
* ‘If I’m still angry about this tomorrow, I’ll deal with it then. But for now, I’m just going to cool off.’
* ‘Acting angry is not the same as showing that I care.’
These are all ways of distancing yourself from your emotion and developing mindfulness.
Another way to deal with anger is to deliberately release tension as it builds up, so that you never find yourself in the throes of a “pressure cooker outburst”. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa recommends regular exercise for this: whether it’s walking, swimming, running or riding a stationary bike, a consistent exercise programme not only strengthens your body but also reduces stress.
There’s also regular meditation, yoga, the use of slow and deep breathing, and the trick of counting slowly to ten (or even a hundred if need be!) before responding to something that has angered you. Or try leaving the room or go for a walk for a few minutes or hours before discussing something that is making your blood boil; or write out your response before talking about it.
Those with more serious anger issues could try to keep an anger journal in which they write out and record the negative feelings, thoughts and emotions. In this way the anger can be expressed through an outlet, but in a measured, healthy way.
So the next time you feel that prickling sensation, the sweaty palms, the racing heart, see if you can stop yourself. Perhaps the most sobering thing of all is to ask yourself, ‘Is this worth dying for?
This article originally appeared in Heart magazine, for the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA