How Anger Can Affect Your Life
It is normal for you to feel anger. Anger can even have positive effects on your emotions. It gives you a sense of righteousness – a feeling of morality, justice, fairness, and respect.
Anger can alert you that an injustice is being committed, or that someone is taking advantage of you. On a larger scale, it may lead to groups of people to organize and motivate them to take action in favor of social change.
Not all people experience anger the same way. It’s possible that you get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person. You may easily feel frustration, inconvenience and annoyance, even with what other people consider trivial. You may feel that you are often a victim of injustice, and that other people intentionally frustrate you and make your life inconvenient.
If you have anger issues, you may be having trouble with relationships or work. You may be ruminating and not able to let things go. It may affect your quality of life.
Anger can also easily get out of control and turn destructive. If it becomes intense and lasts for long periods of time, this may lead to unhealthy and risky behavior such as domestic violence, child abuse, violence against other people, drinking, drug use, tendency to neglect self-care, having accidents, or road rage. These risky behaviors may result in serious physical threats and even legal problems such as assault and battery, reckless driving, and drug possession charges.
Anger can also affect your body. An out of control anger episode can give you rapid heart rate, palpitations, perspiration, shaking muscles, and urges to hit others. Your mind also gets affected, as you experience difficulties concentrating, remembering, ruminating about events, or engaging in revenge fantasies.
When left untreated, uncontrolled anger can wreak havoc on your physical body and may lead to medical problems. Surges in blood pressure, frequent activation of the nervous and endocrine systems, and tendencies to neglect self-care put angry individuals at risk for all kinds of problems. Certain types of anger can predict all-cause-mortality and reliably predict heart disease as well as blood pressure and cholesterol do.
Anger is also tied to strokes, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, binge eating and more.
How Living in New York City Can Trigger Anger
Living in a fast-paced environment such as New York City can expose you to situations that easily provoke anger. Driving in the streets of Manhattan that are overflowing with cars, with drivers and pedestrians that openly disregard traffic rules can easily lead to road rage. Even commuting can be infuriating to you. Standing and sitting close to other people in the subway or metro bus whose behavior might annoy you can lead to conflicts. Fistfights and other physical violence are not unheard of when people get off subway trains.
Frustrations with work pressures can also be infuriating. Problematic relationships that result from complicated lifestyle may also lead to fights and uncontrolled rage.
The financial stress of the city is another factor that can lead to anger. The background stress of the high cost of living can put New York residents at risk of becoming angry or aggressive. Manhattan is one of the most expensive cities in the world and every purchase or bill can remind you how stressful having to work enough to pay for things can be. Now all you need is some incompetent person to overcharge you or refuse to pay you, and you have very good reasons to feel angry.
Believe it or not, even the physical environment of New York City can make anger and aggression more common. Dense populations- Manhattan has no shortage of areas with crowds, e.g., Time Square, etc. can increase people’s stress levels, which raises the chances of people becoming angry. We simply don’t have unlimited resources, so as the stress eats away at our coping, we are more at risk of blowing up. Loud noises (or noise pollution) are another factor that Manhattan has plenty of. It turns out that like overpopulated areas, exposure to loud noise can deplete our capacity to cope with stressors and put us at risk for becoming angry and aggressive in response to things that normally would not bother us. So New Yorkers have a lot to contend with.
Strategies to Control Anger
There are a number of strategies to control anger, before its negative and harmful effects could wreak havoc on your life:
1. Practice relaxation – Training yourself to relax by deep breathing and creating relaxing imagery can help you calm down when faced with a situation where you can get intensely emotional. ch is critical to managing anger. By turning down your physiology, it makes it very difficult to hold on to the anger. Some theorists explain that a person cannot be simultaneously relaxed and angry at the same time because anger by definition involves a high level of nervous system arousal. There are many methods you can use to relax. One of the easiest and most effective is relaxation based on your breathing. Here is a CBT worksheet that explains paced respiration where you inhale for a count of four, hold for seven, and exhale for eight (4-7-8 breathing).
2. Solve your problem – Channel your energy into facing the problem and searching for solution. Remind yourself that anger does not fix anything, and might just make things worse. As obvious as it sounds, problem solving has been shown in scientific studies to treat anger problems. Even though most of us believe there is a big problem (often times another person) when we are angry, few of us actively use a formal problem solving process to resolve it. Most of us respond emotionally and may tell (or yell) the other person there is a problem, but we rarely address the problem with a specific method or system. Here is a very simple form you can use whenever you have an anger problem.
3. Communicate better – In heated discussions with other people, cool down before making your responses. Try to listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering. Listen to the words being said, as well as the underlying message behind their words. Also listen to yourself and why you are reacting the way you are. Calm yourself first before expressing why you are angry. You can combine a quick relaxation technique and center yourself before communicating clearly, it can really help you choose the right words and prevent the situation from escalating or saying something you might regret. State your concerns clearly and directly without hurting others. It is also important to use “I” statements and to be direct in requesting what you want. This kind of assertive communication can make a big difference in helping to reduce your anger and getting people to understand where you are coming from and even comply with your requests. Here is a very simpler (four statement) work sheet you can use as a template.
4. Use Humor – Try to defuse your rage by finding humor in the situation. Be careful not to give in to sarcastic humor, which is just another form of unhealthy expression. Remember, this humor is intended for you to be able to laugh at the situation, not an attempt to provoke another person. Is it possible that this time you are seeing a mountain when it is only a molehill- maybe with time and distance, you will be able to laugh at the situation.
5. Give yourself a break – Schedule a “personal time” to get away from it all before or after facing a day that is particularly stressful. Rejuvenating our coping resources is critical to dealing with anger. There is plenty of evidence that laughter, rest, and fun can really help people to cope better. Many of us can’t imagine scheduling times to replenish and recharge our batteries, but it is a really great technique for not becoming angry. We could learn something from children taking daily recess to play.
6. Avoid the situation or environment that makes you furious. While this isn’t a strategy we want to use exclusively, i.e., we need to learn how to handle things directly, there is a time and place for avoiding a situation. If you do not believe that you have the skills necessary to handle dealing with a person or situation at that time or that you are an emotional state calm enough to think on your feet, make decisions, and communicate clearly, then it is better to avoid the situation. It may be important to communicate to someone that you are doing that, e.g., “Lisa it is very important to me that we can discuss the questions you raised in my review. I am under some time pressure right now, so I would like to schedule a time later this week to discuss it. Can you email me some possible times?”
7. Regular physical activity is a good way to manage stress and keep you from becoming easily angered. Be careful though that you don’t morph this advice into punching pillows or something similar when you’re angry, as there is some evidence this can make things worse in the long run.
8. Consistent healthy meals can make a big difference in terms of reducing your at risk for intense anger. Even a single instance of low blood sugar can lead someone to become really angry in response to a trigger that normally would not be bothersome.
9. Adequate sleep. The same goes for being tired and sleep deprived. Most of us have experienced being irritable as a result of not getting enough sleep- and when that happens we are vulnerable to even the smallest anger triggers. Be sure you don't let insomnia go untreated or that you don't choose to stay up beyond what might be healthy. Sleep deprivation accumulates (sleep debt) and can put you at greater risk of anger episodes.
10. Seek help – If your anger isn’t serious, speaking to a friend or family member to get some support might help. If you feel that your anger makes you act in such away that you feel you are going out of control and you behave in frightening ways, consider seeking help. A psychologist can work with you in finding ways to change your thinking and your behavior via anger management therapy.
Anger Management Therapy
The goal of anger management therapy is to help you develop strategies to keep you from going over the edge when you are angry. We are really working to make sure that you don’t feel as intensely angry for as long, and even if you do, that when you do, you no longer act in ways that get you into trouble. Hopefully you won’t feel enraged as often, but if you do, we want to prevent bad behavior, so you don’t add a layer of regret or guilt to the anger.There are a few scientifically supported ways to reduce the feelings of anger as well as the self-defeating behaviors that might occur when you’re angry.
Cognitive Restructuring for Anger
It turns out that people who are frequently and intensely angry have many of the same kinds of thoughts. These thoughts often have themes about fairness, justice, or competence. They often reference how things should have occurred and may see people or situations in a dichotomous way, i.e., black or white. Through practice and certain interventions angry clients can learn to think differently about others, the situations, and even themselves. This has been shown to reduce anger (and as a side benefit, one study showed they also became less depressed).
Anger Skills Training
When you are angry, you may become aggressive. But it is also possible at times you hold it in and avoid the person or situation. Either approach may not include two skills that have been shown to reduce anger and improve relationships. Those skills are assertive communication and problem solving. It is really easy when we are enraged to forget to use skills we already have. Maybe you can draft the perfect response when you are calm, but once you are “p—ssed” you don’t choose the same words. There may be a solution that you could come up with if you gave yourself the space and time to be calm and adopt a different perspective. But if you are angry, you may want to run headlong into the situation right now- waiting doesn’t seem like an option. Working with a cognitive behavior therapist (CBT), who is specially trained to handle anger can help you develop these skills and enable you to implement them when you need them.
Relaxation Training for Anger Arousal
Most of us think of relaxation as a state, but it is also important to see it as a skill that we can practice. By doing so, we can get better at it. We can bring on a state of relaxation more and more quickly and even when we are really mad. Another misconception is that we think we are relaxing when we are watching television, sleeping, or jogging. So we may be overestimating how much time we are relaxed during any given week. Our nervous systems are not relaxed during those activities. It might sound weird, but our brains are incredibly active in ways they aren’t when they are in a state of relaxation. Working with a specialist can help you find the best relaxation technique for you that will allow you to regularly recharge and be able to relax even in the face of anger.
How Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help with Anger
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been shown to effectively treat anger problems. Warm, caring, professionals can offer CBT for anger in a comfortable setting at New York Behavioral Health, which is conveniently located at 380 Lexington Avenue on the corner of 42nd Street.
Our compassionate staff have been extensively trained in scientifically supported techniques to efficiently reduce your suffering and begin to get you living the life you want. We know it is not easy to get started, but we can help to begin to reduce your suffering.
For information about anger treatment to reduce your suffering, please email or call New York Behavioral Health, and a staff member will be there to answer your questions. Your privacy and comfort are a priority, and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have about anger problems or anger management.
CBT Worksheets for Anger Management
Fuller, J.R., DiGiuseppe, R. , Fountain, T., O’Leary, S., Lang, C. (2010). An open trial of a comprehensive anger treatment program on an outpatient sample anger.