The Doctors column: Getting anger under control
VAIL CO, Colorado
Stop and count to 10: You tell your kids to do it when they’re angry, but you can’t seem to follow the same rule. When your spouse forgets to pick up the dry cleaning (again), you yell in half a second; when your boss adds projects to your already-long to-do list or you’re stuck in traffic, your blood boils.
We’ve all experienced moments of fury – it’s a normal and healthy emotion. But when anger gets out of control, it can hurt relationships and your health. Heart rate and blood pressure rise, and it may lead to sleep, digestive or perhaps heart problems. New research suggests anger may even boost the risk of stroke in some people. Try these strategies to help manage your emotions:
Breathe (deeply). It’s a simple yet effective way to calm down in a tense situation. Inhale and exhale slowly, and make sure your breath comes deep from your gut, not your chest.
Be clear and direct. Keep your words and tone respectful. Take a minute to collect your thoughts before saying anything, and when you do speak, avoid placing blame. For example, “I’m upset you didn’t pick up the dry cleaning when you said you would” instead of “You never do anything I ask.”
Consider solutions. Instead of hyper-focusing on what set you off, try resolving the problem. If your boss overloads you with work, schedule regular meetings so he knows what’s on your plate. If your traffic-heavy commute leaves you in a rage, try alternate routes or listen to audiobooks to make better use of the time. If an answer to the problem isn’t immediately clear, make a plan and check your progress along the way. You’re less likely to lose patience if you approach the situation with good intentions.
Lighten up. Humor can help defuse tension. What you don’t want to do, however, is laugh off your problems or use sarcasm, which can hurt feelings and make things worse.
Know when to get help. If you often feel as if you have to hold in your anger, or if you lose control and constantly argue, do things you regret or resort to violence, consider anger-management counseling. With help, you’ll learn to recognize triggers and resolve problems in a healthy, positive way. Talk to your doctor for more information.
The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check http://www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.