From the moment you get out of bed and check the news, to the time you leave work late and face snarled up traffic, there are a million things that can enrage you. Seriously, what is this emotion, why do so many people lose control of it and is it really a bad thing to “get mad”? Let me share some things about anger, how it helps you, how it harms you, and how you can handle it in a healthy way.

First, anger isn’t a bad emotion. Anger can be healthy if it causes you to stand up against injustice and confront issues and handle them in an honest way (i.e., informed and constructive conversation, realistic compromise, etc.). Anger can help you think more rationally in times of crisis. It is only when it is held onto and suppressed for long periods of time that it can prove to be explosive, even fatal. Here are a few negative effects of anger.

Prolonged and internalized anger can cause major health hazards. According to physicians, the chance of having a heart attack doubles within one hour of just one explosive meltdown. In addition, elevated blood pressure during anger puts you at greater risk of strokes. Anger has been linked to heart disease, type II diabetes, many forms of cancer, and an overall weakened immune system. It is like a toxin in your system that is bound to have corrosive consequences.

Besides wreaking havoc with your physical health, anger can cause any number of psychological problems. It has been said that depression is nothing more than anger turned inward. Depression causes you to feel listless, helpless and ultimately hopeless. Anger can also exacerbate feelings of anxiety associated with financial concerns, job performance, and life in general. In addition, harboring hostility takes its toll on friends, family, and co-workers as one by one they are turned off by your behavior. What can you do about anger in your life?

Know your limitations. When you’re angry it’s easy to say things you’ll later regret. Instead, remove yourself from the situation before you lose control. Breathe deeply and take a walk. Gather your concerns and needs and when you’re ready, confront the situation or person clearly and directly without losing control.

Exercise and physical activity are great ways to work off anger and stress. Pumping iron, taking a swim, going for a run, practicing martial arts, hitting a speed bag are all healthy activities that will keep you fit and allow you to release anger.

For many people, dealing with anger is a lifelong process. Practicing yoga builds flexibility and helps you chill. Humor can lighten and diffuse heated situations. Guided meditation, visualization and deep breathing techniques are all helpful ways to help with your anger. If your anger is still out of control, then have the wisdom to seek professional help.

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