Stop Anger From Destroying Your Health

By Dr. Charles Sophy, Clinical psychiatristTake this quiz to determine if your temper needs to be tamed to protect your health.

Posted on | By Dr. Charles Sophy

Do you ever lose your temper? Get so mad you want to scream? Have you ever had the urge to strangle someone when they did something that really annoyed you? Well those feelings are coming from an emotion called anger and I assure you, they are very normal.

Anger is a healthy emotional response that every human experiences. Like other emotions, it must be dealt with in a healthy way, both physically and psychologically. If handled improperly, it can lead to myriad problems that affect all aspects of our lives: heart attacks, strokes, sleep disturbances, mood issues, and anxiety (maybe even legal problems), just to name a few.

The two most common forms of unhealthy anger are internalized anger and externalized anger. Internalized anger is anger that is bottled up and not expressed. Externalized anger is anger that is expressed in a disrespectful, aggressive, and sometimes even dangerous manner.

When should you be worried about anger? When it begins to interfere with your ability to function normally or with your relationships. Think of the acronym SWEEP:

Sleep

Work

Eating

Expressing Emotions

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If any of these things are suffering because of your anger, you’ve got to get it under control.

To keep our anger under control, we need to listen to our brain and our heart. It’s a combination of logic and emotion that leads to a healthy expression of anger. How do you feel? How do you want to act? What is an appropriate reaction? Does the person I feel anger toward feel remorseful? Did they mean to do what they did? I can’t express to you enough how helpful asking yourself simple questions like these can be. Not only does it force you to think about the situation with an open mind, but just the process of thinking before you react acts to calm you down.

When we are angry, our brain sends signals to the rest of our body, our blood pressure rises, pulse rate increases, intensity of breathing increases and breaths shorten. More severe cases may even lead to headaches, blurred vision and muscle ache. So how do we handle this anger issue once we identify it?

A pronged approach is always the most effective. First, you need to identify the triggers that make you angry. Once identified, you need to prepare yourself for these danger situations. Prepare preventative tools that help you handle your anger appropriately in these situations. Different tools will work for everyone, if it works for you, don’t worry about how crazy it might seem. What’s important is that it works. You also need tools to use in the heat of the moment.

During my show appearance, we talked about prevention, as well as the “in the moment” tips and tools. It is very important to take charge and control of your anger from the inside and outside. There are many different foods and supplements we can add to our diets that will limit the intensity of our response when we get angry.

One of my recommendations is valerian root. Valerian is used as a natural sedative designed to help you de-stress or sleep well. Valerian has been used for centuries to regulate the nervous system and relieve tension, irritability, nervous exhaustion and stress. It is commonly found in relaxation drinks. Be sure to use only valerian products derived from the root of the plant; the active ingredient, valeopotriates, is only present in substantial quantities in the roots. Take 300 mg one hour before bed.

Changing your diet to increase you body's tryptophan levels is another trick. Tryptophan is an amino acid that produces niacin and serotonin, the brain's mood-regulating hormone. By eating foods high in tryptophan, we increase the levels of serotonin in our brain and stabilize mood. Try adding foods such as baked potatoes (with the skin), bananas, cottage cheese, turkey, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds to your daily regimen. You will be certain to notice a higher tolerance in times of anger, a raised base level of happiness, and even better sleep!

Want other ways to be proactive? Try yoga, pilates or any other muscle relaxation techniques.

Progressive muscle relaxation is one I recommend. Relaxing your muscles is the most preventative thing you can do to combat anger. Tighten muscles for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat 3 times. Try this progressive muscle relaxation exercise. You can also deflate your anger by applying pressure to trigger points on the back of your neck, where your hairline begins. Try it for 10 seconds and repeat. This is another great method to relieve pressure. All of the above are great ways to strengthen our physical and mental health for better anger management.

Take this quiz to determine if your temper needs to be tamed to protect your health.

 

Article written by Dr. Charles Sophy
Clinical psychiatrist