Anger Control for Men Part III: tips for cooling down

By Georgette Djaba

Anger Control for Men
Why we get angry — And why uncontrolled anger is a serious health threat (continued)

Spielberger says that there are two wrong things to do with it. One is to think that it's healthy and normal to have uncontrolled anger released in an explosive rage. Some guys just assume that screaming at people, throwing things, and punching walls is cathartic and will make them feel better. In fact, getting into a rage can just ramp up your reaction — making you even less in control of your anger.

Here's the other wrong thing: to push down the bile and keep smiling. Some men think that any expression of anger is unhealthy or antisocial and should be suppressed.

Studies show that both approaches — noisily expressing your anger or soundlessly burying it — are equally harmful and may pose the same health risks, Spielberger says. But if neither corking up your anger nor blowing your stack is a healthy option, what's an angry man to do?

There is another option. Let anger out, but control it, Spielberger says. The first step is to become self-aware. Don't let yourself fly into a rage. Instead, be conscious of your anger. It's the only way to figure out exactly what is making you angry.

Once you can identify the real problem, you can try to solve it rationally instead of getting pointlessly furious. If you're angry with someone, talk about it in an assertive — but not aggressive — way. If a certain situation predictably sparks uncontrolled anger, learn how to prepare for it. Better yet, learn how to avoid the situation altogether in the future, if possible. The advantage to channeling your anger in this way is that you get a concrete benefit: You're actually trying to deal with the problem rather than just yelling about it, and you're more likely to get the result you desire.

Chill out, man: Tips for cooling down
Since feeling angry is in part a physical process, you won't be able to just talk yourself out of it logically. Instead, you need to calm yourself down physically. With these techniques, you can lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as control your anger.
• Take a deep breath. Breathe in and out deeply from your diaphragm, which is under your chest bone. After a minute or so, you should feel some tension ebb away. The advantage to breathing exercises is that you can do them anywhere, says Spielberger. Once you're good at them, you can even do them in the middle of a marital spat or a staff meeting.
• Take a break. If you feel your anger getting out of control, get a change of scenery. If possible, leave the room or go for a walk.
Focus on something else. Count to 10. Try imagining yourself in a calm place. Or repeat a soothing word to yourself.
• Get some exercise. Building physical activity into your schedule can be a great stress reliever.

More serious problems with anger need to be treated. Yeah, the phrase “anger management” can sound pretty feeble and goofy. It's often seen (and used) as a punishment, a humiliation to be endured — like doing community service picking up litter on the freeway — rather than anything you'd ever want to seek out on your own.

But if you think uncontrolled anger is interfering with your life, get help before it's court mandated. Learn how to turn your rage into something useful. Because taming your uncontrolled anger won't only benefit the people around you — it will make your life better and healthier too.

Like any other human emotion, it's how you use — not abuse — anger that matters.