Stopping Anger From Affecting How You Think
We have all experienced anger–it’s a normal, valid, and universal human emotion. It is the antagonism you feel towards someone or something that you believe has intentionally hurt you. You may experience anger in reaction to both external and internal events. These may involve the actions of other people or events outside your control. Or, you might feel angry due to an internal reason, such as worrying about personal problems or memories of hurtful or angering events. It can help you to have a way to express this feeling in a healthy way. Anger can motivate you to seek out solutions and make improvements in your life that are overall beneficial. But excessive or uncontrolled anger can harm your physical and emotional health. Anger causes physiological and biological changes such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and energy hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline). Emotional consequences of uncontrolled anger include social discord among family, friends, and coworkers.
How Anger Affects Your Thinking
Anger can affect your thinking in a variety of ways. Unexpressed anger can lead to passive-aggressive behavior, which might look like trying to get back at someone without telling them why. It can also cause cynicism and hostility to show up in your personality. People who are predominately critical, dismissive, and expect the worst out of others may not have learned how to express anger in a healthy way. Anger can also cause you to experience cognitive distortions, such as minimizing or overestimating the importance of the event or your ability to cope with your own emotions. Anger can cause you to overgeneralize the meaning of someone else’s behaviors or to view a situation with a black and white, “either/or” mindset.
How to Control Your Anger
Understanding how you feel when you’re angry and knowing that your thinking might be affected can help you keep your anger in perspective. The following techniques can also help you stop anger from affecting how you think:
- Pay attention. Listen to your body and notice when you begin to tense up and feel yourself becoming frustrated with a situation. Give yourself permission to step away and take the time and space you need to relax and avoid becoming pulled into anger.
- Let it go. It can be unproductive to dwell on something that has made you angry in the past. If you have a tendency to ruminate, try to shift your focus to what you enjoy about the situation or person that you are feeling anger towards.
- Change your mindset. Sometimes our thoughts can work against us. If you find yourself experiencing black and white thinking, with a divisive “either/or” quality, try to remember that things are rarely black and white. Remind yourself that anger can cause us to have a more limited mindset, but that in reality there are likely a wide variety of options and dynamics in most situations.
- Follow your breath. Breathing techniques can be very powerful when you are actively trying to relax your state and soothe your anger. Frequent practice of these techniques can increase their effectiveness and speed in aiding in relaxation. One breathing technique is box breathing, in which you slowly breathe in for a count of, say, five (or whatever is comfortable for you,) then hold your breath for an equal count, then release your breath for that same count, then pause for the same count, and repeat.
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