Anger is a normal and healthy emotion (for example, anger at something that isn’t fair; protecting yourself or someone you love). It can be an emotional response to something you find threatening or frustrating. Anger can be mild or strong. Hostility is different – hostility is a personality trait. Hostile people tend to be aggressive and unfriendly. The combination of unmanaged anger and hostility can be dangerous for your heart health.
Anger is a normal response to a heart attack. But if you experience too much anger (for example, talking loudly, shouting, insulting, throwing things, becoming physically violent) it can damage your cardiac health. When you show your hostility openly and aggressively, your risk of suffering from complications following a heart attack or heart surgery goes up. On the other hand, trying to hold down anger and hostility does not really get rid of them, and may even make them worse. So “locking it up inside” isn’t good for your heart either. So it is important to strike a balance – to manage your anger and express it in a healthy way, so that you don’t hurt your arteries and heart.
Recognizing the signs of anger
Perhaps you can think of situations or people that might upset you. Are there patterns? How often does it happen? Try this scenario: Imagine you are on the highway, either driving or as a passenger. Suddenly another driver cuts in front of you without signalling, and slows down. What are your very first:
- Thoughts about the other driver?
- Emotional feelings about the other driver?
- Changes in your body?
- Behaviour and actions?
Now think: How long do these feelings last? Do they fade away in a few minutes, or do you keep thinking about the situation? Does it make you have trouble sleeping? Do you think about it the next day? Most of us might be bothered by this situation for at least a few minutes.
So how can you manage your anger?
- Learn how you personally respond to anger.
- Take care of your health and lifestyle
- Express your needs and emotions. Allow yourself to cry.
- Calmly express your dissatisfaction right away, so it doesn’t build up and make you explode later.
- Learn to say no and to get others to help.
- Don’t react immediately and violently when a situation or person makes you angry.
- Leave if you can’t stay calm: Remove yourself from the situation until you are no longer angry. Tell the person in front of you that you will come back.
- Take a step back and decide whether it is really worth getting angry about.
- Improve your communication skills; work with people, not against them!
- Use “I” to explain how you feel. Using “I” instead of “you” helps the other person know how you feel and listen better. (“I feel angry when you watch everything I eat.”)
- Avoid blaming and generalizing. Instead, make comments on specific behaviours. (“I feel controlled and frustrated when you tell me what to eat,” instead of, “You always try to control me and treat me like a child!”)
- Tell the person exactly what you want: no one can guess what you need. (“I would like you to make diet suggestions instead of telling me what I should or shouldn’t eat.”)
- Write down the causes of your anger and frustration and then throw them away to free yourself from them.
- Try to see both positive and negative sides of a situation.