The Surprising Health Benefits of Anger Page 1 of3

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The Surprising Health Benefits of Anger
We've all been there: Banging our heads on the kitchen floor and bawling like the end is near because Mom or Dad
won't let us have a second popsicle before bed. Okay, so maybe that was 20-plus years ago. We may have
developed slightly better methods for coping with our anger since then (the ability to reach the popsicles in the
freezer probably helps). But those feelings of frustration, injustice, and rage still have a way of rearing their heads,
even if it's directed toward a political figure, an asinine boss, or a romantic partner instead of the Dessert Police.
Anger can make us feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and out of control- so is there anythingredeeming about it?
The surprising answer is yes - but it all depends on how we cope with it. Read on to learn how anger can benefit
us, and how we can manage it so that it works to our best advantage.
Raving About Rage -
The Need-to-Know
Anger is definedas an unpleasant reaction (either
emotional or behavioral) to a demand, belief, or unmet
expectation. Typically, anger consists of three
components: thinking (negative thoughts), feeling
(disappointment, frustration, contempt, rage), and
acting (shaking a fist, yelling, violence).
Understandably, these thoughts, feelings, and actions
aren't all that desirable, nor are they generally wellreceived in social situations. But tempting as it might
be to repress our rage, doing so can have negative
health consequences. Studies have found that
suppressing anger can worsen the experience of pain
and put stress on people's cardiovascular systems;
pushing anger down has also been tied to anxiety and
depressionl 1][Z][3J.
In contrast, the benefits of acknowledging and
harnessing our angry energy are well-documented
in scientific studies. Anger can be a motivating
forcethat also might make people feel more optimistic
Illustration by John Block
and confident. Acknowledging anger can help lower
stress on the heartand manage pain, at least in
laboratory studiesl4H5l. And expressing anger as it arises(instead of bottling it up and letting it all come out in one
explosive fight) has also been found to benefit interpersonal relationships.
Perhaps more than anything else, anger benefits us by alerting usthat something is wrong on an individual,
interpersonal, or societal scale. In the simplest sense, anger may be one of the reasons why we no longer have
segregated water fountains, why someone chooses to end a deadening career, or why a person leaves an
unhealthy relationship. But does this mean we should all go around punching walls every time we get annoyed or
witness injustice?
http:/I greatist. com/happiness/health-benefits-anger-how-to-cope/
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Addressing Anger- Your Action Plan
As with so many health-related factors, moderation is key. Out-of-control expressions of anger (think screaming and
escalating rage, maybe to the point of physical violence) can be bad for people's hearts (literally)- these outbursts
have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseasel61. Such expressions can also have serious
consequencesfor an angry person's romantic partner(s) or family.
In short, there's a difference between anger and mismanaged anger- and the key to reaping anger's benefits
lies in learning how to cope with it in a healthy way. Every person's experience of anger is different, based on
factors like age, gender, and context (the anger a person feels toward a boss may be different than the feelings she
or he directs at a significant other). But the basic steps for coping apply across the board, whether at school, at the
office, or at home. One of the most popular anger management strategies goes by the acronym STAR-R, short for
Stop, Think, Ask, Reduce, Reward. The steps look something like this:
Stop. Pause. Count to 1Oif you're having trouble being still, and don't forget to breathe! Notice that you're getting
angry. Look for signs like muscles tensing, face getting hot, hands shaking, breath shortening, voice rising, and a
desire to run away.
Think. Picture the consequences if you lose control- for both you and the person with whom you're angry (e.g. I'll
feel worse; I'll be embarrassed in front of my coworkers; I'll hurt my loved one).
Ask. Ask yourself what you're really angry about. What need do you have that isn't being met? Are you acting out of
a knee-jerk desire for self-protection? Are you really angry at the current situation, or are you still bothered by
something that happened days ago? We usually feel safer taking out our anger on people close to us, but it's
important not to misdirect feelings. Instead, focus on identifying your needs (after all, the definition of anger is all
about unmet expectations). Work to figure out how these needs can be met in a healthy way. If this requires another
person's involvement, then talk to that person about it - but only after you've calmed down and when you both
have the time to hear each other out.
Reduce. Ask yourself how you can cool off, and then take the time to do it. Classic cool-down activitiesinclude
taking a walk, showering, listening to relaxing music, hitting a pillow, journaling, calling a friend, working out,
meditating, or doing a few yogaposes. It's okay if it takes a few hours or even days to cool off. What's important is
that you return to the situation with a level head and the ability to communicate your needs and negotiate conflicts in
a calm manner. Whenever it's time to have a conversation, use "I" statements ("I felt hurt by your words" instead of
"You always hurt me") and listen to the other person's feelings to minimize the chances of triggering another round
of fighting.
Reward. Appreciate yourself for managing your anger. It's hard work, and it's quite likely that we won't get it right
every time. But a little positive reinforcement (a long bubble bath, a day at the botanical gardens, tickets to see a
favorite sports team) can encourage you to keep handling anger like a STAR.
This article was read and approved by Greatist Experts Dr. Mark Banschickand Dr. Jeffrey Rubin.
What are your go-to strategies for managing anger? Share in comments below or get in touch with the author on
Twitter @LauraNewc.
Works Cited
1. Emotion suppression affects cardiovascular responses to initial and subsequent laboratory stressors.
Quartana, PJ and Burns, JW. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
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School of Medicine. British Journal of Health Psychology, 2010 Sep;15(Pt 3}:511-28. Epub 2009 Oct 16 [+>]
2. Anger suppression predicts pain, emotional, and cardiovascular responses to the cold pressor. Quartana, PJ,
Bounds, S., Yoon, KL, et al. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2010 Jun;39(3):211-21 [+>]
3. The relation between anger management style, mood and somatic symptoms in anxiety disorders and
somatoform disorders. Koh, KB, Kim, OK, Kim, SY, et al. Department of Psychiatry, Yonsei University
College of Medicine, Republic of Korea. Psychiatry Research, 2008 Sep 30;160(3):372-9. Epub 2008 Aug 21
4. Anger management style moderates effects of emotion suppression during initial stress on pain and
cardiovascular responses during subsequent pain-induction. Burns, JW, Quartana, PJ, and Bruehl, S.
Department of Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Annals of Behavioral
Medicine, 2007 Oct;34(2):154-65 [+>]
5. Anger inhibition and pain: conceptualizations, evidence and new directions. Burns, JW, Quartana, PJ, and
Bruehl, S. Department of Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Journal of
Behavioral Meidicne, 2008 Jun;31(3):259-79. Epub 2008 May 23 [<-']
6. Hostility, anger control, and anger expression as predictors of cardiovascular disease. Haukkala, A.,
Konttinen, H., Laatikainen, T., et al. Department of Social Psychology, University of Helsinki. Psychosomatic
Medicine, 2010 Jul;72(6):556-62. Epub 2010 Apr 21 [+>]
http:/I greatist. com/happiness/health-benefits-anger-how-to-cope/
Coping In A Toxic Work Environment
Recently, I had the occasion to observe a group of employees who were working in a
toxic work environment. I witnessed the decline of self-esteem in each one of them as
they endured month after month of poor leadership and dysfunction in their
workplace. I was truly amazed at the change to the countenance of each of these
employees as their situation continually grew worse. If one could have taken a before
photo of these employees prior to their being in a toxic environment and then an after
photo when they were months into it, the physical manifestations of the negativity they
endured would be staggering. Slowly, I observed each of these employees reach their
breaking point and one by one resign from the company. Each of them had good paying
jobs with fabulous benefits, but the toxicity they dealt with each day was so unbearable
that no amount of money would have made it worth the cost to their own self-worth.
They left their jobs without having new jobs lined up because they recognized that the
toll the toxic environment was taking had become far too great to stay another day.
Many of you may not be in such an extreme toxic work environment that you are willing
to quit your job before having secured a new one, but most will have the occasion to
deal with some level of toxicity in the workplace and could benefit from a few tips on
how to cope with it when it occurs.
I believe the most important thing is to recognize when working in a toxic environment
is that it is NOT a reflection of who you truly are. Often times in a toxic workplace there
is an abundance of tearing others down, passive aggressive leadership, destructive
gossip, conniving politics, and abundant negativity. When you are surrounded by this
daily it can really start to affect your own self-worth. It is imperative that you learn to
separate the negativity you are swimming in daily from the reality of who you truly
are. I personally think this demoralizing effect is the biggest danger to staying longterm in any toxic environment, and to combat this you will have to find ways to daily
remind yourself that you are not a reflection of your current surroundings. Placing
positive and uplifting quotes on the wall of your office or cubicle that will help keep your
spirits lifted can be very helpful in these circumstances. Also, taking time out each
workday to take a short walk by yourself is a great way to detach and allow for positive
self-talk to remind yourself of the qualities you possess that make you amazing. Find
ways to remind yourself of who you truly are.
Another important coping step is to realize that you cannot control what other people
say and do, you can only control your own actions and reactions. The sooner you accept
that the better for your own mental well-being. This realization allows you to let go of
owning other people’s negative behavior and it empowers you to focus on improving
yourself. The more you can focus on improving yourself in a negative environment the
better, because when you finally get the opportunity to escape the situation you are in,
you will get to take all the personal growth you have made along with you. No doubt
that growth will help you to be even more successful as you move forward.
Finally, try to focus on turning your bad situation into a good learning experience. Most
often our strongest personal growth comes from living through our most difficult
situations. When you are working in a toxic environment, try to pay close attention to
the lessons you can take away from the experience. Perhaps you can learn the qualities
in a leader that you never want to emulate. Perhaps you can learn the management
mistakes that you would not want to repeat if the opportunity for management ever
comes your way. In every bad situation there is something you can learn that will help
you become a better person, so focus on each lesson you are learning.
As difficult as a toxic work environment may be, never allow yourself to become less
than who you are meant to be out of anger or spite for your current employer. Always
conduct yourself with integrity and always put in your very best effort toward the job
you were hired to do. It is easy to fall into the trap of giving up on the job, but the
bottom line is that as long as you are taking a paycheck you have an obligation to give
an honest day’s work. Don’t allow yourself to justify personal bad behavior on the
failures that exist your company’s leadership. I realize that at times it feels like the only
way is to fight back in a toxic situation, but the reality is that doing so only hurts your
own integrity. Know that your reputation will continue far beyond the company you are
with today, and nothing is worth trading your integrity over. Do your absolute best
every day at your job and the word will get out to other companies of your incredible
character and work ethic. People talk far more in the business world than you may
realize, and the word of your positive or negative behavior will spread farther and wider
than you may think, so never do anything that you need to be ashamed of.
Continue to search diligently for a better work environment to switch to, and be sure to
let others know that you are interested in new opportunities for work. Then give your
very best at work up to the very day when you can joyfully hand in your resignation
letter and move on to bigger, better, and happier things.
The Narcissist
65 percent of you say you’ve endured an egomaniac pal.
The Chronic Downer
59 percent have a friend who’s too needy and emotionally draining.
The Critic
55 percent of us have befriended a self-righteous judger.
The Underminer
45 percent of us have friends that serve up compliments with a nasty backhand.
The Flake
37 percent of us have a friend who’s reliably unreliable.
The Betrayer
35 percent have had a friend who betrayed their trust.
The Rival
30 percent have had a friend who was too competitive.
The Big-Mouth
27 percent have had a friend who blabbed their secrets.
The Bad Influence
23 percent have had a friend who encouraged unhealthy behaviors.