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Friday, 31 January 2014

Sort out your anger management issues before they consume you

IT WAS about 6.45am, still dark in my neighbourhood and I was walking my three pugs. All of them were leashed. An expat with a small, white dog was walking past me on the footpath. I remember thinking it was ironic that such a large man was walking this chihuahua, that looked like a wind-up toy because it was really tiny.

Anyway, while his dog was strolling past, my pug, Pickle, suddenly bolted toward this Chihuahua and started chasing it. The lead slipped out of my hands and his dog got frightened and started running away from my pug. I started to apologise, trying to smooth over the situation. I knew my dog was not going to attack his dog but he was so enraged.

All of a sudden, he threw his body over Pickle, a small pug mind you, and said, “Next time, watch where you are going! You could have injured my dog!”

Seeing him rugby-tackle my dog did not alarm me. It was how he gave her back to me. He roughly shoved the lead my way as though he was throwing her back to me. Pickle was dangling by the neck like a rag doll. All this happened in a matter of seconds. Can you imagine, a dog owner returning someone else’s dog as if it was a sack of potatoes?

My brain had not yet registered how despicable his actions were. I instinctively rubbed the neck of my pug but when I looked up, this explosive man was gone. I never had the chance to give him a piece of my mind but what could I have said? It would have reduced me to behaving just like him, in that heated state.

When people have anger management issues, they have to want to improve themselves and get better. At the end of the day, you can never fix anyone. They must want to fix themselves.

This is why, when I first started writing Jojo Struys’ Guide To Wellness, I knew I had to include a chapter on anger because it is linked to our overall mental and emotional well-being. At the end of the day, when someone is angry, they are the ones suffering and heated up by the flames of their own anger.

Despite the fact that anger is a normal emotion, people who are in a rage can become a danger to themselves and those around them. It triggers off physiological and chemical changes in the body and its nervous system.

In fact, it is said that anger can cause an unnecessary strain on the heart. In a large study published in “circulation”, involving nearly 13,000 middle-aged men and women, it was disturbing to note that the angriest group of people faced roughly twice the risk of CAD (coronary artery disease) and almost three times the risk of heart attack compared to subjects with the lowest levels of anger.

One of the worst things about anger is that you become no longer rational and may say things you do not mean but cannot retract.

When you lose control, you also lose the argument when you make another person feel small or diminished.

When people are in an enraged state, they might also jump to conclusions before checking the facts. They also do not think properly before acting on their anger.

Words have so much power and they can heal as much as they can hurt. When you verbally attack a person in anger, you not only disrespect them but you also disrespect yourself by giving away all your power to the ‘beast’ of anger.

Anger is not always straightforward or obvious as to how it gets triggered. It has many faces to it and it often stems from another emotion simmering beneath it.

For instance, when people are jealous and insecure, they may fly off the handle and overreact to situations that do not warrant such an outburst.

When people are depressed, they may silently be beating themselves up in anger for falling short of their own expectations.

When people are hurt, they may lash out and say things they will later regret. When people are impatient and inflexible, they get angry when things does not their way. This could be anything from a wrong order in a restaurant, to how someone drives on the road.

It is important to take a step back and avoid making any drastic decisions when you are in an angry state. Sometimes, the best remedy is to just sleep on it and do the ‘overnight test’ because we often do not feel the same way about something that made us angry the next day. It either loses its intensity or we simply gain another perspective on it by the morning. Doing regular exercise can also drain a lot of tension from the body.

It is just not worth risking your heart, especially when there are so many ways to empower yourself to cope better when anger strikes.

Instead of being a victim to your own anger, decide to actively do something about it so that it does not spiral out of control.

Even taking a long, deep breath and counting to five, can help slow down your heart rate and stem the flow of angry thoughts.

Jojo Struys is a TV Host, radio personality and author of Jojo Struys’ Guide to Wellness available at all major bookstores.

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