If my anger were a force of nature, it would be snow falling on a mountain until it becomes an avalanche, obliterating everything in its path. Not necessarily because I bottle it up until it explodes, but because it's so rooted in calm that most people don't realize that it's snowballing.
But, in my defense, anger really can be a healthy emotion — you just have to know how to deal with it.
"Just like pain tells us there’s a problem within our body, anger tells us that there’s a problem in our interactions with the world, with someone or something," says Susan Heitler, PhD, author of Prescription Without Pills. "Anger is very healthy if we know how to use it effectively, but it makes for all kinds of problems in the world and in our families and in the community if we don’t know how to use it effectively."
It might be helpful, she says, to think of anger as a warning signal that helps you work out those strong feelings.
"At a stop sign, we stop and look both ways to figure out what the danger is," she says. "What we don’t do is pick up the stop sign to clobber people with it."
In other words, your anger is there to alert you to a problem that you can try to figure out, but if you get too caught up in that feeling of wanting to punch a wall, that's when anger can become unhealthy.
"If we’re just holding onto the anger without moving onto the problem solving, we’re at risk of becoming depressed," Dr. Heitler says. "If we hold anger in, it can take the form of resentment, which can also turn into hatred. It warps our views of other people: As we get angrier, we can no longer see what’s good about them, we can no longer empathize with their concerns."
If you want to avoid letting your anger get the best of you, you have to let off steam without taking it out on the people around you. Ahead, we've rounded up a few ways to deal with your anger so that it doesn't plow through and ruin your relationships or your mental health.
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