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SPRING 2011

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Downshifting Anger

Stressors like rush hour traffic, bills, health care issues, personal conflict, and so forth, can be maddening. However, while anger is a natural emotion, it can get out of control, become destructive, and even become a risk to health.

Rushing to anger can activate the body's emergency response system – the "flight-or-flight" response – which is normally reserved for dealing with real physical threats. When this happens, hormones increase heart rate, cause blood pressure to spike, and suppress "nonessential" functions like digestion and the immune system. In seconds, your body shifts into a temporary state of metabolic overdrive so you can either beat a hasty retreat or stand and fight!

When this response is activated at the workplace, where neither fighting nor flight is appropriate, "downshifting" to your pre-anger baseline can take hours, with some processes taking days. If these physical changes are triggered every day over a period of years, they put your health at risk by overworking the heart and blood vessels.

The Eye of the Beholder

Clearly, keeping anger bottled up can have serious health consequences in the long run; however, tossing your desk out the window is a poor way to work off anger-induced adrenalin. The key to managing your anger, and consequently your health, is to pay attention to your immediate reaction to difficult situations as they arise.

Anger is normally based on how we perceive things. Our perceptions may be accurate, or they may not; sometimes our personal biases and emotions take over. Raise your level of anger tolerance by changing your perception about situations that make you angry, and keep your metabolism and emotions coasting along in healthy "third gear."

Anger Management Tips

Try these tips the next time you find yourself in a problem situation:

Is your anger out of control? Is it having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life? If so, the EAP can work with you to develop and practice a range of techniques to help change your thinking and behavior when it comes to dealing with difficult situations.