A personal injustice, politics or simply an annoying neighbour – sometimes it feels like there’s a lot to be angry about. But is feeling furious bad for us? And how should we handle it? NH investigates…
Frightening, brutish and forceful, anger is generally viewed as a negative in today’s world. Just think about the words we use to describe when someone loses their temper – we say they ‘blow up’, ‘go off the deep end’ or ‘erupt’. And so, we often suppress our anger, preferring to show a controlled, calm and polite facade, when inside we are fuming. And that can’t be healthy, can it? “Anger is an extremely powerful energy and, if owned and expressed when it comes, it can give us a real sense of strength, power, groundedness and clarity,” says transformational coach Nicky Clinch (
nickyclinch.com). “Unfortunately, if it gets suppressed, it can have a detrimental impact on our health and wellbeing. It can fester within the body and create many pockets of tight, stagnant tension and blockages which can then lead to a lack of energy, sluggishness, sleepiness, a feeling of ungroundedness and this can even develop more into physical symptoms – headaches, muscle aches and pains, migraines and liver issues.” Looking after yourself
Despite this, Nicky explains that anger in its pure form is a completely healthy emotion to feel, and its very purpose is to protect us. “It’s to give us the power and strength we need when something of ours, or something within us, has been violated, disempowered or ignored.” But so often we can find ourselves snapping and feeling angry for very little reason, and this kind of emotion isn’t helpful to us. If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to ask yourself is: have I had enough sleep? “Lack of good quality sleep is well known to cause irritability,” says Dr Meg Arroll, a chartered psychologist specialising in health (
drmegarroll.com). “If you feel sleepy in addition to feeling uncommonly angry during the day, go to see your doctor – they may want to rule out a primary sleep issue, such as sleep apnoea.
“We know that exercise improves mood so try and move your body every day – even a ten-minute walk has been shown to benefit and stabilise mood. But the way we live our lives may also be a contributing factor with regards to anger. Think of yourself as a boat, with each of your personal challenges as potential holes in the bottom. For a while, you’ll be able to keep on top of the leaks, but if you don’t take the time to tend to each one properly, soon your boat will become overwhelmed with rushing water, likely to sink. A sinking boat is akin to an outburst of anger when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason for such a response – take good care of your hull with nurturing friendships, nutritious food, regular rest periods and physical movement.”
And it’s always possible your hormones are to blame: “The best way to find out if anger is caused by an external trigger or internal hormonal changes is to complete a symptom diary for at least two months and chart this with your cycle,” says Dr Meg. “It can be incredibly illuminating to see the patterns emerge and, once you know that (at least some) of your anger is due to hormonal changes, you can do something about it.”
“If you get angry or irritable PMS, then one possible reason is a low blood glucose – there have been suggestions that the hormone progesterone cannot bind properly to its receptors when glucose levels fall,” says Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan medical director. “This is sometimes known as being ‘hangry’ – hungry and angry. In some cases, eating a regular carbohydrate snack every three hours can help to reduce PMS irritability, but this is not proven.
“Alterations in calcium and magnesium balance are associated with mood disturbances, and clinical symptoms of hypocalcaemia, which is low calcium, show similarities with those of PMS. Taking calcium plus vitamin D3 enhances the mineral’s absorption and can reduce headaches, negative emotions, fluid retention and pain. A randomised, placebocontrolled trial of 170 women found that the traditional herbal medicine, agnus castus, significantly reduced irritability, mood changes, headaches and breast fullness.” Try Healthspan Agnus Castus Premenstrual Relief tablets, £20.45,
healthspan.co.uk Own it
The most important message when it comes to anger is this – do not suppress it. Nicky says that when anger arises, the best thing to do is to first acknowledge that it is there and own that you are feeling it. “Sadly, more commonly, the anger we see expressed in most of western living is suppressed anger coming out. And, this can become both toxic and damaging. When anger is suppressed, not only does it affect our whole physical and energetic body in a negative blocking way, but it will always try and find a way to come out as it is such a powerful energy. And that is when people express it with no control, no groundedness and no consciousness. Anger can become attacking, hurtful and sometimes dangerous.
“Say what we mean, but don’t say it mean,” she says. “If you know immediately what it is about, and are clear on why it has arisen, then it’s best to speak your truth in that moment in as clear and grounded way as possible.
“If you don’t know what it is attached to yet, then it is best to take some time to journal about it, reflect on it and get in touch with what part of us feels that something wrong has occurred. Then once you are clear, ensure you find a way to speak your truth or allow yourself to feel your feelings without censorship or judgement. If you cannot speak to the person involved, then share it with friends or people who are capable of hearing it and supporting you.
“When we learn to express our anger in healthy, clear and boundaried ways, we can really learn to speak our truth, create clear and strong boundaries and gain a true sense of ourselves and our power. It can be extremely liberating and give us a lot of energy, vitality and fire.”
Tame your temper
Kelly Feehan, service director for CABA (
caba.org.uk), says there are several ways to manage your anger:
Realise what makes you angry. Start writing down things that annoy you and make you lose your temper, and describe how you feel at the time. This may allow you to recognise your anger triggers, which can often help.
Relax and count to 10. Taking things more slowly can help to reduce any feelings of frustration you may be experiencing. If that doesn’t help, whenever possible remove yourself from the situation until you feel calmer.
Walk it off. Exercise can help relieve feelings of anger by reducing adrenalin levels and boosting your production of feel-good hormones, so go for a brisk walk or a run.
Put on some soothing music. Many experts believe listening to music can change your mood. Just don’t listen to anything too stimulating, which could make you feel more agitated.
Learn to manage your stress levels. Stress and anger are often closely linked, but there are lots of things you can do to make yourself more stress-resistant.