The Simple Four-Step Process to Overcome Anger and Get Back on Track ImmediatelyJun 14, 2022
We have all felt anger and the effect it has on us physically and mentally, and how it can affect our performance.
If left unchecked it can lead to diminished performance, sleep problems, and strained relationships.
I talk to many people who deal with anger in destructive ways, such as drinking, drugs, disconnection, binge eating, and arguing.
Let me tell you a story about one of my clients, Rick.
As the president of the health benefits division for a prominent Texas insurance provider, he met regularly with the chairman, Jim, to discuss strategy. During one of their regular meetings, Rick was triggered by Jim and began to feel anger toward him. They did not always see eye to eye, and Jim was a chronic interrupter. Rick could feel the anger welling up inside. His heart started pounding, his jaw tightened, and his throat began constricting.
He wanted to yell at Jim, sparking one of their usual arguments… but THIS time, he did something new.
”I need to take a break for a minute,” he told Jim. He stepped outside and implemented a stress-reduction technique he’d been practicing for several weeks. His breathing slowed, his heart rate decreased, his throat relaxed, and his mind cleared. He walked back into the room poised, calm, and confident.
He calmly explained to Jim that he didn’t feel heard. Jim was receptive to the feedback and pledged to listen more. As a direct result of their more cooperative working relationship, Rick was able to implement the strategy he had proposed to Jim and close the largest deal in the company’s history.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Did it turn out the way you had hoped or did you allow the anger to take over, resulting in an outcome you did not want?
If it resulted poorly, you are not alone.
Roughly 22 million Americans -- 8.9 percent of the adult population -- have impulsive anger issues.
Some 84% of people surveyed said Americans are angrier today compared with a generation ago, according to the latest NPR-IBM Watson Health poll.
When anger strikes, there is a physical reaction in the body and mind that can begin to “take you over”.
Anger triggers the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates unconscious body functions, like blood pressure, breath rate, and digestion. The ANS is controlled by two competing systems: the sympathetic (the body’s accelerator) and the parasympathetic (the body’s brakes).
The two are constantly interacting — revving the body up during stressful situations and then calming the body back down again. The sympathetic system’s fight-or-flight response served mankind’s early ancestors well, allowing them to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The problem in today’s world is that everything from a tense meeting with a colleague to a difficult client interaction can cue the stress response.
Today, many people tend to live in fight-or-flight mode. Even when watching a movie, they might dwell on an upcoming deadline or complex project, keeping the body in an elevated state. That chronic stress can take a big toll on the body as seen in the graphic.
Prior to Rick learning and practicing the scientifically based technique of how to reduce stress, his stress level was up to 85% during much of the day. He reported not being able to sleep through the night, which left him feeling foggy and tired most of the time. Practicing this technique combined with a step-by-step process is the key to unlocking your freedom over anger and stress.
So what was it that Rick did to calm down so quickly in the moment and remain poised?
- Awareness of how the body reacts to stress: note that Rick became aware of what was happening in his body BEFORE the anger took control of him.
- Attention: Rick shifted his attention to the area around his heart to shift his focus and energy. When anger strikes, our brains narrow our focus and we typically put our attention on the problem and the negative outcome. Shifting our attention is imperative if we want to gain control over our physiology.
- Breathe: Rick focused on his breath while his attention was on his heart. Inhaling to the count of five, and exhaling to the count of five while imagining that your breath is flowing in and out of your heart helps to keep your attention on your heart and directly impacts your physiology.
- Emotion: Rick focused on a positive emotion. If you’re struggling, think of a person, place, or memory that brings you joy, love or gratitude. Concentrate on this feeling as you breathe in and out. As a result of this exercise, you should feel more calm, relaxed, and capable indicating your autonomic nervous system is in balance — in a word, coherent
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I know firsthand what it’s like to balance a career and personal life while you’re simultaneously suffocating under a heavy blanket of stress and anxiety. I spent decades as a maxed-out executive before discovering an integrative solution that did more than cure my overwhelm but also provided exponential energy, productivity, and resiliency.
Most people can’t afford to wait. When your health, job, and family are on the line, months (or years) of talk therapy or medication ‘tryouts’ won’t do. You need a solution that works quickly and lasts a lifetime. If you have a mind and body, then you already have everything you need to get started. Bring curiosity, willingness, and commitment and we’ll supply the rest.
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