Anger is an extremely powerful emotion. It can energize you in a way that most emotions do not.
Think of all the energy you use when you are angry. Now think of what you could do with that energy if it were directed in a way that was beneficial to you.
You can choose to handle your anger in a way that is helpful to you, or not, but first you must identify what anger means to you. For instance, ask yourself the following questions and, on a separate sheet of paper, write your answers:
- How do I know I'm angry? How do I react when I am angry?
- Can other people tell when I am angry? How do they know?
- Do I think anger is a "positive" emotion or a "negative" emotion? Why or why not?
- Is my behavior different when I'm angry? How so?
Answering these questions will assist you in identifying how you express anger. It is also helpful for you to become familiar with the types of situations and events that cause you to become angry. Do you think your anger is always justifiable? Or only in certain situations? When do you become angry? Has expressing anger been difficult for you? If so, how? By answering these questions, you will increase your awareness of what triggers your anger. Learning about what makes you angry will help you to express your anger in more effective ways.
Physical Signs of Anger
Your body reacts physically to anger. This very strong emotion may cause blood pressure, blood flow, heart rate, and muscle tension to increase (Antoni, Schneiderman, and Ironson 2000). The next time you get angry, observe how your body feels. It is likely that you will notice the tension in your muscles readily. Identifying ways to manage your anger effectively will help you not just with the anger you may feel about your illness, but in other situations, as well.
Sometimes people exercise to help manage their anger reactions. Physical activity might be working out in the gym, swimming, walking, jogging, or whatever physical exercise brings you enjoyment. For some people, however, physical exercise is very difficult because they are simply too sick and/or too tired to engage in such activities. For these people, handling anger through physical activity becomes more difficult, but not impossible. Physical activity, for instance, might involve rearranging your closet, polishing your silverware, or waxing your car.
Journal Writing for Anger Release
If even those kinds of physical activity are too difficult, try writing down your feelings in a journal. It may seem as if anger cannot be expressed adequately in this manner. However, when you're really angry, there are a number of chemical and hormonal changes that take place due to the "fight-or-flight" physiological responses activated by anger. Many people find that writing journal entries about how they feel -- while they are feeling those adrenaline surges -- actually helps them to express their anger more accurately and effectively.
Effectively communicating your feelings of anger may also be helpful to you. When you can express yourself in a way that demonstrates how you are feeling, without yelling or becoming emotionally upset, you are more likely to be heard. However you choose to handle your anger, try not to hold it inside. Holding on to your anger internally will not help you feel better emotionally. Besides, if you hold your anger in, it is likely to affect your gut, and who wants that?
Ways to Express Anger
- Discuss your feelings of anger in an effective, assertive manner with someone you trust.
- Do physical exercise of any type (walking, jogging, biking, swimming, etc.).
- Write about how you are feeling in a journal.
- Rearrange closets, drawers, cabinets, shelves, etc.
- Do arts and crafts activities (sewing, knitting, drawing, etc.).
- Engage in household activities (painting, wallpapering, gardening, polishing silverware).
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New Harbinger Publications. ©2001.
This article is excerpted from the book:
Coping with Crohn's Disease: Manage Your Physical Symptoms and Overcome the Emotional Challenges
by Amy B. Trachter.
A variety of approaches are provided to help you explore the significant emotional and psychological challenges that accompany Crohn's Disease. The book offers suggestions to help you transform your attitudes and expectations about the disease and to gain the support of friends, family, and coworkers.
Info/Order this book on Amazon.
About the Author
Amy Trachter, Psy.D., Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of medical patients, and a researcher whose interests focus on the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Dr. Trachter has been facilitating support groups for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) for over a decade, currently serves on the board of directors for the South Florida chapter of CCFA, and is a member of the organization's National Patient Education Committee. She is also is a post-doctoral associate at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She is a staff member at the Gastroenterology Care Center in Miami.