Ticked off. Fed up. Enraged. Call it what you will—we’ve all been there. Anger is part of being human, says psychiatrist Dr Norman Rosenthal.
“Problems start when you bottle it up, when you react now and think later, or when you feel that a destructive response is justified because you’re furious,” he explains.
In fact, both flying off the handle and simmering with resentment can take a toll on your wellbeing by lowering mood, heightening pain perception and ramping up your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Luckily for our health (and our partners!), experts say that we can learn to respond to anger in a healthier way, meaning we’ll soothe stress levels, lower our risk of depression and heart disease, and improve relationships. The first step? Figure out the tempo of your temper—then find yourself a better rhythm. Here’s how.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF...
Read the following scenario and choose the response that sounds most like the way you’d react. From there, follow the numbered teapots to your personal anger profile.
You and your husband have been bickering—a lot. After a tiff about housework escalates into an ugly argument, you call your sister in tears and pour your heart out. She offers some sound advice and promises not to discuss the matter with anyone else. A week later, during a dinner with your extended family, your brother leans over and quietly asks whether you and your husband have made up yet. Since you haven’t breathed a word of it to anyone else, it’s obvious that your sister must have betrayed your confidence.
1. ...demand that your sister join you in the kitchen. You tell her that you’re appalled that she’s broken your trust—then keep hammering your point until she’s on the verge of tears.
2. ...grit your teeth and refuse to make eye contact with your sister. Later, when she asks, you deny that anything’s wrong, but you avoid her calls for a couple of weeks.
3. ...sit through dinner with your stomach in knots, then spend the weekend mulling it over. You say nothing to your sister but resolve never to confide in her about anything ever again.
4. ...put the incident out of your head. The next day, you tell your sister that you’re aware of her betrayal, that your feelings are hurt, and that it will take time for you to trust her again.
1. Your Anger Style: REACTIVE
2. Your Anger Style: PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE
3. Your Anger Style: AVOIDANT
4. Your Anger Style: DIRECT