You immediately respond to a perceived insult or injustice, possibly yelling or even slamming doors. “Many people act this way because it tends to get results,” says psychologist Simon Rego. But what you gain in instant gratification, you lose in long-term respect: others may view you as volatile or as a bully.
“And people who explode can feel a lot of guilt,” says Rego. Research also reveals that this type of response stresses the heart, possibly elevating your risk of cardiovascular disease.
What To Do Instead
Put yourself on ice
Your goal is to not blow a gasket. Instead, challenge yourself to think through your feelings. Reactive people often believe that those who don’t come out swinging are weak, says Rego, but “in reality, waiting is a sign of strength, because it shows self-control”.
When the telltale signs of a tanty hit—rapid heartbeat, facial flushing, tense muscles, the urge to yell—take 10 deep breaths. This circulates extra oxygen and brings on the flow of calming hormones, such as serotonin, says Rosenthal.
When your heart stops racing—usually within 10 minutes—it’s an indication that you’ve moved past the fight-or-flight stage, which is what triggers your instinct to lash out.
“It’s okay to show that you’re displeased; you just want to do it in a healthy way,” stresses Rego. “Your challenge is to formulate a rational response that preserves both your relationship and your self-respect—before you open your mouth.”
State your feelings
“You could say to your sister, ‘You really hurt me when you told other people about my problems’,” says Rosenthal. “You want to avoid judging or labelling the other person, as doing so can cause an argument.”
In other words, don’t accuse her of being a gossip. Take a long-term approach. Rosenthal advises incorporating yoga or meditation into your daily routine, as they’re both effective at reducing chronic anger.
Experts believe that anger is akin to a bad habit: the more often you lose your temper, the more you feel empowered to carry on. But you can retrain yourself: rein in the shouting and regularly practise feeling peaceful.
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