When angry, breathe!

Following on from last week’s blog. As I said talking to a counsellor or another person we feel safe with and trust, can help us make sense of our anger and clarify the feelings underlying it, such as sadness, embarrassment, resentment and/or hurt. Just talking about our anger with that safe person can be extremely helpful. A person who is not directly involved can listen more objectively and be more supportive.

But how can we manage our anger in the moment, when we are overcome by that surge of energy which announces the arrival of anger? When our heart rate accelerates and our breathing rate increases? When our hands may start shaking and our face may flush? How can we prevent our feelings from raging out of control?

I take a step back – literally. And then focus on my breathing. Breathing takes me back to the moment and keeps me in my body. Deep breathing not only helps me release mild present angers when driving or faced with the frustrations of bureaucracy for instance but also helps me manage my feelings when faced with someone else’s anger and frustration.

When we are afraid or feel threatened our breathing becomes shallow. We even hold our breath and go numb so we don’t have to feel. Suppressing feelings however is not helpful to our well-being. If we are out of touch with our feelings we are bound to feel overwhelmed and confused by them when they knock at our door.

By deep breathing I mean breathing through your nose and from your lower abdomen, so called diaphragmatic breathing. If you are a chest breather you may want to put your hand on your stomach. When breathing in, your stomach should push out as far as possible. Exhale slowly and consciously with your mouth. Do this several times until you feel some release.

Remember to breathe slowly in and out when breathing deeply as you don’t want to hyperventilate or feel dizzy or light-headed.

A helpful tip: Find something square in shape within your surroundings, perhaps a window, a picture frame, a doormat or box. As you focus on the upper left corner of that shape breathe in as your eyes follow the top line to the upper right corner, breathe out as your eyes bring you down to the lower right corner. Breathe in as your eyes move to the lower left corner and exhale again as you complete the cycle to the upper left corner. Sighing when breathing out can give you additional tension relief.

The more often you practise breathing the more automatic it becomes. So keep breathing!