Well-Connected: What to do When You're Hot Under the Collar

Although the daily heat and humidity in Virginia are enough to get anyone "hot under the collar", most people know well enough how to "cool off" on a 90 degree day. What's more difficult is determining what to do about fiery feelings like irritation, hostility or even violence. Dealing with anger-easy for some and much harder for others.

Anger is a normal human emotion that usual]y results from a sense of injustice, threat or hurt. People may also feel anger as a secondary emotion when they experiencing loneliness, rejection, disappointment, or feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness. Although some people believe that it is "bad" to get angry, there nothing essentially wrong with it. Anger is often the very impulse someone needs to finally take action or resolve a conflict. Still, irrational, intense thoughts and consequences may make an angry situation worse. But, by working on the thoughts you have and the actions you take in response to anger, you can actually turn anger into energy to improve your situation.


  1. Take a break when you are feeling out of control or really tense. Exercising, walking, or seeking a change of scenery are all good ways to diffuse intensity and prepare yourself to address the problem.
  2. That old cliche of counting to ten and taking a deep breath is a good way to handle anger when you can't actually remove yourself from the scene. Some stress experts say that deep breathing through the nose actually cools the portion of the brain where anger originates.
  3. Talk about your anger-as long as you aren't aggressive or threatening to others, there is nothing wrong with saying, "When you do that, I get angry I am really angry right now." This allows you to acknowledge and release the emotion with honesty and control.
  4. Consider writing out your feelings and thoughts, especially if there is little opportunity to ever discuss them openly. You can use paper to represent the person or situation you're angry about and then literally throw it away.
  5. Resist "stuffing" anger, swallowing, or ignoring it. Anger that is repeatedly repressed will come out eventually and usually inappropriately. Suppressed anger can also lead to clinical depression in some people.
  6. Address the source of your anger. Because it can often surface as a secondary emotion, think of your anger as a rock covering something else up. What is underneath that rock. . . shame, hopelessness, hurt?
  7. Decide to forgive rather than hold a grudge. Although forgiveness seems to be mostly about compassion for the other person, it is actually healthiest for the person who has been wronged.

    By letting go of anger and hurt, you keep it from continuing to wound you.

    Continental Health Promotion, Inc., 1108 E. Main Street, Suite 600, Richmond, Virginia 23219 (804-780-0078) Copyright 2001