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Tempering anger

Staying cool helps you to work better and live healthier.

Nitya Varadarajan | Print Edition: March 21, 2010

Do you experience frequent road rage? Does a poor job by a subordinate whom you consider a nincompoop make you flare up? High levels of anger are actually the visible outcome of several negative emotions combined—a sense of fear; a deep sense of insecurity; depression, frustration— and the fuse gets blown, often violently, at the slightest provocation. Anger, particularly when you begin losing control of your reactions, is definitely not good for your health—physically and mentally. The Internet is overflowing with findings on effect of anger, both short-term and long-term.

A short-term impact is indigestion—it either suppresses your hunger or leads to overeating. The long-term effects can be fatal—heart attacks and stroke. Anger triggers the "fight or flight response", those very same neuro chemicals that are activated during stress. This, in turn, leads to fatty plaques deposition in arteries or atherosclerosis. Also, depending on the intensity of the rages, electrical impulses of the heart get disrupted and provoke dangerous heart rhythm disturbances.

According to Laura Kubzansky, Assistant Professor (Society, Human Development, Health) at the Harvard School of Public Health: "At a lifestyle level, anxious, depressed, angry people are more likely to smoke, less likely to engage in physical activity, have poor nutritional habits and drink to excess." Says psychologist Wayne Sotile: "If you mismanage anger, it is going to compromise your most intimate relationships and isolate you from others."

Ayurveda says that anger is a side effect of having excess pitta (bile). The common sense approach is to cool down or bring down the levels of pitta. Avoid hot, spicy, fermented and sour foods, citrus fruits; drinks containing alcohol or caffeine. Instead, eat bland food, cooling drinks. Rub coconut oil or bhringraj oil on the soles of the feet every night. A brew of chamomile, rose petal powder and basil tea also brings down pitta. Or one could take gulkand (rose petal jam).

Baba Ramdev's advice is to practice the sheetali pranayama for 12 cycles. In this, you purse your mouth, make a tube of your tongue, breathe deeply through your mouth down to your belly; hold the breath for some seconds and breathe out through the nose. This "cools" the body. You could also line your nostrils with a small amount of brahmi (a herb that reduces stress) treated ghee. The inhalation calms the mind and reduces anger.

WHAT ANGER DOES

  • Isolates you from others and sprouts a reactive environment of anger.
  • Pushes you into unhealthy habits like excessive drinking and/or smoking.
  • Impairs digestion, increases negative feelings such as depression.
  • Builds fatty plaques that could cause heart attack or stroke.

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • Fix an appointment with yourself everyday and meditate regularly.
  • Eat conducive foods — cooked well, but less spicy. Avoid meat.
  • Do not exercise in a frenzy. Pleasant walks work just fine in bringing a saner frame of mind.
  • Be alert. The minute you find anger rising, take deep breath and ask yourself: "Will this issue matter five years from now? Five hours from now? Five minutes from now?"

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