You’ve had it up to here with your boss’s expectations when he adds two more impossible deadlines. You’ve just received your third call this week about your kid’s bad behavior at school. The contractor just pushed out the bathroom remodel another two weeks. And, due to user error, your newly laundered wool sweater is now only fit for a Ken doll.
Whatever your circumstances, imagine you were already at your wit’s end and something just pushed you over edge.
What do you do?
Plenty of guys I work with see only two options when their old friend buddy anger stops by:
Yell and hit/throw/kick stuff
Deny it and play it cool
For obvious reasons, the first option isn’t very wise. Other don’t soon forget being the target of your anger. Both physical and emotional damage take time to heal and leave scars. Even the most sincere apology after acting out is a distant second to using the kind of self-control that prevents you from acting out in the first place.
For guys who’ve been (healthily) socialized to fear the consequences of lashing out, denial seems like a much better response. It assures that no one gets physically hurt and that the home décor – vases, whiskey tumblers, books, cats – will not have to be replaced. Problem is, denying anger and playing it cool just keeps anger out of others’ sight. The fact is, stored-up anger doesn’t disappear. It hangs out, wreaking havoc on your mind, your emotions and – eventually – your body. And, at some point, guys, physical disease can’t be hidden from anyone’s view. At that point, all your effort to “take care of yourself” is exposed as pointless, while others wait on you hand, foot and heart.
So, here’s your third option.
You heard me.
Breath. Deeply, and just once. In through the nose. Out through the mouth.
Here are four reasons why:
First, it buys you time. Whatever anger you feel is a conditioned reaction of your nervous systems, and it’s temporary; it doesn’t mean you have to act from a place of anger. You always have a choice, and this one breath will allow you to see that choice more clearly.
Third, breathing will change your body chemistry and put your conscious mind back in control. When we breath deeply and deliberately, more oxygen can get to your brain, your heart rate slows down, your blood pressure decreases and, in your brain, the level of nitric oxide – a neurotransmitter associated with fighting stress and depression – increases. All good things. And it just takes one breath.
Lastly, breathing once will make it possible for you to breath a second time, and a third and a tenth – increasing the first two benefits exponentially.
Meanwhile, you’ll be building the confidence necessary to repeat this process the next time anger comes around again.