By Elaine Corcoran, Clinical Director at Brain Training Australia, Perth, WA
Anger comes in many forms. Sometimes you might be quick to lose your temper. Or perhaps you like to hold a grudge.
Chronic resentment is a defensive mechanism for your ego or sense of self. If you are not true to yourself, and in today’s society, we are often pushed to conform, your level of resentment may arise. Truth, reason and information accuracy is then less valuable, and your thinking becomes distorted.
Behavioural anger can be frightening, even to the person exhibiting the anger. You may also feel guilt for having anger issues. Thus anger can be challenging to treat. At Brain Training Australia, we will guide you through a process that helps you understand how well channelled anger is an asset in your life.
Learning to express your anger can help deliver you from activities such as self-harm. Our treatment effectively involves training your brain to reset itself each time it tries to veer from the pathway you have directed it to.
Before this training begins, it is good to understand what happens in your body when your anger builds and becomes a chronic issue. Before feeling angry, you might experience disappointment or rejection, you may feel judged, be fearful or frustrated. Any of these experiences can lead to anger.
Your brain on anger.
- The emotion called anger causes activation of your amygdala even before you become aware of your feelings.
- The amygdala sends a message to your hypothalamus, which sends its own signal to the pituitary gland.
- The pituitary gland releases two hormones. The first is a corticotropin-releasing hormone. The second is an adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone activates your adrenal glands, found just above your kidneys.
- Your adrenals respond by secreting stress hormones into your body. These include cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline.
The reactions that occur next can change your brain. As your cortisol level rises, the membrane around your brain cells begins to allow too much calcium into the cell. This overload of calcium can cause your neurons to start firing off signals too rapidly to process. Brain cells can also die from calcium overload.
Large amounts of cortisol can cause a neuronal loss in your prefrontal cortex. Not a great area to loose cells from as it is the brain region responsible for making decisions. Your ability to use good judgement and plan for the future is also controlled by this area.
Elevated cortisol levels in your hippocampus can reduce your ability to make new neurons. Reduced hippocampus activity affects your short term memory. Perhaps you’ve experienced forgetting what it is you want to say when you’re in the middle of a heated argument.
Lower levels of serotonin (your happiness hormone) also accompany increases in cortisol. Low serotonin makes you experience anger and pain more readily. This leads to increasingly aggressive behaviours and can contribute to depression.
Your body on anger.
The stress hormones released from your adrenal glands act on 3 crucial body systems: cardiovascular, immune and digestive. As an added bonus, they reduce your bone density, may result in migraine headaches and increase the pressure in your eyes (intraocular), resulting in decreased eyesight.
Let’s take a closer look at those systems.
- Your cardiovascular system prepares your body for fight or flight.
- Heart rate and blood pressure both increase.
- Your blood glucose level increases.
- Your bloodstreams fatty acids level increases.
- Your immune system virtually goes on strike.
- Your thyroid function decreases.
- The number of natural killer cells in circulation is decreased.
Unfortunately, the consequence of long-term stress (and chronic anger) is an increase in the likely hood of cancer. Your lowered immunity then makes you more susceptible to viruses.
- Your digestive system stops what it’s doing.
- The blood flow to your digestive tract decreases as it is moved to the muscles that may need it for immediate action.
- Your metabolism slows to conserve energy for what every might come next.
- Your mouth becomes dry.
Please note that the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine has placed all of the above into a beautiful infographic you can download and print out.
4 Tips to help you counteract your anger.
- Stretch. As soon as you feel your anger rising start a series of gentle stretches. Remember that anger is not just emotional but also physical. Stop cortisol being released into your body by tricking your body with relaxation movements.
- Count to ten. Or count for as long as you feel is required. It pays to make sure each number you count encompasses a deep breath in and out. This is another hack to trick your body into believing it does not need to release all those hormones into your bloodstream. Taking time out when you feel angry also allows you to distance yourself from the situation. It may help to use this time to listen to music or repeat a mantra or affirmation. Giving yourself a little time out to think about a situation allows you to work out where your anger is coming from. It also stops you from saying something you may regret later.
- Tell a joke. Sometimes you can diffuse your own feelings of anger through laughter. Laughter can be the best medicine. It can allow you to find a new perspective on what made you angry. At the very least it will give you time to refocus.
- Avoid sarcasm or blame. In fact, try to avoid all types of passive-aggressive behaviour. Sarcasm only covers up what you really want to say. It also puts the person you are talking to on the defence. This increases anger on both sides. If you express how you are really feeling you may be able to come to a practical solution. It is also important to communicate without assigning blame. If you can stay in the present, you will avoid assumptions. Assumptions block open-ended communication.
If you try these techniques but anger still persists please reach out to us for help.
How can we help you?
If you or a person you know is struggling with their anger, please contact us. We can help to retrain the brain to form habits around anger management. At Brain Training Australia, we offer NeurOptimal® Dynamical Neurofeedback® and have helped thousands of Perth people to achieve mental clarity and find peace. You can train your brain to focus and live a more fulfilling, less stressful life.
Neurofeedback uses real-time displays of brain activity provided by electroencephalography (EEG). This information used teaches you to self-regulate your brain function. It detects the glitches in your brains electrical activity that can undermine optimal functioning.
The feedback system informs your brain of any sudden shifts by interrupting the sound you are listening to. Through this technique, your mind can refocus on the present moment. By refocusing, your brain activity can self-correct.
NeurOptimal® brain training is a very relaxing experience. It needs no effort on your part. You can sit comfortably, listen to music, read a book or meditate and let the neurofeedback do the work for you. Neurofeedback trains your brain to become more flexible, resilient, and regulated to enable you to function at your best.
If you are ready to achieve a higher quality of life for yourself or someone you care about, get in touch. We have the technology to help you overcome anger and take you to the next level.
Learn More – Come Meet Us!
· Click here to see the upcoming events, workshops and seminars for Brain Training Australia
Yours in wellness,
Elaine Corcoran, MSc Work Psych, BSc (Hons) Psych.,
Brain Training Australia, Perth, WA