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The pressures of being a man – anger management & health

“Be a Man” is often flung at the male gender exhorting them to grow up and act their age or their role in life. But very few realize how sexist and ill-advised such retrogressive notions of masculinity can be. And worse still, how they can stoke anger – ranging from frustration, hurt, annoyance or disappointment, when traditional expectations are not being met by men.

These expectations can range from being expected to be the financial bread winner, to always being the alpha male in any situation, to keeping your emotions in check and never cry. These stereotypes can be threatening and confusing for men who don’t conform to them. Certain macho expectations can also be toxic, including the burden to rely on violence or anger to settle a conflict, “like a real man”. So the end result is that men create a distorted version of a normal human emotion like anger, such that it devolves from mild irritation into rage!

And because men are taught to keep their emotions under check and never reveal the true state of their minds because it is an unbecoming sign of weakness, they tend to suppress anger until it becomes truly dangerous.

The dangers of suppressed anger

The dangers of suppressed anger

When anger is not expressed, it leads to a change in behavior, in thinking, and in relationships as well. Studies reveal that suppressing anger can lead to mental issues like anxiety and depression. Anger can also cause problems such as crime, abuse (emotional and physical), and violent behavior. As a result, people who cannot control their anger or temper and frequently have episodes of explosive rage are more likely to be divorced, have worse jobs than others with the same education, and have fewer friends. Worse still, it can also create severe health problems.

In fact, repeated and long term rage outbursts, have been linked to health concerns like high blood pressure, heart problems, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. A recent report in the European Heart Journal says that in the two hours after a heated exchange, people are almost five times as likely to have a heart attack. Other studies have shown that angry men are three times more likely to develop premature cardiovascular disease, six times more likely to have an early heart attack, and three times more likely to have a stroke. This is a clear sign that the stress caused by anger leads to higher heart rate and increased blood pressure which can even prove dangerous for your mortality.

The relationship between anger and stress

Stress is healthy when controlled. Distress, is a type of stress that causes many people to be irritable and sometimes downright angry. This happens when the stress is too much and is no longer a motivator. You can think of this as when there is a combination of stressors and things just keep piling up. One day, the person does not know how to handle this anymore and there is an anger outburst.

How to manage your anger

How to manage your anger

The first step to managing anger is to identify the triggers. It could be an interaction with a bad boss, or an incident of road rage, or even an email in your inbox or a text in your phone that triggers your anger today. Another way to identify rage is to analyze the symptoms in your body that show you reacting to stress. Often people report seeing red before a rage blackout or breathe faster, or clench their jaws or tense their shoulders or their hearts start racing. If you find yourself displaying any of the systems of a temper tantrum, remove yourself from the situation that is making you angry, if possible. So take a break and walk around. Or take a deep breath and count to ten, as the old saying goes. Being aware of your rising anger and taking steps to counter it actually work. Ask yourself why you are really angry. Sometimes identifying the real problem can help us put it in context and work towards a resolution.

Finally if pushed into a corner or repeatedly provoked anger may seem like the right response but remember to pause and ask yourself if it is best response that will give you the best results. While it is best to express your true feelings rather than suppress anger, mindful actions are always better than uncontrolled outbursts. Pause to allow the brain to see things from another perspective and calm down. If something is truly worth being angry about, it is also best to express your feelings in a way that it will be heard and acted upon rather than resorting to loud shouting or violence.

Stress and anger reducers:

Exercise

Hobbies

Learning communication skills

Journaling

Engaging in social activities

Deep breathing, meditation and yoga

Get Help

Anger management courses involve group discussions and counselling. If you feel you need help controlling your anger, you could also find a therapist here.

Further reading

Decoding your hunger. Is it physical or emotional? Take the test!

5 things our body tells us about mental health


5 things your dreams tell you about your mental health


Food and mood