Tips For Turning Anger Into Productive Action

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen Tribune News Service.

Are you one of those people who gets extremely upset over small things? Do you dwell on negative situations way too much?

If so, you need to consider the cost of this lifestyle.

For example, you can spend hours a day thinking about someone who's cheating on you. Or you can spend years trying to get over a bad marriage or getting fired.

Having a full range of emotions, which means you can feel everything from giddy love to intense anger, is actually indicative of a mentally healthy person. So be thankful if you do feel many types of feelings.

But if your emotions are taking over your life, try managing them wisely. These tips can help:

-Learn to speak or describe what you're feeling. Do this instead of acting out emotions. You might learn to say, "This makes me very angry," rather than raging and acting a little crazy. Acting out negative feelings hurts people around you.

-Set aside time to cool your stress. Take a break for half an hour to make a few notes about your feelings. Put your anger and frustrations down on paper. Write in code or use abbreviations that no one else can read.

-Plan some small actions to reverse your stress. This usually involves looking hard for some help from other people. For example, ask your husband to take care of certain calls to get your home repaired. Or ask your sister to help you locate a cleaning person for your elderly father's home.

-Decide how to take the high road. If you feel like screaming at someone, resist the temptation. You can always kick and rage later, if it's justified. But initially, try to take some sort of action that will actually get the desired results you're after.

A friend of ours that we'll call Katie, for example, was the victim of neighborhood gossip. Her husband's ex-wife had moved in at the end of the block, and the ex was spreading malicious lies about Katie.

"I really thought about going house to house to tell my neighbors what a lying nut my husband's ex-wife was!" Katie told us. Katie needed to cool down and think straight. After all, her reputation was being smeared. Should she threaten the ex with a character defamation suit? Should she call out the ex for a slugging match on the front lawn?

"I decided to take over a cake I'd baked to my husband's ex," Katie told us. "I told her I'd put her down to help me with the neighborhood association's quarterly meetings for the coming year. I was going to make her sqirm."

Katie waited about a month. "My husband's ex-wife suddenly moved," says Katie. "When she saw she wasn't going to get a dogfight out of me, she pulled up stakes and left."

It takes an enormous amount of willpower not to react to cruelty and character defamation. Katie, for example, would have been justified in sending the ex a warning letter signed by an attorney. But Katie has three stepchildren who might suffer in the process of fanning the flames.

Wasting emotional energy can steal your time, destroy your relationships and throw your life off track.

Losing your cool affects how other people perceive you as well. If you really want a promotion, a marriage proposal or friends with class, make sure others know you can control your emotions under the worst of circumstances. ___ (Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at www.usawellnesscafe.com . Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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