Three Steps to a Cooler, Calmer You, This Anger Awareness Week

30/11/2012 15:51 GMT | Updated 30/01/2013 10:12 GMT

It's one of the emotions that causes the most physical response, with quickening heart rate, a rising body temperature and a flash of rage all too common symptoms of anger.

Yet despite its strong physical effect on the body, anger remains one of the most poorly handled emotions, with many people prone either to bury it or to lash out.

Today marks the start of National Anger Awareness Week (1st December - 7th December) which aims to spread awareness of anger and its underlying issues.

Anger is not a behaviour as many may think; it is an emotion that we feel and the way we release that emotion shows how we cope with anger. Everyone experiences anger at some point, and yet many people struggle to deal with it. But if you handle it well, dealing with your anger can actually improve your overall health and wellbeing.

When we get angry it stimulates our body's adrenaline responses; our body's way of helping us to cope with certain situations. In these situations we often feel the need to fight or run away - often called a 'fight or flight' response. When we get angry, the 'fight' response comes into play.

Many of us struggle to deal with anger. It's not uncommon to over-react when something riles you, or to under-react and bury that anger for fear of creating friction.

If you struggle to deal with anger then a simple three-step guide, or 'traffic light' system, will help you to put some practical mechanisms in place to ensure you recognise the situations which are making you angry, so that you do not over-react or under-react to the problem.

Stage 1 (Red):

Take time out to acknowledge and recognise what it is that is making you angry and notice the times when you are angry. There may be simple warning signs for example, a faster heart rate, shortness of breath and / or perspiration.

Stage2 (Amber):

Give yourself time to pause and think. This will create a balance which will help you to react appropriately. Consider whether you want to remove yourself from the situation and take a few deep breaths before reacting.

Stage 3 (Green):

This is about learning to communicate the problem. Due to the way that some tend to release their anger, many people believe anger to be a behaviour. It's not. Anger is an emotion and the way that people behave is their reaction to that emotion. Lashing out or being aggressive is an example of a strong reaction or a person over-reacting to a situation. Learning to listen to the other person's response and trying to understand their point of view can be a way of coping with this emotion and being able to process it in a balanced way.

An underlying issue in managing your anger is to maintain the balance between over-reacting and under-reacting to a problem.

If you are prone to over-reacting, you may find yourself getting too angry, too quickly, or too often, sometimes this can be over quite small things, and you may also feel that you are unable to let go of your anger.

Under-reacting will find you suppressing anger which could have negative consequences in the long term. For example, if something happens to annoy or upset you in the future, you may feel extremely angry and respond more aggressively than is appropriate to the new situation.

If you believe that a family member, friend or partner is suffering with anger and is unable to deal with it themselves it can be very difficult to see them experiencing these problems and to know how to respond. Angry people can be quite difficult to reason with, so it is often best to give them the time and space that they need in order to calm down. Once calm, it may be useful to talk about the triggers which cause them to be angry and even encourage them to seek help from a counsellor or therapist.

Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust has created a Don't Panic! scheme designed to provide people with succinct and easily accessible information about anger. Their audio guide, 'Dealing with Anger' is available here and has been put together by consultant clinical psychologist, Dr Dan Barnard. It includes key tips and advice on how to cope with anger.