Anger Management – How to Control Anger with Deep Breathing
I am Dr. Ryan Fuller and I am going to talk to you a little bit about how to control anger with deep breathing. So anger is an emotion that has high levels of arousal associated with it. In fact, anger is one of two emotions that really go along with the fight or flight stress response. So in the case of a crisis or a danger, our sympathetic nervous system, that is part of our autonomic nervous system, goes into motion increasing respiration, increasing heart rate, driving up blood pressure, releasing glucose into the limbs so there is energy. All these things are really about speeding things up, so that the organism, or the human in this case, is prepared for fighting or fleeing. Now, with that said, when we’re really angry or when we’re aroused in those ways, one good way to modulate or change the anger experiences, is, in fact, to change the physiology. There are different ways to go about that, so in using relaxation techniques, one form is progressive muscle relaxation. And that doesn’t have to do with breathing techniques. But we’re going to talk today about breathing, as a form of relaxation, which makes sense in the case of anger management, because as I just said, anger has high levels of arousal in terms of physiological activation. And the research in anger management techniques has shown that relaxation skills alone are highly effective in helping people to manage their anger. So one of the skills that I like using with breathwork is very simple and easy to remember and there is scientific research to show that it really does a good job of helping to temp down the sympathetic nervous system activity. And so it’s really slowing respiration and it’s looking at a 4-7-8 ratio. What that means is we’re going to have clients inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, and then exhale for a count of 8. Now, what’s important to know is 1, anytime you’re trying a technique like this, you do want to make sure you have spoken to your physician and to make sure there is no contraindications based on any health risk factors you have, or asthma, or heart condition. But typically, what I find is after my clients have spoken to the physician, most physicians are highly encouraging of this kind of relaxation activity. The other important thing to keep in mind is, it’s the ratio that matters the most. We don’t want people to think they have to count for 4 seconds, 7 seconds, and 8 seconds where they get a very long count and they end up passing out or straining themselves. You really want to just find the amount of time that works for you but to try to keep the ratio close to 4, 7, and 8. The main thing is that the exhale becomes much longer than the inhale. So, I will give a quick demonstration. It’s not perfectly necessary that you have to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, but that’s generally the way I teach it. So the client is going to inhale to the count of about 4, hold for the count of about 7, and then exhale from the mouth to the count of about 8. So it looks like this, inhale, hold, and then exhale. And sometimes I have them exhale from a pursed lips. So even though it is a very simple, easy-to-use breathing exercise, if you do that a number of times, say you do 5-10 rounds, you’ll likely experience a relaxation response. And oftentimes, especially if I have clients who are somewhat skeptical, I’ll ask them to take their pulse beforehand especially if they are kind of worked up, to practice the response, and then take their pulse again. Again, you want to speak to your healthcare provider, your physician or otherwise, and you don’t want to do it if you are driving or something like that. But if you practice it first with a professional, and then on your own, it is something that might help you reduce intense physiological arousal, especially if it’s an anger response.