Work, rest and play: Britons pay dearly for unleashing their anger

Losing your temper at work is definitely the wrong way to get noticed by the IT manager. But traditionally mild-mannered Brits...

Losing your temper at work is definitely the wrong way to get noticed by the IT manager. But traditionally mild-mannered Brits are showing an increasing tendency to unleash their anger when they feel provoked, writes Nathalie Towner.

Getting angry has cost Britons £16bn, according to a report released last week by interactive bank Cahoot. Eighty-five per cent of people in the UK admit that losing their temper has cost them money at some time in their lives. The average amount wasted through rage is £420. The most common ways in which anger costs people money are smashing household objects and crashing cars.

Although it is easy to quantify the cost of a broken plate it is impossible to gauge the damage a mad moment will cost you in terms of respect and perhaps promotion when at work. If you show you cannot keep your cool, the boss is unlikely to single you out to project manage a time-critical assignment.

But the frustrations of work are far from the only trigger for anger. The report reveals that even the smallest things push the nation's blood pressure sky high. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed admit that trivial things, such as being kept on hold on the phone, make them angry. A further 20% are prone to regular bouts of road rage. Seven per cent of respondents say having to use public transport makes their blood boil.

Despite the growing daily occurrence of rage, people in the UK are still very bad at dealing with anger in a positive way, with only 25% able to channel their anger into constructive action.

Commenting on the results of the research, psychologist Donna Dawson says, "Rage is a complicated thing. More often than not it is caused by fear: fear of embarrassment, fear of loss, fear of injury.

"We are taught that anger is a harmful and negative emotion but it can be useful and positive, depending on how it is expressed. It is true that angry feelings are better let out than held inside our bodies and minds, but we must ensure that this anger is channelled outwards in a positive way, into action or a change of attitude."

"It is also important to learn how to deal with rage and anger for our health's sake. Violent, prolonged or frequent bursts of anger, or anger that does not have a positive resolution, release stress hormones into our bloodstream that weaken our immune systems by destroying T-lymphocytes - our 'killer' cells - and by putting extra stress on our hearts."

Dawson's tips for managing anger
Short term
  • Count to 10

  • Take long, slow deep breaths

  • Think through the consequences before you speak or act

  • Take physical exercise to get rid of pent-up anger

  • Walk away from the anger trigger

  • Seek some "chill out" time by listening to music or finding some other distraction

  • Use muscle relaxation techniques to prevent anger build up

  • Attempt to see the person or situation in a humorous light.

Long term
  • Improve how you communicate with people both verbally and through body language

  • If possible, avoid situations that provoke unhealthy anger

  • Ensure that you have hobbies, sports or interests that help you focus on positive experiences in your life

  • For chronic cases, seek professional help through counselling or psychotherapy

  • Learn the difference between being "affirmative" and "aggressive". Acting affirmatively, you have thought calmly through your arguments and are prepared to stand by them; acting aggressively means letting negative emotions run away with the specific social interaction.

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