The body tends to respond in an innate flight or fight response when faced with an anger-provoking situation. That means that reactions within your body call you to ask yourself whether you should leave the situation (flight) or use your newly produced adrenalin and cortisones to get through (fight).

The body often responds to anger by:

  1. Increasing sweating to help cool the body
  2. Slowing digestion to preserve energy for a fight/flight response
  3. Increasing blood pressure to maximise oxygen production
  4. Tensing shoulders and back muscles to ready the body for action
  5. Dilating pupils to maximise focus on the threat

Because of the state of high tension the body endures during an anger experience, clients may benefit from the use of relaxation strategies.

When you are in a relaxed state, your body responds in a number of ways:

  1. Metabolism slows, as do physiological functions such as heart rate and blood pressure.
  2. Muscle tension decreases.
  3. Brain wave patterns shift from the faster waves that occur during a normal active day to the slower waves, which appear just before falling asleep or in times of deep relaxation.

Important Note: Not all relaxation exercises suit everyone. It is important, therefore, to try a number of techniques to find one which suits your client. The following selection of exercises have been included because they take only a few minutes to perform and may be used almost anywhere.

Technique One — Erasing Stress

Erasing stress is a visualising technique. It allows you to visualise the thought or situation which is constantly on your mind or inciting anger and helps erase it from your thoughts.

  1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Breathe slowly and deeply.
  2. Visualize a situation, a person, or even a belief (such as, “A situation at work which is confronting” or “A home renovation which is causing disruption in the household”) that causes you to feel angry.
  3. As you do this you might see a specific person, an actual place, or simply shapes and colours. Where do you see this stressful picture? Is it below you, to the side, in front of you? How does it look? Is it big or little, dark or light, or does it have a specific colour?
  4. Imagine that a large eraser, like the kind used to erase chalk marks, has just floated into your hand.
  5. Actually feel and see the eraser in your hand. Take the eraser and begin to rub it over the area where the stressful picture is located. As the eraser rubs out the stressful picture it fades, shrinks, and finally disappears. When you can no longer see the stressful picture, simply continue to focus on your deep breathing for another minute, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply.

Technique Two — Discovering Muscle Tension

Discovering muscle tension is an excellent technique for understanding the effects that stress or anxiety has on your body. This technique provides an opportunity to discover the difference between a relaxed muscle state and a tense muscle state. Identifying this can assist in acknowledging the level of stress in your muscles.

  1. Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, palms down, on the surface next to you.
  2. Raise just the right hand and arm and hold it elevated for 15 seconds.
  3. Notice if your forearm feels tight and tense or if the muscles are soft and pliable.
  4. Let your hand and arm drop down and relax. The arm muscles will relax too.
  5. As you lie still, notice any other parts of your body that feel tense, muscles that feel tight and sore. You may notice a constant dull aching in certain muscles.

Technique Three — Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Discovering muscle tension exercise is an excellent exercise to try before the Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise.

  1. Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, palms down, on the surface next to you.
  2. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply.
  3. Clench your hands into fists and hold them tightly for 15 seconds. As you do this, relax the rest of your body. Visualise your fists contracting, becoming tighter and tighter.
  4. Then let your hands relax. On relaxing, see a golden light flowing into the entire body, making all your muscles soft and pliable.
  5. Now, tense and relax the following parts of your body in this order: face, shoulders, back, stomach, pelvis, legs, feet, and toes. Hold each part tensed for 15 seconds and then relax your body for 30 seconds before going on to the next part.
  6. Finish the exercise by shaking your hands and imagining the remaining tension flowing out of your fingertips.

Technique Four — Focusing

This exercise can be used to block out negative or intrusive or inflammatory thoughts. Focusing on one item slows your thought processes and helps to increase your concentration. At first, the focusing technique can be challenging, because the mind automatically starts thinking about other areas of your life.

Select a small personal object that you like a great deal. It might be a jewelled pin or a simple flower from your garden. Focus all your attention on this object as you inhale and exhale slowly and deeply for one to two minutes.

While you are doing this exercise, try not to let any other thoughts or feelings enter your mind. If they do, just return your attention to the object. At the end of this exercise, you will probably feel more peaceful and calmer. Any tension or nervousness that you were feeling upon starting the exercise should be diminished.