Controlling your Anger
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
Anger is a natural human emotion that we have all experienced. Usually it can be desrcibed on a spectrum of mild annoyance to intense rage. In most cases, anger is completely fine however it can be harmful if you are no longer in control of your anger, resulting in outbursts, violence and aggression affecting your relationships and quality of life. Holding onto anger is also destructive as it impedes your ability to engage happily in many areas of life. Controlling your anger is important as it can prevent you from saying or doing something you may later regret.
Anger triggers your 'fight or flight' response, flooding the body with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. In preparation of physical exertion and danger, blood is moved away from your gut to muscles, your blood pressure, breathing and heart rate increases, your skin may start to perspire and your mind is alert and sharpened. Continuous release of stress chemicals and metabolic changes associated with unmanaged anger can results in harm to many systems of the body creating short and/or long term health problems such as headaches, insomnia, increased anxiety, skins problems (e.g. ezcema), heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, depression etc.
Strategies for Anger Management
Simply this refers to changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear and use highly coloured insults and language, their emotions and thoughts are particularly exaggerated and overly dramatic. For example instead of thinking "This is the worse.Everything is ruined", try to consider more rational thoughts such as "This is frustrating but getting angry will not resolve the problem." Be mindful of extreme words such as 'Always'/ 'Never', e.g. 'You are always dissapointing me' - this may justify your anger but it not an accurate representation of reality, isolating and humiliating the person who may be trying to resolve a situation with you. Constantly remind yourself that anger does not serve any purpose; it wont solve the problem or make you feel better. It will, in fact, make you feel worse. Try to defeat your anger with logic. Your anger often stems from dissapointment, frustration or hurt over a situation that did not go the way you expected it to, however once you realize your demanding expectations and understand that sometimes things may not go as you had desired - you can change your demanding nature to a more understanding perspective. Rather than communicating aggressively "You must"/ "I demand", try "I would like if..". This way though you will experience emotions such as dissapointment, hurt or frustration but not anger. Remember, your anger is a way of deflecting your real emotions of being hurt. It is better to acknowledge this and the problem, rather than let your anger control the situation.
Problem - Solving
Anger is often caused by very real inescapable problems in our lives. Our frustration grows as we are unable to find a solution at that time. If a solution is not immediately obvious, you can shift your focus from finding a solution to at least how you handle and face the problem. Make a plan of things in your control and review your progress along the way and make changes as necessary. Give it your best intentions and effort to face the problem head on and hopefully your desired outcome will be achieved.
Often your anger may result in you jumping to conclusion which can be very inaccurate. It's better to slow down in a heated discussion and think through your responses. Don't say the first thing that comes into your mind, think carefully about why you are angry and what you want to communicate. Similarly, listen to the other person. Often if we are criticised, we become defensive and try to retaliate, instead try to consider the underlying message.
For example, if you and your partner are arguing about you going out all the time without spending time with them. You may think they are trying to control your freedom and personal space but perhaps your partner just wants a bit more attention and love. The underlying message your partner is trying to convey is that they feel neglected and unloved, focus on this rather than trying to insult your partner as controlling and untrusting. This does take patient questioning but keeping your cool can ensure the situation does not escalate to a disastrous one.
Use Relaxation Techniques
a) Deep breathing - breathe from your diaphragm rather than your chest. Feel the breath coming from your 'gut'. Do this as frequently as required, particularly just before you feel your anger being incited. You can repeat calming words to yourself whilst deep breathing such 'relax' , 'take it easy'
b) Visualization - some people find it easier than others to visualise however with practice and patience you will get better at this. Picture a scene, memory or experience (may be real or imagine) that is pleasant, calming and brings about positive emotions.
c) Muscle Relaxation - Activities such as yoga can help relax muscles or else simply tensing your muscles for a couple of seconds and releasing them can be useful (e.g. For Arms - Clench hands by balling them into a fist for 5 seconds, pay attention to the sensations and then release and relax for 15 seconds, then again clench fists, then do the same for your biceps, and your triceps - tense for 5 seconds and relax 15 seconds). Usually muscle relaxation should be done on four main muscle groups - Arms, Legs, Head and Mid-section.
Other simple strategies can including 'Counting down', as you feel your anger rise, stop and count to backwards from 10. Let yourself calm down prior to engaging in a conversation. Another technique would be to remove yourself from the situation - this could be going for a walk, listening to music, engaging in a different activity - e.g. watching TV/Reading a book etc. once again this allows your emotions to settle prior to engaging in a conversation. You can also write a thought journal this will allow you to truly understand the triggers for your anger and analyse the underlying thoughts that lead to such an extreme response (consider what happened just before you got angry, the incident that led to anger and the consequences of your anger), overtime this tracking will highlight that most of these incidences were futile and could have been resolved more amicably, it also allows you to identify triggers and remove yourself from the situation before it escalates. It can also act as a motivator for changes as most often the consequences of your anger would be negative, leading to no resolution, increased negative feelings and damaged relationships.
Teaching children how to express their anger
As you already know, children at a young age are sponges - absorbing all the experiences they witness, hear and learn about to form their own personality and behaviour. As a parent it is important you teach your child how to effectively express their anger. Below are a few tips:
Lead by example
Let them know that anger is natural and should be expressed appropriately
Treat your child’s feelings with respect
Teach practical problem-solving skills (e.g. refer above strategies)
Encourage open and honest communication in the home
Allow them to express their anger in appropriate ways (e.g. Physical activities)
Explain the difference between aggression and anger
Have consequences for aggression or violence, but not appropriately expressed anger
Teach your child different ways of calming and soothing themselves (e.g. refer above strategies)
Disclaimer: The following information is not a suitable replacement for therapy or professional help. Mental health is very complex and there are various individual differences due to circumstances, genetics and life experience. All information published has been generalised and done in good faith. However, we will not be liable for any actions taken as a result of this website/post. If you are facing mental health concerns, it is important you reach out to a professional. You may also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further support.