When you have trouble managing your anger, it can cause all sorts of problems. You say things you regret, send impulsive emails, scream at the kids and threaten people. It can cause you to develop health problems or lash out physically. Anger can also manifest as venting about things that upset you. You can waste way too much time thinking about unpleasant events or losing it in frustration when stuck in traffic.
Managing anger is not about never getting angry. It is about learning how to manage anger in healthy ways. Learning to recognise and express your anger better is a skill.
Anger is normal in response to some situations. It is when you experience uncontrollable rage at the slightest provocation that it becomes a big problem.
Learn how to manage anger and why it is important.
Causes of anger
Many things can cause anger. What makes you angry may not make your partner or someone else angry. Everyone is different.
You may feel angry if you feel:
- Treated unfairly
- Lied to
Circumstances that may make you angry include:
- Constant arguing with someone.
- Extremely worrisome personal problems.
- Frustration such as plans cancelled at the last minute.
- Setting unachievable goals.
- Pain, either psychological or physical.
- Being a reaction to rejection, negative criticism, insults or unfair treatment.
- Remembering aggravating or traumatic occurrences.
- Hormonal changes.
- Mental health issues.
- Road rage.
- Grief at the death of a loved one or friend.
Signs of anger
Does anger hit you out of nowhere all of a sudden? Are you calm one minute and furious the next? No matter how quickly anger hits, there are still warning signs. By recognising them you can better learn how to manage anger. Learn to be in tune with how you feel so you know when you are about to lose control or lash out.
Warning signs of rising anger include:
- Starting to see red
- Raising your voice
- Becoming irritable and snapping
- Reacting defensively
- Loss of your sense of humour
- Becoming overcritical
- Being argumentative
- Pounding heart, breathing quickly and sweating
- Gritting your teeth
- Starting to shake
- Feeling humiliated, irritable, overwhelmed or resentful
- Pacing your environment
- Wanting to scream and shout
- Loss of patience
- Feeling like lashing out physically
- Muscles tightening around your jaw.
What are the signs your anger is not normal?
- Lack of control over your anger.
- Avoiding situations because you feel anxious about your temper.
- Anger is affecting large parts of your life and relationships.
- Thinking negatively constantly and an ongoing focus on negative experiences.
- Feeling irritable, hostile or impatient constantly.
- Often getting into arguments which escalate your anger.
- Becoming physically violent.
- Trying to hide or hold your anger in check.
- Threatening people or their property with violence.
- A compulsion to do violent things such a punching walls or driving erratically.
Recognise your anger issues
Are you wondering if you have anger issues? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there times I have trouble controlling my temper?
- Have I ever regretted getting angry afterwards?
- Does my anger cause problems in personal or work relationships?
- Do I have angry outbursts?
- Have I threatened someone or their property with violence?
- Does anyone comment about my anger?
- Do I get violent or abusive when I lose my temper?
Answering yes to any of these questions may mean you need strategies for managing anger to help you react calmly.
Why should I manage my anger?
As much as anger is a negative emotion, it can also be positive. For example, your anger may push you to stand up for others or fight for social justice.
The problem is when angry you feel out of control. This can cause aggressive behaviour which can affect the people around you. Also you can turn your anger inwards and isolate yourself from the rest of the world. And this can have a detrimental affect on your wellbeing.
Anger is a problem when you feel angry all the time or you express it in violent or inappropriate ways. This will impact your mental and physical health, and social environment. If your angry feelings are escalating, it is time to do something about it before you hurt yourself or someone else without meaning to.
So it is important to learn strategies for managing anger better.
Strategies for managing anger
Use the following strategies to help you learn how to manage anger. They will help you better understand your emotions so you have better control of your temper.
Understand what triggers you
When losing your temper has become a habit, you need to understand what triggers you. Is it sarcastic comments, being lied to, getting stuck in traffic or are you overly tired, for example?
Are you blaming others or external circumstances for losing your temper? By understanding what triggers you, managing anger is easier. You may decide to structure your daily routine differently to help better manage your stress. For example, find a different route or leave for work at a different time of the day to avoid traffic jams.
Put different techniques into place so you have a fall back plan when you encounter the things that set off your temper. Doing this can lengthen your short fuse so you soon take single frustrating events in your stride.
Evaluate why you are angry
Before calming your anger, consider whether it is negative or positive. If someone is being abused or you need to stand up for yourself, being angry may help. In some situations anger is giving you a warning and you need to take steps to change something; for example, dealing with a toxic relationship or helping someone deal with abuse. In these situations, it can give you the courage to make changes or to stand up for yourself.
But when your anger is damaging your life and relationships, and negatively affects others, it is time to find ways for managing anger. Evaluate your anger when you are at risk of losing control and may do or say something your regret later. This is when it makes sense to take a step back to calm your emotions.
Take a step back
There is no point trying to win an unwinnable argument. You will only get angrier. The best thing you can do in this type of situation is to walk away.
When conversations get heated, take a step back. Think about managing your anger. Do your feel your anger rising in meetings sometimes? It can be normal to get angry but losing your temper at work can be damaging. Take a break before you explode. Losing your temper is unprofessional and can negatively affect those around you.
At home, go out into the garden, garage or for a walk when the kids upset you before you start yelling at them. Taking time out is good for managing anger. It gives your brain and body a chance to calm down and relax.
Maybe you regularly argue with a family member or friend. This is not good for either of you. Let them know that from now on when the argument heats up you are going to take a step back and take a break. You can continue the discussion when you both calm down.
Let others know that in taking a break you are not trying to avoid difficult conversations but are working on managing anger. There is no way to resolve conflict when your temper is at boiling point. You can continue the conversation or address the issue at a better time.
Schedule a time to continue the discussion. This lets the person know you will get back to them later.
Change the way you think
Change the way you express anger by changing the way you think. This is not always easy but it is a good technique for managing anger. When feeling angry, it is easy to dramatise the situation in your head. Instead of doing this, think more rationally rather than thinking the worst. Consider the facts instead of exaggerating what is going on. So, for example, instead of thinking, “I can’t stand being stuck in traffic. It always makes me late”. Try “I should have left earlier and taken another route” or “Being stuck in traffic sometimes is unavoidable considering how many cars there are on the road.”
Try to avoid using words like “never” and “always”. These are usually inaccurate terms and only serve to fuel or justify how angry you feel. They only make the situation worse. Using these types of words may also hurt someone who is trying to help you resolve a problem.
Even develop a mantra such as “I am not going to get upset. I am staying calm”. Repeat it over and over to block out angry thoughts.
What lurks behind your anger?
Anger can be an automatic strategy you use to protect you from other emotions such as disappointment, embarrassment or sadness. It can pay to take a moment to consider what lurks behind your anger. This is a good strategy for managing anger as it helps you to find better ways to react.
Receiving feedback that is difficult to hear may cause you to lose your temper because you feel embarrassed, for example. You may think the other person is criticising you to make you look bad. Losing your temper may make you feel better for a minute because you do not have to feel embarrassed. But this is an illusion. By understanding why you lash out, you can act more appropriately in different situations. Instead of feeling embarrassed or losing your temper, take on board the feedback.
Just like when someone cancels plans at the last moment. This can be frustrating. You may lash out because you feel disappointment. Rather than lose your temper, explain how you feel. Being honest can resolve the issue.
Do you tend to jump to conclusions when angry? How often are you accurate when you do? When embroiled in an argument, think about what you are going to say and how to respond before you fly off the handle. Remember, it is not all about you. Listen to what the other person has to say. Try using good communication skills to get better results before losing your temper. Remember to take step back when you feel your anger rising.
Create a kit that helps you feel calmer
Create a kit that helps you feel calmer when your temper threaten to boils over. Add things that will help you relax. Things that will engage all five of your senses. These will help you to change your emotional state. For example, include a positive mantra to read out loud, a block of chocolate, you favourite essential oil, images that make you smile or feel calm.
Alternatively, store a guided meditation, your favourite music, instructions for breathing exercises and calming or funny pictures in a separate file on your smartphone. Whenever you feel your temper rising, use them to help you calm down.
Look after your health and wellbeing
Now there is a way to get immediate relief from overwhelming anger.
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