It’s normal to experience feelings of anger when we feel threatened or attacked, but anger can also be a hindrance to our wellbeing and success if we find that we are unable to control it.
When anger is a problem
If you find that you’re continuously experiencing bouts of anger, whether for reasons you can identify, or for no discernible reason at all, you might benefit from speaking to someone who can help you to explore the root causes of your feelings. This is especially important if:
- People have told you that they think you might have a problem with anger
- You feel guilty, ashamed or hopeless because of your outbursts
- Your relationships with friends, family, colleagues or others have been negatively affected by your temper
- You’ve ever put other people in harm’s way when angry
- You’ve ever put yourself in harm’s way when angry
- You have lost a job or have been denied advancement due to your anger
- You’ve been cautioned or arrested because of an altercation caused by your anger.
If you feel that you need help with your anger, you can find some suggestions here.
It’s perfectly normal to express anger when we feel threatened or attacked, but anger can also be a hindrance to our own wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of others if we find it difficult to control. Learning to understand and control anger requires a conscious decision to do so, but it’s a skill like anything else in life, and it can be learned. Here are some in-the-moment anger management techniques which may help:
- Identify the trigger. When you become angry and lash out, you might be reacting to hunger or tiredness instead of a threat. Some people become ‘hangry’ easily and yet when they eat and their blood sugar stabilises, they feel calmer and in a better frame of mind.
- Appreciate that what feels like anger may be something else. Ask yourself if you’re really angry, or whether you’re feeling hurt, sad or frustrated. It can be difficult to admit to ourselves that we feel vulnerable, but when we do, our reactions can change for the better.
- Redirect your focus. With practice, this becomes easier. Here are some ideas on how to step back before you feel overwhelmed:
- As soon as you feel like reacting in anger, count to ten. Take some deep breaths as you consider your next move.
- Ask yourself if getting into an argument is worth it. Will this issue really matter to you in a few hours, days or weeks? Perspective is everything when controlling anger.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, make the choice to physically leave the situation until you can think more clearly. Even five minutes away from the source of what you’re feeling triggered by will help you to step back and remain calm. Go for a walk, listen to calming music or practice relaxation techniques. Return to the situation only when you feel more in control.
Long-term anger management techniques
Suppressing anger is not a healthy way to manage. Bottling up your feelings can lead to issues becoming more severe. Over the long run, suppressed anger will come out in various ways such as mental health problems and physical illnesses. Instead, expressing anger in a healthy way releases tension. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Listen to your body. If you know that you lose your temper more easily when you’re tired or hungry, make sure that you’re getting enough quality rest, and eat regularly throughout the day.
- Cut back on alcohol if you find that it plays a role in your moods. Alcohol is a depressant, and some people also find that their anger becomes explosive when they’re drinking. Hangovers can also make us feel anxious, vulnerable and out of sorts, and for some people, they can cause fluctuations in mood.
- Tell those closest to you that you’re working on your anger. Acknowledging that you want to change something about yourself can deepen the connections you have, and build trust that might have been eroded in the past. This is not to say that those around you need to avoid upsetting you, simply that sharing your goals with other people will give you a reason to keep working on yourself.
- Get to the root cause of your anger. Talking to a trained and qualified professional can help you to get to the core issues, some of which may be from the past.
- Find a healthy outlet for your anger. Some people find regular physical exercise helps to control their anger, while others do something creative such as painting or writing in a journal.
- Practice stress-management techniques on a regular basis. Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed, stressed out or angry before you use techniques such as mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation techniques (PMR).