Controlling Your Anger… Before it Controls You
You know… that “fit to be tied” feeling that you get when someone cuts you off on the freeway and you want to floor it and flip them the bird. It’s that tidal wave of tension that hits you when your teenager says “no” and slams out the door.
Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion.
When anger gets out of control, it can turn destructive and lead to a host of problems – at work, with your relationships, and with your QOL (or Quality of Life). Uncontrolled anger leaves you at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.
Anger varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense rage. Like other emotions there are physiological and biological changes that occur when you get angry. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure goes up and adrenaline and noradrenaline flood your body. In the short run, this isn’t problematic. But live in a state of anger, and these physiological changes can lead to serious health consequences, including premature death.
Most of you know what can make you angry, it might be how a specific person talks to you, an event or a personal problem you’re dealing with. Anger can also be a result of exposure to traumatic events, whereby your mind and body are using anger in an attempt to overpower the event.
Anger is often the result of fear. When we feel threatened in some way it is common to become angry over what we fear. Have you ever worried about someone’s safety and then when you finally heard from them you became angry at them? Your fear about what could have happened to them turned to anger. Our anger can actually be covering up our fear of feeling out of control, feeling rejected, or feeling powerless.
Has anyone ever told you that you were an angry person, a “hot head”?
Or that you get angry “too easily” or “too often”?
Take this quick quiz and see if you control your anger, OR is your anger controlling you?
You may have a problem if anger is …
- Beginning to seriously harm your enjoyment of life
- Caused by something that happened a long time ago
- Causing you to do vengeful things
- Making you act violently to others or to yourself
- Interfering with your ability to do your job
- Hurting your relationships with your family and friends
Effective Ways of Dealing with Anger
Anger Management Tip #1
Explore What’s Behind Your Anger
If you’re struggling with angry feelings, you may be wondering why. Traumatic events and high levels of stress can make you more susceptible to anger. Anger may be covering up your feelings of fear or hurt.
Pinpoint what you’re really angry about Have you ever gotten into an argument over something silly? Big fights often happen over something small, like a dish left out or being ten minutes late. But there’s usually a bigger issue behind it.
If you find your irritation and anger rapidly rising, ask yourself “What am I really angry about?”
Anger Management Tip #2
Know Your Warning Signs and Triggers
Prior to “losing your cool” or exploding into anger, everyone experiences physical warning signs in your body. Learning to recognize these physical signs can preempt you from over-reacting.
These signs can serve as a warning to slow down, stop and think before proceeding.
Pay attention to the way anger feels in your body
- Knots in your stomach
- Clenching your hands or jaw
- Feeling clammy or flushed
- Breathing faster
- Pacing or needing to walk around
- “Seeing red”
- Having trouble concentrating
- Pounding heart
- Tensing your shoulders
Anger Management Tip #3
Cool Down before Proceeding
- Slowly count to ten. Really! Focus on the counting to let your rational mind catch up with your feelings. If you still feel out of control by the time you reach ten, start counting again.
- Take some deep breaths. Deep, slow breathing helps counteract rising tension. The key is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible into your lungs.
- Exercise. A brisk walk around the block is a great idea. It releases pent-up energy so you can approach the situation with a cooler head.
- Stretch or massage areas of tension. Roll your shoulders if you are tensing them, for example, or gently massage your neck and scalp.
- Use your senses.Take advantage of the relaxing power of your sense of sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. You might try listening to music or picturing yourself in a favorite place.
- Focus on the physical sensations of anger. While it may seem counterintuitive, tuning into the way your body feels when you’re angry often lessens the emotional intensity of your anger.
Anger Management Tip 4
Find Healthier Ways to Express Your Anger: Always “fight” Fair
If you feel that the situation is worth getting angry about and there’s something you can do to make it better, the key is to express your feelings in a healthy way. When communicated respectfully and channeled effectively, anger can be a tremendous source of energy and inspiration for change.
It’s okay to be upset at someone, but if you don’t fight fair, the relationship can deteriorate. Fighting fair allows you to express your own needs while still respecting others. Remember, the good will and rapport that can take months to develop can be undone in a moment with a careless statement.
- Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority.
- Focus on the present and solving problems. In the heat of arguing, do not start throwing past grievances into the mix.
- Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive.
- Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree.
Anger Management Bonus Tip
Being able laugh at yourself or a humorous situation is always good medicine…