Anger is a normal, often healthy human emotion. But when anger becomes destructive, it can wreak havoc with relationships, school or work, and overall quality of life.
Anger can vary in intensity: from mild irritation or annoyance to outright fury and rage. Like all emotions, it’s accompanied by physiological and biological changes, causing increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Though anger is a natural adaptive response to what you might perceive as threats, there are limits to what’s acceptable – both socially and legally. Let common sense be your guide: Do you know how you manage your anger? Do you know how your management strategy affects others? Do you ever wonder if your anger has a negative effect on your life?
How Do You Manage Your Anger?
People use a variety of processes to deal with feelings of anger, among them, the three most common:
Expressing – Anger should be expressed assertively, not aggressively, by making others aware of your needs and how these needs can be met. Anger that’s expressed aggressively can cause physical and emotional harm.
Suppressing – It’s possible to internalize your anger and convert it to something constructive. But without an adequate outlet, your rage could turn inward and result in health problems.
Calming – Work on calming your insides by thinking rationally about how you control your outward behaviour and inward responses. Try to consciously lower your heart rate, count to 100, or detach yourself from your situation.
Learn more about how you deal with anger, both consciously and unconsciously, using the Anger Management Questionnaire.
Strategies for Keeping Anger at Bay
- Deep breathing
- Slowly repeating a calm word or phrase
- Yoga-like exercises to relax your muscles
2. Cognitive Restructuring
- Changing the way you think
- Logic defeats anger because anger, even when justified, can quickly become irrational
- When angry, your thinking can become exaggerated or dramatic; try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones
3. Problem Solving
- Rather than focusing on rage, concentrate on how best to handle and face your problem
- Make a plan and resolve to give it your best
4. Better Communication
- When angry, it’s easy to jump to inaccurate conclusions
- Slowly consider your response; instead of saying the first thing to come into your head, listen carefully to what the other person is saying
- Instead of becoming defensive, consider the underlying cause of your anger
5. Using Humour
- Humour can help to defuse anger, leading to a more balanced perspective
- Be mindful you’re not just laughing off your problems; remember sarcasm is just another form of anger
6. Changing your Environment
- Sometimes your immediate surroundings can cause aggravation
- Avoid difficult conversations during periods of the day when you’re more likely to be irritable
- Avoid or find alternatives to situations that might cause negative feelings
Diffuse your anger by asking the following questions:
- Will this matter in 10 years?
- What’s the worst consequence of the object of my anger?
- Was this done to me on purpose?
Do not vent your anger by hitting a pillow or throwing something; while preferable to hurting someone, this technique only serves to increase anger.
If you – or others – feel your anger is out of control, you may be in need of counseling.