Anger Management: Dos and Don’ts
We’ve all experienced anger on occasion. We often equate it to something negative, but it can have a positive effect on our lives because it shows us that there’s something that’s making us unhappy and gives to the motivation to make changes.
With that being said, when anger is not well-handled, it can be detrimental to our relationships and health. Anger can lead us to say things we regret, make poor decisions or resort to physical violence.
If you’re someone that’s easily triggered, so you often feel angry, it means that your body is constantly flooded with stress hormones resulting in high blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
Unfortunately, many of us didn’t grow up with good role models that could teach us how to deal with our anger in a healthy way. As we become adults and societal expectations increase, it isn’t easy to figure out what to do with such a powerful emotion. Many of the things we say and do in anger are actually misguided efforts to calm down.
While the anger management strategies you’ll read about in this article won’t stop you from getting angry ever again, they will help learn how to express your anger constructively.
Find out What’s Making You Angry
To learn how to deal with your anger in a healthy way, you first have to learn why you get angry. Stress or lack of sleep can sometimes make ill-tempered, but our anger usually has a specific cause – a trigger. Different people have different triggers, and you need to identify yours. It can be something someone said, you’ve been treated in a way that you consider unfair or you’re not able to find a solution to a problem that weighs heavily on your mind.
You can start this process of identifying your triggers by keeping an anger journal. For a week weeks, take notes of moments you felt angry. Write the context, what thoughts were going through your head and what you did as a result of your anger (for example, you went for a walk or you got into an argument). When you review your notes, you’ll see some patterns that will help you figure out your triggers. Once you know your triggers, there are strategies to desensitize yourself.
One such strategy involves meditation. You lie on a sofa or sit on a comfortable chair; you close your eyes and think about a situation that triggers you – something you’ve noticed from your journal. When you feel yourself getting angry, shift your focus on breathing and relax your muscles from the feet up. This might require a bit of practice beforehand. You can look up breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. If you do this for about 20 or 30 minutes, twice a week, you’ll notice that you’re gradually becoming less sensitive to that specific trigger.
Don’t Obsess Over Triggers
Although learning your triggers and practising desensitization strategies like the one we mentioned above is extremely valuable, your instinct might be to ruminate. Maybe you’ll obsess over why this one particular person that tends to get on your nerves seems so dedicated to being as obnoxious as humanly possible, or you’ll make yourself even angrier thinking that some things should just not happen and how unfair the world is. As the anger builds up, you feel more tempted to think that the world around you should change and not the way you cope with it. This might lead you to try to act upon the trigger. For example, you might try to set that person straight – to tell them how obnoxious they are.
This might even feel good for a while because anger can have an energizing effect. However, studies show that people who ruminate over triggering episodes from the past are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The same chemicals that make you feel energized when you’re angry, in the long-term, can damage your health. Anger can motivate you to change your life for the better but stewing in it won’t help you achieve that.
Express Your Anger but Do It Constructively
Studies also show that expressing your anger can decrease its intensity, but the means of expressing it are very important. Instead of getting into arguments or venting your anger on innocent bystanders, you could write about it. This has the advantage that it allows you to do something with your anger instead of simply holding it in. Another benefit is that writing requires you to slow down your thought process as you try to put it in words on paper, which makes it easier to analyse your feelings and gain insight.
If you’re too angry to write or you simply don’t like writing in a journal, you can also record yourself talking about it. This way, you don’t have to slow down describing your emotions aloud reduces their intensity. Talk about how you feel, what you’re thinking and what’s making you angry. You’ll notice that you feel less pressured to “do something”. When you’re done, you can delete the recording.
Talk to Someone
We all know how helpful it can be to talk to someone when you’re upset. Still, when it comes to anger, this is a bit tricky. For example, you get together with a few co-workers and talk about things that bother you about your jobs. Inevitably, you will find a few things that bother everyone so it will turn into a ranting session where you’re feeding off each other’s anger. Instead of calming you down, this will rile you up. Talking about your feelings to someone is constructive when they help you gain a better understanding of the situation and think of new strategies to solve our problems.
If you’ve noticed that you keep complaining about the same things to your friends but you only feel calmer fleetingly or not at all, it might be that you’re not getting what you need from these conversations. You might instead want to talk to a therapist who is better qualified to give you constructive feedback.
Speak up but Not While You’re Fuming
As we mentioned before, your anger is trying to tell you something. The point of anger management is not to train yourself to put up with anything and everything. You need to listen to your anger. If something is important to you, then you should speak up. But remember that it has to be important. Pick your battles.
If you start arguing over every little annoyance, you’ll rile yourself up. At the same time, if you stay silent about things that truly matter to you, you might become resentful.
You’ll first want to analyse why this is important to you and come up with a few solutions. Then wait for the right time. Don’t address it when you’re triggered because you won’t be able to channel the conversation towards the solution you want.