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How to control your anger

Anger is good for us sometimes, but it's important to know how to manage and control your anger


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Anger is a normal human emotion, and everyone gets angry sometimes. Getting angry about something isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can become a problem if we don’t know how to control or manage our feelings of anger.

Why do we get angry?

Getting angry is often a natural and healthy response to something that has happened in our lives. Anger is an evolutionary response to a something we see as a threat, triggering the fight, flight or freeze part of our brains. This is the body’s way to manage something it sees as a threat by reacting in one of these three ways.

If something frustrates you, makes you feel attacked or threatened, or if you’re in pain, your natural instinct might be to become angry about it.

Some common reasons a person gets angry include:

  • Feeling like someone did you wrong
  • Something happening that you feel is unfair
  • Feeling stressed or frustrated
  • Experiencing loss or grief
  • Getting into a disagreement with someone
  • Feeling upset or sad about something
  • Struggling with a mental health difficulty

There are a whole range of reasons why someone might be angry, and something that angers one person might not anger another. If you find yourself getting angry often, it might help to look at the things that are going on in your life that could be triggering your anger.

Anxiety and anger

Sometimes, anger issues could stem from other mental health difficulties. Some people with anxiety might find that when they begin to feel anxious about something, their way of coping can be to express it through anger.

When someone is anxious, they usually feel uneasy, like they have lost control, and they can become fixated on the smallest of things. Many people who struggle with their anxiety will respond to these feelings with fear, but others might feel like they want to fight it, and that’s when they get angry. For others, they may believe that it’s less stigmatising to be seen as angry than anxious. In order to deal with these anger issues, it might be necessary to also find ways to deal with the anxiety.

Learn more about anxiety here.

What happens when we get angry?

Anger is not just something that happens in our mind, it is a whole-body experience. Getting angry causes your heart rate to increase, your blood pressure to go up, and you have raised adrenaline levels. Your muscles may start to tense up, and you might find yourself clenching your hands or your jaw.

If you get angry often, this can have a big impact on the body. There will be a frequent change in hormones, muscles might become sore from always feeling tense, and issues like high blood pressure and a fast heart rate could lead to other health problems.

How to tell if anger has gotten out of control

For many people, anger is a natural, healthy, and justified response to a specific event that has happened. For others, anger might be an emotion they carry around with them all the time, or they might find they become angry at the smallest thing.

Here are some signs that your anger may have gotten out of control

  • You get angry very quickly
  • You get angry over the smallest things
  • Your anger turns into a blind rage
  • You lose your temper often
  • You have hurt people because you were so angry
  • You are getting into a lot of arguments
  • You have broken things while you were angry
  • Your anger is getting you into trouble in life or with others
  • You feel like you are carrying around your anger all the time
  • You find it hard to think straight because it feels like your anger clouds over everything

If you recognise any of these signs, it might be a good idea to look into ways to control or better manage your anger.

Ways to control your anger

When it comes to controlling your anger, you may need to try a few different things before you find what’s best for you. If you’re really struggling, reach out to someone who can help you find the support you need.

In the moment

If you want to find ways to calm down in the moment when you feel yourself getting worked up, here are some things to try:

Count to ten

Many people have heard of the ‘count to ten’ method for controlling your anger. If you begin to feel angry about something, take a moment and slowly count to ten, in your head or out loud, before you do anything else.

This allows you the space to think of other ways to deal with the situation before you react.

Breathing

Taking slow, deep breaths helps to calm your nervous system down. Take a deep breath in and breathe out slowly, taking longer on your exhale than you did on your inhale.

Do this a few times and notice what happens as you calm down.

Remove yourself

It might be necessary to remove yourself from whatever situation has made you angry. Leaving the room and finding a quiet space to calm down will allow you to come back with a clearer head.

Sometimes it might not be possible to leave the room. If this is the case, ask if you can have some space while you take a moment to yourself to work out your thoughts. After taking some space you will begin to feel calmer and your thinking will become clearer.

Talk it out

If you are angry with someone else, try to be as calm as possible when speaking to them about it. Try to listen to what they are saying so that both of you can work on solving the problem. Taking turns to listen to each other and repeating back what the other person has said can help to show that you are hearing them. When both people practice this it generally increases feeling of being understood, which reduces anger.

It also helps to speak to someone you trust about what’s making you angry, even if they have nothing to do with it. People often feel better after venting their frustrations, but remember to try and take steps to deal with whatever is bothering you once you’ve let it all out.

Helpful ways to release anger in the moment

Sometimes, letting some anger out in a safe and appropriate way can help. Different people feel anger in different parts of their bodies, for example your hands or your jaw. Allowing yourself to release some of this in a planned and non-harmful way may help.

This could include:

  • Squeezing a stress ball
  • Biting your clothes
  • Tearing paper
  • Punching a cushion

These are all things that can help to release these feelings when you are angry. Telling your family that you may use certain helpful ways to release anger can help them to understand what you are doing and why you’re doing it. Exercise can also be a good way to release strong feelings.

Longer-term solutions to dealing with anger

While it’s good to have things you can do to calm yourself down when you get angry, it’s important to work on some longer-term solutions to your anger issues. It’s better to get to the root of the problem, rather than only ever dealing with it when it comes up.

Learn to recognise the signs

The next time you get angry about something, pay attention to what happens. Notice where your thoughts go, how fast your heart is beating, how tense you might feel, or other signs in your body that you’re feeling angry.

If you learn to recognise these signs, you can start to catch them before the situation gets out of control. Pay attention to your body, and remove yourself from the situation if you start to see the signs.

Think about what is important and what’s not

There are some things that it’s normal to feel angry about, like if you feel someone is putting you down at work or you’re being bullied at school. Getting angry about this and wanting to take steps to deal with it is okay.

However, there are some things that might not be as important but could still make you feel angry. For example, if someone skips you in a queue, it can be really annoying, but it’s a situation that can be dealt with without going into a rage.

Be self-aware

Are you naturally hot headed? If so, you’ll need to keep a closer eye on your anger level and anger triggers than a person who is naturally calm would. Knowing what situations can get you worked up will help you to manage your feelings when these things arise.

On the other hand, if you believe that you never ever get angry, think about if this is really the case. It’s more likely that you are suppressing your anger, which can be deeply unhealthy.

Avoid keeping things bottled up

Suppressing your anger is just as bad for you as regularly getting worked up into a rage. Buried anger can become very toxic and cause problems such as anxiety or depression. Try to find a way to connect with your anger and talk about how you feel.

Work on your thinking

A lot of the time, we get worked up about something because of negative thoughts. Saying things to ourselves like “I shouldn’t have done that” or “they never listen to me” creates a negative space in your head. Focusing on thoughts like these can bring us down and you might get angry a lot easier.

Find ways to vent your frustrations

Find alternative ways to let go of any stress or frustration you are feeling before it can escalate into anger. Exercising is a great way to release tension and improve your mood. Other people find doing something creative, like playing music, making art, writing, or cooking or baking can help to focus the mind and put your energy into something else. Try different things and find what works for you.

Getting help for anger issues

If you are angry all the time and you are struggling to find ways to control it, or if it is impacting on your life, seek professional help. There are lots of ways that a professional can help you to cope better with your feelings. The first step is to ask for help.

Going for anger management, seeing a counsellor, or taking part in group therapy are all ways to work out what you’re feeling and find a solution that works best for you.

Find out more about going for counselling here.

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Published September 28th, 2018
Tags anger mental health
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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