Anger is a normal human emotion we inherited from our ancient ancestors as a response to immediate physical threats. The emotion causes an instant surge of adrenaline and ignites your fight or flight response, which was once necessary for survival. Anger management tools have become more and more important in our modern society.
Some level of anger can be healthy when it’s used to solve a problem, rather than as a way to vent built-up emotion. Constructive anger can strengthen relationships and alert others to an issue that needs to be resolved. Anger is also still used as a protective mechanism in today’s society when our loved ones or values are threatened.
When anger reaches unhealthy levels
Although not unhealthy in and of itself, anger becomes unhealthy when you express it in a counterproductive or inappropriate way or when your anger levels reach a point that’s not appropriate in the context of our societal rules and behavioral expectations. The emotion can also cause health issues, such as high blood pressure, if it persists without intervention.
Perhaps most disheartening of all, uncontrolled anger has the potential to hurt the people in our lives, especially the ones we love the most. Our reactions to anger may produce enough venom to destroy relationships, sever employment, cause bodily harm, and perpetuate abuse.
If our anger is volatile, for example, our loved ones and coworkers may keep their distance from us as they consider us hostile and employers may find we don’t work well with others. Worse yet, anger could get a person in trouble with the law. These are clear signs that you have an anger problem.
Other signs that you may need professional anger management help include:
- Inability to tame or control your anger
- Frequent explosive outbursts or displays of aggressive behavior
- Resorting to verbal abuse or physical violence
- Anger that escalates into rage quickly
- Loss of friends, jobs, or opportunities as a result of your anger
Even when anger feels like it’s out of control, you always have the option to control it, and the anger management professionals at Stepwell Mental Health and Wellness can help you do that.
What does anger management mean?
According to The Mayo Clinic, anger management means taking intentional action to diffuse your anger in the moment, immediately after an incident, and at a later time. Anger management skills help you replace your default emotional response with newer, healthier ones.
How to manage anger: Our top 13 anger management strategies
In the moment….
- Learn the signs of anger: Once you recognize the signs of anger, you can take swift action before it gets out of control. When you feel anger starting to well up, you’re clenching your fists or your jaw, you need to move onto the next step.
- Decide on a code word: Once you realize you’re entering the anger zone, you can use a code word with your loved ones to back off. For example, you might use “red zone” or “stop sign” as a verbal cue that you’re reaching your breaking point so everyone knows to take a break.
- Isolate yourself: If you feel like you’re about to lose it, remove yourself from the situation and the people you feel anger toward until the anger starts to dissipate and you’ve had a chance to decipher the cause of your anger into coherent thoughts. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
After you step away….
- Practice relaxation techniques: Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga may help bring your anger meter down from a flaming red to a more mellow yellow and then a soothing green.
- Channel that pent-up energy into a productive activity: Anger produces a lot of adrenaline, tension, and energy. Instead of allowing those reactions to lead to regrettable behavior, you can channel them into a productive activity such as exercise, journaling, or working on a project. After you respond this way multiple times, you can actually start to rewire your brain so the productive activity becomes your new default.
- Determine the underlying cause of your anger: While you’re alone with your thoughts, try to make sense of your reaction. Did an argument make you feel like you were being personally attacked? Do arguments about money make you feel insecure? Try to determine how your interpretation of the situation led to anger.
- Write down a few talking points: After you’ve had a chance to process the situation, make a plan to address the underlying issues. You may feel inclined to just drop the subject, but ignoring the problem will only make it come up again, and likely with added fury.
- Consider the repercussions of your anger: As you write down your talking points, write down your priorities so you can align with them rather than with the emotion. For example, your spouse and children are more important than winning an argument. You likely value protecting them over hurting them.
- Take responsibility: It’s important to take responsibility for your own actions. Your emotions may be influenced by other people, if you allow them to be, but other people certainly don’t control your emotions. So, take a few moments to consider your part in the situation.
- Apologize when necessary: Once you’ve taken responsibility for your actions, you may want to apologize to anyone you’ve hurt. Take a moment to consider how the other person involved may be affected so you can take measures to mend your relationship.
- Express your thoughts and feelings: Now’s the time to communicate with the people you expressed anger toward. Explain to them what’s going on, your concerns, and your ideas for addressing it.
- Enlist help: If you’re having anger problems and self-help techniques don’t seem to help, you can always get help from a professional. An anger management specialist can teach you more effective ways to communicate, interact, and handle your emotions.
- Let go of what you can’t control. You can’t control some of the situations you’re put in. You can’t control some of the people you interact with. But you can control how you react. Direct your focus on what you can control.
If anger is taking a toll on the health and wellbeing of you or your loved ones, Stepwell Mental Health and Wellness offers professional anger management training. Set up an appointment with one of our anger management specialists by calling or using our simple online scheduler.